Second chance careers: can you make it at over 50?


Turning your back on a career path you’ve worked hard to establish isn’t easy at any time of life but switching jobs in your fifties and sixties can be particularly daunting. At a time when one in four people between age 50 and the state pension date is out of work, it’s encouraging to hear about two people who have successfully re-invented their careers, gaining a new lease of life in the process.

Jo Good is best known for presenting a successful show on BBC Radio London, but she recently took the bold decision to step away from the microphone and try her luck as a YouTube vlogger.

Vloggers (short for ‘video-bloggers’) post videos of themselves on the internet, hoping to build up an audience for the type of content they offer. While exploring the work of YouTube vloggers, Jo was struck by how few offered vlogs designed for older people. Consequently, last year she set up her own YouTube channel Jo Good – Middle Aged Minx.

‘It’s the raw, unedited, rough round the edges way of recording my daily life that attracted me to vlogging,’ Jo explains. ‘I’m really trying to prove that a 63-year-old has a life worth watching.’ Although Jo’s subscribers can currently be counted in their thousands rather than millions, her strategy is clearly working. Her growing list of followers – mainly aged between 50 and 70 – prove that there’s an appetite for vlogs designed to appeal to an older audience.

However, while Jo has made a conscious decision to forge a new career path, 59-year-old Matthew Holderness was forced into a change of direction when ill health forced him to leave the teaching job he loved.

‘My condition made it hard for me to find a conventional job, so I decided to focus on my transferable skills instead,’ he says. ‘As an English teacher my work was mainly focused on creative writing, so I began to wonder how I might be able to use that commercially.’ Matthew signed up to a freelancers’ website, offering his services as a copywriter, and quickly began to build up a list of clients. Now he works full time for a digital marketing agency.

‘I’m part of a workforce based in several different countries,’ says Matthew. ‘Although I operate from home, I feel globally connected. It’s a very different life.’

Age discrimination in the workplace is still an obstacle, but if you are over fifty and considering a different field of work, the advice is to research your chosen path carefully, re-train if necessary and try to gain some hands-on experience before committing. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available to help. A guide to finding work at over 50 is available on the Shaw Trust’s website, while Age UK offers further guidance for older jobseekers.

Perhaps the last word should go to Debra Bednar-Clark, who left a high-profile career at Facebook to become a leadership developer and coach. ‘You are the totality of your experiences,’ she told US media site, nextavenue. ‘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.’

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Words by:Kate McLelland

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