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4 Tips for Women Who Want a Career Change After 50

Advice from a women's career and leadership coach who did it herself

By Debra Bednar-Clark

If you’re a woman over 50 who, for decades, played by the career book rules, dutifully following a traditional course of college study and related industry jobs, pursuing promotions, raises and titles and still feel unfulfilled, it’s time to create a new chapter in your career that will provide success and fulfillment. A career change may be just what you need and more possible than you think.

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As a women’s career and leadership coach, I spend much of my time identifying the strengths and growth areas of ambitious and purpose-driven professionals of all ages. People are multifaceted, yet often find themselves in positions that represent a one-dimensional version of themselves which is severely limiting. The key is to align who you are with what you do.

There is strength in embracing everything that makes you unique. So, if you’re ready to bring your authentic, whole self to work, here are four essential tips to get started:

1. Question Your ‘Shoulds’

Among the biggest obstacle to people’s ability to create a career they love is a preconceived notion of “where they should be” and what they “should do.” But success doesn’t have to follow a scripted narrative that says college grads need to find a job that relates to their major and stay on a singular career path over their lifetime.

We can veer off that “path” at any time to explore our interests, passions and personalities, to create a career that truly fulfills us.

The key is to take an inventory and pay attention to how you feel (what fuels and drains you) so you can create a path that is aligned with who you are.

Staying in a job because you think it’s what you should be doing can come at a significant cost. The stress and energy of dedicating yourself to a company or role that isn’t truly aligned with who you are at this moment in your life can compromise your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

To take the leap, you need to fundamentally believe that it’s never too late to transition into a career that aligns with who you are.

I often encourage clients who are thinking about making the transition to chat with others who have already done so. It provides a lot of reassurance to know that others, who did the seemingly impossible, are so much better for it on the other side.

2. Embody the Totality of Your Experiences

Before I started my career and leadership-coaching firm, I was the head of global strategy & growth for Facebook’s Creative Shop. And, well before that, I began my career coding software for an IT firm. In between, I had roles in change management, strategy, advertising, education and style blogging. From the outside looking in, it seemed unlikely that I would be able to transition from one industry to another.

In fact, I’m often asked, “How did you transition from consulting into advertising?” or “How did you transition from advertising into tech?” I did it by transferring my skill sets from one role to the next, distinguishing myself as a blend of experiences, perspectives and approaches. As it turns out, I was a little of everything — something I never could have planned for.

You are the totality of your experiences, and the key to success and fulfillment in your career is taking everything you’ve learned over the course of your life and bringing it to your next role.


In fact, when you’re in your 50s, you’re at a new professional peak, ripe with the experience and wisdom needed to fuel a successful career change. The key is to ensure that you’re connecting the dots for your future employers so they understand how your skills, experiences and the lessons you’ve learned along the way are transferable.

But first, you have to be willing to take the leap.

3. Unite Your Personal and Professional Self

Whether you have a one-year vision or a lifetime career plan, it’s not always clear how or where to start. As a coach, I work with clients to ensure that they have a career strategy in place — one that unites, rather than separates, their personal and professional self. Clients define the developmental goals they would like to work toward. Then, we create a customized, multi-tiered action plan to bridge the gap from where they are to where they want to be.

Ensuring that your finances are stable is a must. I recommend my clients create a financial cushion for themselves before, during and after the transition.

For some, that might include a temporary side gig to generate incremental income. For others, that might mean setting a delayed exit date from their current position before making the move.

When you have a vision, goals and an action plan tailored to who you are and what you want, you’ll be able to focus each day on making progress toward creating a career that is meaningful and motivating for you.

4. Accept that Your Career is Beautifully Messy

As you think about a transition, remember that careers are rarely linear. You can find passion in your work, whatever that may be, but it requires peeling back layers to understand who you are and what makes you tick.

Yes, embracing your whole, authentic self and accepting that your career is beautifully messy will make you feel vulnerable. But I promise you this: it will be an experience worth working for.

Debra Bednar-Clark is the founder and CEO of DB+co, a leadership development and coaching firm that serves to inspire and encourage women at all stages of their careers to bring their whole, authentic, self forward for maximum success and fulfillment at work. Previously, she was the Head of Global Strategy & Growth for Facebook’s Creative Shop. Read More
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