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Too Old to Change Careers, Find Work, or Start a Business? The Worry and the Reality.

There’s something about this idea of being the “wrong age” or “too late.” It comes up so much when I first speak with someone about their career or self-employment concerns. Too old to change careers? Or too young?

You might be surprised that I hear this same worry no matter the person’s age! They can be 20, 30, 40, 50, or 60, and somehow they think it’s the “wrong age.” How could they all be the wrong age? I would laugh if it weren’t so sad.

too old to change careers? too young? too late?

For instance, I hear all these kinds of things, regularly:

  • “I’m 33 so it’s really late to be figuring this out.”
  • “I’m 25 so it’s really late to be figuring this out.”
  • “I’m embarrassed I don’t know what I want to do at age 50.”
  • “Nobody will hire me now that I’m over 50.”
  • “I’m too old to do that.”
  • “I feel so behind everyone else.”
  • “I’m too young to be taken seriously.”
  • “Am I too old to start a business?”
  • “Am I too young to start a business?”
  • “They want younger workers who know the latest technology.”
  • “They want someone with more years of experience.”

Here’s what I’ve discovered:

  1. Those thoughts are mostly inner worries that don’t fully line up with data or what I’ve witnessed on the ground.
  2. Everyone has advantages and disadvantages when it comes to their work.
  3. For sure there are real biases related to age, race, gender, and more. And…
  4. When you truly know your strengths and what you want (more on that in a moment), you will naturally glow and speak more clearly and confidently about what you have to offer, and that makes a big difference. At any age. 

Too Old to Change Careers? Too Late? – No

If you think you are “too old over 50”, here are a few data points about the US job market, found in AARP’s magazine (August/September 2020):

  1. “In good times and bad, the jobless rate for older workers tends to be lower than for all workers.”
  2. “People founding a business at age 50 are nearly twice as likely to succeed as those who are 30.”

If you feel like you’re “too late” or “behind everyone else”:

  1. I disagree. I’ve seen amazing transitions happen at any age.
  2. It’s sad how many years can go by while saying “it’s too late to change now.” With each year, the stress and sorrow mounts up and up. A high price to pay.
  3. The energy of staying on the wrong course (with no end in sight) is far more taxing than making a change (involving temporary challenges).
  4. A transition to something that is at least more neutral than draining can happen more easily than you might think. Sometimes a small change makes a huge difference, which then opens your eyes and energy for more possibilities. Worth investigating at least. (More about “bridge jobs” inside this post.)
  5. It’s likely you can find a fulfilling and feasible path that doesn’t require going back to school. Thus the transition time could be shorter and simpler than you think.
  6. Know that people are switching careers all the time and still finding jobs. It’s more and more than norm.

What Helped Me with the “I’m So Behind” Worries

When I was in my early 40s, I used to feel like everyone but me was on a good career path  and that I was so late to figuring it out.

One day when I was lingering in a little park I love, I was reading the plaque at the statue of Sojourner Truth.

Sojourner Truth park plaque
[click plaque to enlarge]Sojourner Truth Memorial
It described how at 46 she set off as a free woman after a life of slavery. She became an outspoken abolitionist and feminist, despite so much working against her.

It struck me as I imagined her starting anew at 46. It was like she was whispering to me: You still have time. Get going.

Her spirit was one of my companions as I set off for a whole new career, imagining making my own small difference.

I love going to that park and standing next to her statue to feel rejuvenated, and to see what else she might inspire in me.

When No One Will Hire You

If employers are not appreciating how much you have to offer, there are some other options, such as self-employment. (See self-employment ideas for introverts, or Bridge to Self-employment Course.)

Another way to get creative is to find remote work, either full-time or part-time.

There are many other ways to get around a supposed dead-end in the job hunt.

I outlined 7 ways to get around a job market “dead end” in this post. 

To Make Career Decisions Easier at Any Age

As I’ve mentioned above, you do need to know what makes your heart happy and what you’re naturally good at (your strengths) in order to be able to convey that to people who might hire you.

Once you know those things, then the whole career and/or self-employment journey gets much easier. It also gives you hope for what’s possible.

The problem is most people don’t know those things about themselves. You’re not alone in that.

An easy and low-budget way to figure out what you want and what your strengths are is to walk through some steps designed by a career coach professional. I created a course like that, that includes some warm hand-holding and individualized support to get you through it. Check out my Career Clarity Course – Simple Steps to Uncover the Best Use of You Now. (Especially designed for introverts and HSPs but open to all.)

Val Nelson

Val Nelson

I’ve been a self-employed career/business/purpose coach since 2009. I help introverts and HSPs (like me) who want to make a difference — in a way that fits our practical needs too.
[More about Val, coaching, and courses.]

I appreciate feedback, good and bad. You can comment below or contact me privately.

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