Expert Advice On The Best Age To Change Careers
You'll be surprised.
There's a common line many people tell themselves when toying with the idea of a career change, and it goes something like, "I've always wanted to be a <insert dream role here>, but it'll never happen because <insert excuse here>."
One of the most common excuses is not knowing when it's the right time to make the big leap. Timing, we're told, is everything.
The issue around timing is particularly pertinent to women, who often have to juggle their career with the demands that come with raising a family .
Regardless of gender, there has to be an ideal window of opportunity -- the perfect age to switch careers -- right?
To find out the answer to what seems like the 10 million dollar question, we spoke to career expert and c-suite mentor, Amanda Blesing, who boiled it down to the magic age of ... nothing.
As in, there is no perfect age to change careers.
"Age is a mindset," she told ten daily. "There is always time and opportunity to change careers."
It is true that the concept of age means less and less to us as a society these days. Both men and women are living longer than ever, with a life expectancy of about 80 and 85 years respectively according to 2014-2016 data.
We're retiring later and later as a result, with 2016-17 data indicating that the average Aussie aged 45+ intended to continue working until they're 65 -- two years longer than we were a decade ago.
With lives and careers spanning over eight decades it makes sense that there would or, more to the point, should be more room to move. In fact, Blesing thinks it's normal, if not healthy, to have between five and seven career changes over the course of one's working life.
"It gives us permission to try different things," she told ten daily.
Trying different things is something with which Blesing herself is very familiar, having started out as a trained dancer, before moving into the fitness industry and on to professional development and team leadership positions in the business world.
She spent almost six years as the CEO at SOCAP Australia (The Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals Australia), and is currently a speaker, mentor and author with a strong focus on women in the workplace.
"It's liberating and exciting to think we can have so many career iterations," Blesing said.
If age is just a mindset, and there's no magic moment to hand in your notice, then what does it actually take to change careers?
"It's your appetite for risk and thinking outside of the square that's going to hinder or help you," was Blesing's response.
You've got to be willing to put it all, or close to it, on the line to achieve your goals.
But it's not for everyone, as Blesing explained. "If you're less risk-inclined then staying in the same career will be a safer option for you."
A successful career change also hinges on your skills set, but Blesing wants us to look beyond those that are too job-specific, like knowing how to use accounting software, or experience in the health field.
"Skills that will be valued in the future are not traditional technical expertise," she told ten daily.
Instead it's transferable skills, often called 'soft skills,' that are becoming more and more prized by employers, according to Blesing.
Soft skills like agile thinking, emotional intelligence, negotiating, decision-making -- those are the things that make it easier for workers to trade and transition into a different career.
It doesn't matter what role you're aiming to move into, whether it's the manager of a restaurant chain or a primary school teacher, the same set of soft skills -- leadership, people-management and planning to name a few -- are required.
It's soft skills, not hard ones, that allow you to create what Blesing calls a "segue" into another career.
Another crucial part of changing careers is overcoming concerns about what potential employers will think about your working history. It's no secret that, on paper, a seemingly sudden job switch after years in the same role can raise eyebrows, as can a history of frequent changes.
Blesing does concede that younger workers, and their prospective bosses, find job-hopping less of an issue. "In your twenties you can change your career more easily because people will make fewer judgements about rapid career change."
At some point though perception does come into play, and Blesing has heard of hiring managers casting a critical eye on prospective employees who don't have a track record of at least two years in a role.
It comes down to a personal decision. Ask yourself, am I playing the career game, or can I lock this role in for a couple of years to get some runs on the board? The latter will certainly help build credibility.
On the other hand, a varied job history can be an advantage.
"Let's face it," Blesing told ten daily, "Some employers are more conservative than others, but things are changing. They understand that they need to be attracting people with different interests, different skill sets."
One of the best ways to develop different interests and different skill sets is to try out different roles across different areas.
So just like there's no perfect age to change careers, there is, it seems, no one perfect idea of a resume. A varied job history, or an out-of-the-blue change, are by no means fatal flaws.
According to Blesing, the key is owning your professional path, and making it work for you.
"Take charge of your narrative, and avoid being defensive or apologetic."
If you've taken substantial time off work to travel, for instance, rather than playing it down in front of an interviewer, play up the positives as Blesing explained.
"Saying, 'I took six months off to go to Europe because it was really important to me, and the skills I learnt while over there are x, y and z and these will be beneficial for this role because ...' sounds very different to, 'I am so sorry about taking a break.'"
This same attitude applies if you're questioned over a history of frequent role changes -- aim to emphasise the value that you can add as a result of those experiences.
"As long as you can demonstrate that you're willing to commit, an employer could see you -- a person who is willing to try new things -- as a tactical advantage."
Let's no forget that we, as human beings, can and do change. Australian designer Samantha Wills' surprise announcement that she's closing down the highly successful jewellery arm of her business is a good example of this.
Wills' reason for closing the profitable, 15-year-old business, SAMANTHA WILLS, was simply because she needed a change, and wanted to tackle new challenges.
"It's time to let go and go out and discover the next chapter for the brand and for me personally," she said in a statement.
These old notions that people are only good at one thing and should just stick with it are just that: old. Blesing cites Emilie Wapnick, author of How to Be Everything and champion of the term "multi-potentialite," as helping to dispel the stigma around the need to stay in the one role forever.
"There are lots of opportunities to stretch and grow," as Blesing said.
Feature image: Getty.