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Over 45 and Looking for Work: Making Midlife Career Moves

A midlife career transition can feel overwhelming, especially if you did not expect it.

Perhaps your family circumstances have changed. Or you were injured on the job and need to find another way to make a living. Maybe company downsizing took you by surprise. Or perhaps you have simply reached a point in your life where you want something different.

Whatever the reason, there is a path forward. Here’s how to break down the journey into manageable steps.

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How to Handle a Career Move When You’re Over 45

A guide to dealing with a career change as a mature worker. If you don’t know where to start, here’s a way forward.

Take time to deal with your emotions

With any life change comes a period of transition. At this time, you adjust emotionally to your new circumstances. Sudden changes may be especially upsetting because they throw everything into question.

During a career transition, you may need to grieve the past before you plan the future. It helps to understand the stages of transition that most people go through as part of any big change.

Once you recognize and acknowledge your feelings, you will move forward more easily.

Recognize your skills and experience

If you have been in the same job for a long time, you may worry that your skills are out of date or your age may pose a problem. But it is important to recognize that your experience is valuable.

Employers value core or transferable skills. Also known as soft skills, these include communication and interpersonal skills. These skills are much harder to teach than work-specific or technical skills.

A Canadian Federation of Independent Business survey found that members ranked the following as employers’ top 3 soft skills:

  • Willingness to learn
  • Willingness to stay at the job
  • Knowledge of customer service

Your task as a job seeker is to identify your skills and communicate to employers how you can put your experience to work for them.

Plan to handle age-related issues in your work search

Common beliefs about aging can work both for you and against you in your job search. A 2021 report published by Federal/Provincial/Territorial (FPT) Ministers Responsible for Seniors found that many people believe older workers are reliable, committed to their jobs, and have a strong work ethic. Yet some employers have concerns that older workers are less flexible, less productive, or less willing to learn than younger workers. 

It is against the law for employers to ask you age-related questions. Showing that you do not fit negative stereotypes and highlighting the benefits of hiring you can help you deal with potential concerns and keep the focus on what you have to offer.

Take stock of your financial situation

Any time your career plan changes, you must consider money. How much do you need to earn? Have your needs changed since the last time you looked for work?

At the beginning of your work search, take some time to compare your financial and career goals. Do they align? You may find that money matters less—or more—than it used to.

Focus your work search by defining what you want

The first step in career planning is to develop a clear picture of what you want—and what you don’t want. Often, that is not as easy as it sounds.

Your first reaction might be to say that you want a job just like your last one. But do you really? This could be a chance to make some long-desired changes. You may not have chosen to look for work at this stage in your life, but why not try to make this transition a change for the better?

Understanding your work preferences can help you find work you enjoy more than ever, in less time than you think.

Look in new directions for opportunities

If you have worked in one occupation or industry for many years, you may not have considered what other options are open for you.

The labour market keeps changing. As some types of work disappear, new ones emerge. If you are willing to consider various types of work, work settings, and work arrangements, you may find work more quickly than you think.

For example:

Keep in mind that most employers do not advertise job openings. As well, competition for advertised jobs is often strong. If you do some detective work, you will find work opportunities. In fact, the less obvious they are, the less competition you may have.

Recognize that upgrading your skills can help you find work

In today’s world, most jobs require some type of education or training credential.

That does not necessarily mean you have to go back to school. But enrolling in an upgrading program or going back to school could be positive in more ways than you expect. For example, you may meet new people or learn a skill that adds enjoyment to your work.

There are many ways to get education or training, from online courses to apprenticeship programs. Think about your career path and plan your learning to support both your short- and long-term goals.

Most employers will expect you to have literacy and computer skills. These skills will help you in your work search. They are also valuable on the job. For information about improving your skills in these areas, contact Alberta Supports.

Get help with your job search

If you have always been independent, your first instinct may be to tackle your job search alone. But your search can go more quickly and easily if you take advantage of work search resources. These include programs, support groups, online and print resources, and your own network.

Reaching out for help can make the search process less lonely. It can also increase the odds that your career transition will turn out to be a better change than you imagined.

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