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Debunking 5 Myths About Changing Careers in Your 50s

Why the conventional wisdom is wrong, wrong, wrong


If you are in your 50s, it’s too late to think of changing careers or —worse — getting back into the workforce after retiring from your full-time job, they say. Oh, really?

As Next Avenue’s Kerry Hannon recently wrote, a University of Michigan study says “about 40 percent of Americans who were still working when they turned 62 had moved to a new occupation sometime after age 55.” On top of that, we all remember The Intern with Robert De Niro, whose experience and life skills (albeit fictional) helped him compete with young workers and succeed.

Then there are all those stories about people like 52-year-old Mary who gives up a lawyer career and becomes a gardener. You read them and believe you can do something similar. But all those ugly myths about changing careers in your 50s prevent you from taking the first step toward your better and happier future.

It’s time for a debunking.

Accept the fact you are constantly changing: the jobs you found interesting at 25 may seem awful at 50. Your abilities and interests change, too.

Myth No. 1: It’s Too Late to Switch Careers

It is not.

Haven’t you read those articles about people who became millionaires after 50 or men and women who proved it was never too late for a career change?

Take Ray Kroc, a milkshake device salesman who built McDonald’s into the world’s biggest fast food franchise when he was 52. (Watch The Founder to learn all about it.) Or Grandma Moses who was 76 when she cranked out her first canvas.

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation reports  that people ages 55 to 64 now represent 29 percent of America’s entrepreneurs.

Myth No. 2: It’s Embarrassing

Yes, you can be full of doubt if you can’t forgive yourself for being in your 50s and unsure about what you want from your career. You may think it’s awkward and even embarrassing. How wrong you are!

Until the age of 65, Harland Sanders didn’t hold a steady job. He then took $105 from his Social Security benefits and started a business everybody knows as KFC today.

Simply accept the fact you are constantly changing: the jobs you found interesting at 25 may seem awful and boring at 50. Your abilities and interests change, too. That’s normal.

It’s your life. And no career myth should keep you from living it to the max.

Myth No. 3: You Won’t Get Hired or Be Able to Start a Business

Nicole Maestas, a Harvard Medical School professor who has worked on numerous research papers tracking people 50+ over decades, told The Wall Street Journal: “The labor-demand study simply shows that when there is a shortage of skilled workers, older workers get jobs.”

And people on Quora, the user-generated question-and-answer site, agree that people 50+ can start businesses and become successful. Here’s what two of them say:

“It’s never too late to empower yourself (regardless of what your current boss or coworkers tell you).” – Vidas Pinkevicius

“Of course you can. You deserve that happiness. You start slow with a night class or two and then you build on that. Don’t listen to the naysayers. They will come out of the woodwork and literally fall from the skies.” – Tricia Labrie

Myth No. 4: You’ll Need to Work Part-Time

Not necessarily.

A growing number of organizations debunk the myth about the inability of people over 50 to cope with tasks demanded of full-time workers. Companies like MetLife, Regeneron, PwC and others have internships for older workers. And some companies, such as Barclays, are specifically planning to increase the percentage of older workers they have.

Myth No. 5: You Won’t Be Able to Compete With Younger Applicants

False!

In fact, Matthew Rutledge, a research economist at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, believes that some older applicants may even look better to employers because of their experience.

The key is to keep your work and tech skills up-to-date, your energy high and your attitude positive.

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By Lesley Vos
Lesley Vos has contributed articles on career and self-development to publications like Talent Culture, Addicted2Success and others. She is a private educator for high schoolers from Chicago and a web writer behind the Bid 4 Papers blog. Follow her on Twitter @LesleyVos.@LesleyVos

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