Older And Stuck Career-Wise. Now What?


So you feel stuck career-wise; seemingly unable to break free.

Could be that all or most of your experience is in a field that you’re no longer able to compete in. Your educational qualifications are old and dated, you’ve relied too much on your year’s of accumulated experience and growing seniority to give you job security. Now it would seem, you’re feeling pushed out in favour of people with less direct experience, but whom you admit do have the academic qualifications you don’t.

Now another possibility is that you’ve just grown complacent; stagnating in the job; you’re no longer as hungry as you once were to stay on top of the latest trends, the best practices and sought out upgrading courses and classes that would have you doing things differently. Too late for regrets though, you can’t go back now and change the past; what’s done is done – or not done in your case.

You might be pushed out the door already and unemployed, or you’re smart enough to see that it won’t be very much longer before someone either suggests you think strongly about an early retirement or they’ll simply let you go.

The bottom line is that you’re going to be, or you already are, in a situation where you’re in need of a new job and this isn’t what you had foreseen when you looked ahead and saw yourself in your mid to late 50’s or early 60’s. You know you both want and need to work but the question is doing what?

For you possibly, doing what you’ve always done seems easiest because looking for similar work means you can draw on your extensive work history. Changing careers altogether while appealing, would take a lot of work to find what you could do that your recent work experience and well-dated education might qualify you to compete for.

One problem you foresee is that returning to school to acquire up-to-date education might take you out of the job hunt for 6 months to 2 or 3 years, and time is not on your side when you’re already concerned about coming across as an older worker now and being discriminated against because of it.  So the problem is job search with no recent education and you’re up against younger applicants with recent formal education or return to school and emerge with an even wider age gap between you and the competition. Have I summed up your thinking accurately?

Let me ask you this first; do you need to work, want to work, or is it a combination of the two? If you’re financially sound and don’t have to work to support yourself, you have a luxury of seeking work that will bring you personal satisfaction as a first priority. This could mean instead of full-time work only, you’ve got the option of part-time employment or volunteering your services. There’s a huge market for people with the maturity and wisdom that comes from both life and work experience in a mentoring capacity. If your physical health or your stamina to keep up with the demands of full-time work is questionable, these are two great options to consider.

Now if you need to work financially, the pressure to find a job becomes greater. That shouldn’t however, get you so desperate that you jump immediately at the first job you see advertised and then end up working in a job you loathe even though the financial bleeding is being addressed. You don’t want to grow bitter, waking up day after day with the thought, “And this is what the rest of my life has come down to?”

It would seem to be good advice to take stock of your strengths and your accomplishments. What are you good at? What have others appreciated about you and what achievements have you realized over the years? Personality-wise, what kinds of working environments have you fit in best with? Are you a people person or have you come to realize that you are increasingly working productively when isolated from the annoying chitter chatter of co-workers?

You might have what it takes and have the personal qualities to work on a consultative basis too. Self-employed; you’re for hire on a contractual basis, and getting set up to work for yourself would be a low financial risk with little to buy in terms of supplies and raw materials. Is there a market for your services and are you the kind of person that can communicate and train others, sharing your knowledge?

Whether you go self-employment or look to work for an organization, you are now faced with marketing yourself (again); something you may not have had to do for a decade or more. That may seem daunting. Again, making a list of your assets, strengths, accomplishments and your achievements is an excellent way to give yourself credit for who you are. Knowing who you are now is the starting point to knowing what you offer to others.

I get it, you’re feeling like a blow has been dealt to you. Your confidence is ebbing and this idea of ‘selling yourself’ is not something you’d choose to be doing at your age. Remember that the accumulation of your life experience is something no 20 or 30 something old has; this is your advantage!

Focus on your strengths and address your liabilities to the extent you can. Solid advice that will never steer you wrong.