How Later-Life Career Changes Can Pay Off

Find out what it takes to successfully change careers later in life, and what it might mean for your income.

If you’re among the 65 percent of preretirees who plan to work in retirement or the 21 percent of people who plan to work until they die, it might be time to consider a career change.

According to research by the American Institute for Economic Research, 82 percent of people who attempted a career change later in life succeeded. Most of them report being happy or very happy (87 percent) and less stressed (65 percent) after the change.

Exactly half also saw an income increase as a result of the change, while 31 percent saw an income decrease.

The research is based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey and the AIER’s 2014 Older Worker Survey of people aged 47 and older who attempted career changes.

Skill sets played a big role in the different outcomes between successful and unsuccessful later-life career changes, AIER reports.

Successful career changers used more skills than their unsuccessful counterparts: an average of 8.4 skills out of 14 skills in the Older Worker Survey compared to an average of 5.5 skills for unsuccessful changers.

Successful career changers also went to jobs that used skills they already had, whereas unsuccessful career changers attempted to change into careers that they thought required different skills than those they already had.

The skills most used by successful career changers are:

  • Problem solving
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Public communication
  • Reading comprehension
  • Basic computer skills

A recent AARP Public Policy Institute report on unemployment and re-employment among people ages 45 to 70 found that job-searching steps were a key difference between the re-employed and unemployed.

The re-employed were more likely to contact employers directly (48 percent for the re-employed versus 37 percent for the unemployed) and reach out to their networks of contacts to find jobs (45 percent versus 34 percent).

As the AIER research concludes:

The clearest message from these data is that a career change later in life is a viable choice for those who are seeking work in a field or occupation that utilizes their current skills.

For more, check out “10 Tips to Land an Awesome Job When You’re Over 50.”

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Stacy Johnson

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