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Changing a career

If you’re thinking about a change of career as you head towards retirement, play to your strengths says Annie Shaw

Are you looking to change career in retirement?Looking for a new job later in life can be a daunting prospect. It can be particularly hard for people who have been in the same job for many years – their application skills and CV may be out of date – and for those who have been out of the workplace for a long time, perhaps caring for children or for a partner.

It can also be hard if you are looking for a job out of necessity – because you desperately need the money – and if you have been made redundant, because your confidence may have taken a knock.

Turn that frown upside down

Desperation is corrosive, and if you let it show the feeling will work against you. It is, therefore, important to keep a positive attitude to your job search. 

This can be very difficult if you feel you are banging your head against a wall, financial pressures are growing and you feel discriminated against on account of your age and no one will ever need your skills again. But don’t give up.

Liz Ryan, founder and CEO of the career guidance publisher Human Workplace, says: “The fears we feel during a job search make us much less effective job-seekers. We can't think straight with our fearful, critical brain constantly telling us ‘Get the job offer, no matter what!’

“It only takes one horrendous job situation to teach us that there are plenty of jobs worse than another few months of unemployment. Still, fear is a powerful emotion, and when we’re feeling anxious about paying the bills our fear can overwhelm us.”

Play to your strengths

Professionals being ‘let go’ from big firms will often have access to counselling services and employment agencies that can help them move on in their existing career. 

But what about those who have tried and failed to find another job in their chosen area of expertise, or those in lower-grade jobs who have no particular direction – who basically just need a job? Or those who just want to change direction, to downshift to something less demanding or do something completely different? Where can these people even start? 

If you are prepared to give up your existing career path, or maybe have been forced to by circumstances, you need to have a period of reflection to determine what it is you would like to do. 

Ask yourself what are you good at? More importantly, what do you like doing and you are also good at and is in demand? Could your existing skills be transferred into something else? 

If you are a teacher, could you become a home tutor, for instance? Do you have any hobbies or enthusiasms that could be turned into a moneyspinner?

But mind that bottom line 

It’s important not to get too carried away if you’re thinking about a radical career change. 

The internet might be full of stories of people who have turned their hobbies into a business, but you need to be realistic. Farmers’ markets up and down the land are  full of earnest people selling cupcakes, flavoured gin and hand made pies that they make at home or in small businesses. 

The one thing these products usually have in common is that they are fearfully expensive and the people running the stalls clearly work extremely hard making and selling them. 

If they are making enough money to live on, that’s fabulous. But I do wonder how many will still be there in a year’s time, having spent every hour of their weekday baking and brewing and their weekends standing outside in all weathers hawking wares that are unaffordable for most shoppers other than as a special treat. 

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to run your own business – far from it – but it does mean that you need to look at your costings and potential returns. A business plan is a must.

Can downshifting save you money and help your health?

It is not unusual for people to be told they look ‘years younger’ once they retire from employment and no longer have these pressures. However, it may be possible to achieve an improved feeling of wellbeing simply by downshifting your job, with the added benefit that you keep earning.

Just going to work can be expensive. As anyone with children will tell you, childcare costs can be a huge drain on finances. While this may not be as much of an issue for older workers, the cost of transport, lunches and smart clothing all adds up too. 

The demands of a high-status career, coupled with fear of redundancy or dismissal and associated loss of salary and status, physical stresses and strains and fatigue, can affect everything from physical health to family relationships. 

Working from home, or working in a lower-grade or less demanding job closer to home, could actually make financial sense even if you receive a lower headline wage.

Charles Dudman was made redundant from an executive job two years ago. He now works part-time for an estate agent, showing potential buyers around houses for sale. “I enjoy meeting people and it gets me out and about,” he says. “It’s a useful top-up until I get my state pension in a few years’ time.”

Stress and ill-health are generally more closely associated with low-status and low-paid jobs, but the key factor is often about being in control of your working life.  When changing career tack, look for something you enjoy and at a pace you enjoy.

Losing your job in later life may seem like the end of the world. In truth it could be the start of a new one.

This article has been commissioned by retiresavvy and any opinions voiced are the author's own.

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