Too Old to Switch Careers?

In the distant (and not-too-distant) past, it was common — and in many cases, reasonable — to select one vocation or career path and see it through until retirement. These days, that’s no longer the precedent, nor should it be. More and more people are switching careers later in life and bringing their transferable skills with them to innovate industries they’ve never worked in before.

Common reasons for making a career change include dissatisfaction with current job, lack of passion, burnout, and in some cases, a desire to generate greater income. Of course, sometimes people are pushed into career change due layoffs, relocation, health issues, or industry shifts such as artificial intelligence and job automation. 

Realistically, the most relevant question these days isn’t “Am I too old to switch careers?” (to which my answer is “never!”). Instead, it’s “How do I stay agile enough to manage change when it comes my way?”

Whether you have aspirations to switch careers or you simply want to be prepared for the impact of unpredictable technology, economic conditions, or life circumstances, there are many ways to enhance your likelihood of a successful shift, no matter how (or why) it manifests in your life. 

Infuse your life with your creativity.

This is a good practice for everyone, but especially if you want to equip yourself for the possibility of change — professional and otherwise. Making room for creativity in your daily life is vital. While this can include picking up new endeavors like writing, painting, or playing a musical instrument, it could be more subtle. For instance, go on regular walks and let your mind wander. Mix up your routines (e.g., take a different route to work, order a different type of coffee, or listen to a new podcast). Seemingly small changes force our minds to adjust, building new neural pathways in our brain. It’s like training to maintain or improve your ability to handle change.

Stay up-to-date with the latest technology.

Regardless of whether you’re naturally comfortable with technology, you should make an effort to stay aligned or at least aware of ever-changing trends in tech. If technology isn’t your strong suit, try to shift your perspective to one of curiosity. Remain intrigued with the latest advancements when you can. If you’re more adept at this kind of thing, consider actively staying up-to-date on different software, platforms, and digital skills.

Check-in regularly with your goals and values

Consistently check-in with and re-evaluate your professional goals. Do these goals align with your values? When an opportunity comes along, or if your life takes an unexpected turn, you’ll undoubtedly be better equipped to answer the question, “What comes next?” If, for example, a career change comes with a temporary pay decrease, you’ll know whether that’s a deal breaker at this stage of your life. If you’re forced into a shift, you’ll know what you’re willing to sacrifice (time, money, rest, location) to pursue a new path. 

Are You Ever “Too Old?”

None of us are exempt from aging. As we do so, there are practical steps that impact where and how we seek change. Infuse your life with creativity, stay up-to-date on the latest tech, and remain engaged with your goals and values. Doing these simple things regularly will increase the odds that the next time you ask, “Am I too old to (switch careers, move to a new state, learn a new skill, etc.)”, the answer will be an unequivocal “No.”