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Changing careers through the years

by Yvette Maurice

There have been many studies that indicate that these days; the average adult will change careers between 4 and 7 times in their life. For millennial workers, the number could rise to between 15 and 20 jobs or more.

More jobs and more career changes

This means that we are all likely to have a few more job changes in our future – no matter our age! The way you change careers and the strategies you need to focus on change throughout your lifetime – what worked at 20 may not work at 55.

Here are some tips on how to change careers throughout the years – in the most effective, efficient way.

Job seeking towards 2020

Recently, the Australian Government brought in new ‘anti-ageist’ laws to tackle age discrimination. A new initiative has allowed for employers to be paid $3250 as an incentive to hire workers over 50.

According to the PM: “In some circumstances, employers express a preference to give job opportunities to younger workers because of a mistaken belief an older worker won’t contribute as much. The (incentive) is designed to help overcome the initial reluctance of some employers to appoint older jobseekers. More than ever, the potential exists for more mature-age workers to participate in the workplace.”

Workplace participation is due to be a hot topic for the next 5 years or so. According to Professor Leanne Cutcher from Sydney University’s Business School, “In the marketing space, 50 is the new 40, and 40 is the new 30, but this is yet to come across into the workplace.”

In your 20s

Career change in your 20's

What your goals and career look like in your 20s

  • Responsibilities increasing: In your 20s, it’s likely that you don’t have too many responsibilities, but they are increasing. By your mid twenties, you should be paying rent and your own bills and putting aside small savings in a responsible way.
  • Some debt: You are likely to have some debt. This might be study debt, a loan from your parents or credit card debt. Start to plan to pay this off.
  • Considering study: In your 20s, you are likely to be studying or thinking of studying. This is the perfect time to concentrate on gaining skills that will start you on a career path.
  • Better career: By this age, you may be trying to move from ‘just any job’ to a ‘good job’. No one wants to work in a menial role every day where they have little or no creative input.
  • Higher wages: By your 20s, your pay should be steadily increasing. If it’s not, you need to attention whether you are in the wrong industry, or not using your skills in the right way.

Tips for changing careers in your 20s

  1. Build a network: Because you are likely to have fewer contacts than you will later in your career, it’s essential to network with potential employers where you can. Use social media and tools like LinkedIn to make and foster relationships with professionals in your area of interest.
  2. Have fun: Study things you are interested in as well as things that could be potential earners. Your 20s is the time to discover your niche as well as your passion.
  3. Don’t burn bridges: Never leave a job on bad terms if you can avoid it. Even if you make mistakes, learn from them and don’t be afraid to take a new path.
  4. Be reliable: “Generation Y and Z bashing” has become a pastime of many employers and journalists. Show your employer that you are serious by being on time, neatly dressed, polite and flexible.

In your 30s and 40s


What your goals and career look like in your 30s and 40s

  • Growing responsibilities: By your 30s and 40s you will most likely have one or more of the following to pay for: mortgage, kids, rent, loans and ongoing bills. You will need to work to pay for your lifestyle and your family’s wellbeing.
  • Experience: By this age, you will probably have had at least 2 or 3 serious roles. This means that you need to learn how to display your transferable skills on your resume, and apply the skills you have to future job roles.
  • Study to gain work: At this age, you may decide to choose to study something for career progression. Doing a course can be a great way to get the skills you need to get ahead in your career.
  • Get a raise: Because you have experience, it’s logical that you might want to increase your earnings to reflect this. As in your 20s, it’s essential to tackle job roles that will increase your earning power towards retirement. Use this time wisely.
  • Diversify: Look at where your skills may be lacking and seek to update your knowledge. Could you earn an extra $5 or $10K a year by gaining a new skill such as graphic design, MYOB or events management?

Tips for changing careers in your 30s and 40s

  1. Update your resume: It’s essential to make your skills seem relevant to your next career on your resume and online profile. For example, managing people is a skill that is applicable across many industries.
  2. Keep your skills current: What are the basic programs, applications, equipment and terms used in the sector where you are trying to find work? Read blogs, join industry groups and follow thought leaders on Twitter.
  3. Use your network and friends: By this stage of your life, you are bound to have some ‘friends in high places’ – use them! Even if they cannot directly get you a job role, people you are connected to may know someone who can, or may be able to help you with other things, such as helping with your resume and cover letter.
  4. Be bold but considered: Make bold moves but be considered in your approach! Often people in their 30s and 40s look to ‘seachange’ into a career that will not be profitable or manageable in the long term. Do your research before jumping in!

In your 50s and beyond

Changing careers in your 50's

What your goals and career look like in your 50s and beyond

  • Savings: By this stage of life, you certainly have many responsibilities, but you might have some money saved in the bank as well. Supplementing your savings with an income could be a wise move to set you up for retirement.
  • Wealth of experience: Beyond age 50, many people think about training others as a fulfilling career. Could you consider doing course in training and assessing where you learn how to effectively impart your knowledge and skills?
  • Learn for fun, or a role: Often, people in this age group may study for interest or for a career change. It’s never too late to try something new! Could you leave your corporate job and work in a retail boutique? Could you study legal services and join a law firm as a legal assistant?
  • Meaningful connections: In this age group, you are likely to want a role that is enjoyable and flexible. By your 50s and beyond you probably want to work somewhere you enjoy the culture of the company, as well as the attitude of your work mates.
  • Build: This is the time you should ideally be aiming to build on something, for your future.  The government is raising the pension age to 67 in Australia, and there are murmurs that it could one day be increased to age 70.

Tips for changing careers in your 50s and beyond

  • Be persistent: There has been much discussion in the media about ageism and the reluctance of hiring managers to employ people over 50. When looking for work, be persistent and your efforts will pay off.
  • New laws: These have been brought in by the government about age discrimination. They have said, “As more baby boomers approach retirement age, the reach of the new Federal Age Discrimination Act may be extended.” There are current and severe penalties for discriminating against workers for their age.
  • Be positive: Looking for work can be a challenge, particularly as you get older. Remember that attitudes are slowly changing and more and more workplaces are starting to see the value of experienced, older workers. Remain positive and persistent- it will happen!
  • Update: Make sure you have a fresh, current resume that is relevant to each job. Often, it’s a good idea to omit any early roles that are not relevant to the position you’re going for. You could summarise a decade of work with a few well chosen bullet points, highlighting the transferrable skills you have.
  • Get social: Use social media and online networking tools to grow your network and find out things about the industry you’re hoping to work in. Connect with people, ask questions and research competitors and other markets.

It’s never too late or too early to change careers!

“Anyone who stops learning is old; whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” Henry Ford

Changing careers through the years needn’t be something to become anxious about. Often, with a little planning and forethought, a career change can be a natural progression of the development of your skills.

Often the things we are initially hired for aren’t what we love or what we are good at. As we get older and gain confidence in our abilities, we want to move towards roles and jobs that satisfy our need to find value and meaning in our work.

What to do next!

If you’re stuck on which move to make next, check out Open Colleges online courses available to start today – no need to wait for start dates or semesters. All Open Colleges courses are flexible, online and come with a tiered support system so you can connect with real people in a variety of ways if you need help with your studies.

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