How to Change Careers When You Are 60 and Above

There are benefits to being in your 60s or later, you can package experience and transferable skills, to make yourself a candidate for a career change.
Rules surrounding social security benefits in the U.S. established the age of 65 as a common retirement age and you know you have arrived there when your favorite classic rock music is now popular elevator music.
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While the rest of us are happily looking forward to cashing in our social security in our 60s, there are some people out there who are gearing up for a fresh career adventure. You might think who in their right mind would want to change careers in their 60s or above… well, turns out people do and some have done an exemplary job of it.

If you are inspired to any extent like Harland David Sanders who franchised the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) brand when he was 62, Charles Ranlett Flint who made IBM at 61, or Jim Butenschoen who left the IT industry to establish the Career Academy of Hair Design at 65, then you have come to the right place.

In this guide, we will show you how to manage a career change any time after the age of 60.

When it comes to careers, especially in your 60s and above, making a change can be intimidating. There are numerous factors to consider later in life, as you may have more at stake than, say, a 25-year-old exploring various career options.

The good news is that it is possible to successfully change careers in your 60s, 70s, or even in your 80s and above. You can apply your decades of life experience to almost any job, and you probably know yourself better than you did in previous decades. 

While some career advice is timeless, starting a new career at 60 or later deserves special consideration. You can transition into your new role smoothly if you have a job transition plan.

Charting a well-planned path to a successful career change is the key when you are crossing your 60s. In this article, we explain the benefits of changing careers at 60 and above (yes there are genuinely great benefits to being in this age bracket for a career change), outline the steps to take, and offer advice on how to make the transition easier.

By the way, in case you are not in your 60s, 70s, or 80s, we have the following dedicated guides for each age group:

Download Checklist " 10 Simple Steps to Smooth Job Change"

Can I really change careers if I am 60 and above?

Yes, you can. It is never too late to go for an option that will better your life. There are many examples of people doing this successfully. People used to spend their entire careers at the same job, but those times are long gone. Job and career change after every three to four years, no matter how old you are, is a very common thing these days.

According to an EdX poll, 32% of employees in the US considered changing jobs at some point within a year, and 29% had already done so! And according to a Harris Poll survey conducted for Fast Company, the majority of American workers (52%) considered changing jobs that year, with as many as 44% already making plans.

Why are so many people trying to change jobs or careers? Covid, inflation, the overall economy, and other factors have impacted many industries. In these cases, people have to look for better options to earn more just to pay their bills.

But a portion of those wanting change also do so simply because they feel they have the potential to do something better, bigger, or more meaningful. Whatever the reason for the change, you need a clear plan to make it a success.

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How to plan a career transition after 60

Changing jobs later in life may have some unanticipated consequences, but what great things can you achieve in life by aiming for zero risk? It is critical that you do not allow fear and negative emotions to keep you from achieving your career goals.

If you are seriously planning a career change you may also find the following two resources helpful in your job search: 7 Best Books for Changing Careers (Must Reads!) and 6 Best Podcasts for Changing Careers

With a long list of men and women in their late 60s and above successfully changing careers, it’s clear there are possibilities for you. Here is what you should do step by step if you want to successfully change your career after 60.

Suggested reading: the complete guide to a career change

1. Figure out why you want the change

Consider why you are dissatisfied with your current job and what it will take to make you happy. This will help you in looking for a new career that does not have the same issues that made you unhappy in the first place.

For example, money may not be the most important factor in your decision to change careers at the age of 60 or later. Your health, personal satisfaction, work-life balance, and self-actualization are all important objectives that may warrant changing professions at this stage in life.

Whatever these reasons are, understanding them is the foundation for laying the plan for a career change.

If you're thinking about changing careers but don't know where to start, read our special guide on the subject. 

2. Figure out what you are passionate about

It is critical to find a career that you are passionate about, regardless of your age. Consider industries and jobs that interest you when changing careers at the age of 60 or more. Look for jobs and industries that excite you because they will be the ones motivating you and energizing you through the difficulties of the change.

You can also think about specific activities that made you happy, any natural talents you have, and your personality traits. Finally, narrow down your options to a single career option that makes you the happiest.

3. Look for careers with similarities to your past career (optional but recommended)

Many industries have functions that overlap. If you are unable to find a job that matches your skills and interests, look for similarities in the tasks of your previous and current jobs. Despite minor differences, all kinds of jobs frequently use the same management principles.

Transferable skills include project management, organization, computer abilities, interpersonal relationship management, and even something as simple as honesty. Finding common ground makes it easier to choose a new career that will allow you to grow and achieve your objectives.

There are four levels of career change that offer varying degrees of similarity with past experiences.

  • A functional career change

    This is the type of transition in which you do not leave your industry but instead look for a different job. You might even be employed by the same company.

    When employees are promoted within their organizations, this type of change is common. For example, an electrician may take a new job as a project manager. In this case, the employee even intends to stay with the same company but he uses his extensive knowledge to develop new project management skills.
  • An industry career change

    A person retains their positions and responsibilities while changing industries in this type of career shift. They frequently work in fields in which they have no prior experience.

    A content writer for a web designing company switches industries and gets a job in advertising because he wants to express himself more creatively. This career change may necessitate some online courses or study, but it is neither impossible nor unusual.
  • An entrepreneurial career change

    By far the most common type of career change at 60 or later in life, entrepreneurial career change happens when you just quit your job and pursue self-employment. Being their own boss and putting their startup idea to the test is often a lifelong dream.

    In the majority of cases, people try to establish a business in the same industry they have an experience with. For example, a car salesman opening up his own dealership.
  • A double career change

    This type of career change is the most difficult transition. It might feel like you're completely starting over in life. It happens when a person changes careers and industries. Going off on a tangent like this could mean something as drastic as pursuing a career as an accountant after being a chef.

    You can't expect to have many direct skills when you start a new job this way, but you do have intangible skills and experience from understanding yourself and building relationships with others.

    It's almost certain that you'll need to learn new skills and seek professional advice from those in your new field. Following a career in which you have seniority and experience, a double career shift implies that you will begin with little experience and few industry ties.

4. Be pragmatic

Setting realistic goals that you can achieve is just as important as working toward your dreams. 

For example, if you were a former athlete it might be impossible for you to compete professionally in a sport at this age but you can do 10 other things that will keep you close to a game you are passionate about.

You could coach, do commentaries, make podcasts, and even manage teams. Navigate your career change realistically and enjoy the benefits of reaching your goals. 

It is preferable to choose a career that allows you to transfer skills from your previous jobs. This way, you won't have to spend as much time and money on training and certification, which are optional.

5. Prepare to be open-minded with your options

If you are planning to change careers in your 60s, 70s, or even 80s, you may need to make some sacrifices in order to achieve your goals. If you want to change jobs so you can devote more time to family and recreational activities, an ideal job may pay less but give you more free time.

You may also be required to relocate to a different city or state, take on new responsibilities, or even return to school. A new career may necessitate sacrifices, requiring some flexibility on your part.

Being adaptable also entails not being restricted to a single line of work. The best occupation for your skills and experience may only be available on a part-time or contract basis.

Download Checklist " 10 Simple Steps to Smooth Job Change"

6. Make an action plan

Creating an action plan entails defining a specific goal as well as milestones for achieving it. You should have finished all of your research by this point and be able to narrow down your career change to a specific occupation. It's time to consider what it will take for you to get there.

Consider education and certification, skill development, networking events, and opportunities to practice within a specific sector or field. Make a list of the steps you intend to take and a completion schedule.

Many people become bogged down in their career changes because they do not meticulously schedule their action plan, instead deferring things to indefinite future points in time. You make solid progress by forcing yourself to complete tasks by deadlines, which in turn encourages you to take the next steps.

7. Acquire all the new skills and certifications required to break into your new career

If you want to work in a field that requires a degree or certification, you may need to pursue additional education on top of your current work experience. College courses, continuing education seminars, and even free internet resources may assist you in preparing for your new potential career.

If you already have a job, look for opportunities to learn new skills in your current role. For example, an adman who wants to open his own bakery should ask to work on a confectionary account at his agency.

This will help him understand how confectionaries are marketed successfully.

If you are looking for either certifications or courses to upgrade your skillset then Unmudl has a wide range of courses for every industry.

8. Rebrand yourself

You may need to do some personal rebranding before applying for new jobs. When changing careers, job seekers should develop a personal brand that appeals to potential employers by using a résumé, cover letter, and social networks.

This is especially important when changing careers at 60 or later because your prior experience may not clearly overlap with your intended goals unless you give it some thought and planning.

Consider how your previous experiences make you a better candidate for the position you're looking for, and use them to create a strong personal statement about why you're a good fit.

For example, when applying for a teaching position, even if you were previously a photographer, it becomes relevant if you participated as a trainer in your last company's training and orientation exercises.

If you want to change careers and work in the education sector, all older efforts to teach, train, and help co-workers should be highlighted. You will always be able to find something relevant if you dig through your memory.

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Photo by The Coach Space

Advantages of a career change at 60 or later

We want to leave you on a positive note so here are some solid advantages you have working in your 60s or even later, that will help you with your career change. 

You are a veteran

With 60 or more years of experience under your belt even if you are switching to an industry as drastically different as engineering from photography, you still have many transferable skills. 

For example, it is very likely you have excellent communication skills, a lot of experience in handling teams effectively, and are able to organize and plan projects within budget and timelines.

These highly valuable transferable skills are common no matter what industry you are in. You should highlight these strengths at every opportunity you get.

You have the opportunity to live a more fulfilling life

When you first start out in your career, you rarely have the wisdom to understand what you want out of life and what would truly make you happy.

You have the opportunity to realign your life with your ultimate life goals or true passion at the age of 60 or later simply because you now understand yourself better. Changing careers can provide you with a better work-life balance, a thrilling challenge, or a leadership position.

You have a strong personal network

Unless you are an extreme introvert or were stationed alone at a research facility in Antarctica for your entire career, chances are you have built a decent network of friends and colleagues. Speak with contacts who have experience in your new industry and ask them to keep you updated on new opportunities. 

This can be done over the phone, via SMS, or even via a referral email or social media posts. Look for opportunities to work shadow, volunteer, or intern within your network. These people are the ones who will be most willing to give you a break.

Final thoughts

If you are planning to change careers at 60 or later, keep in mind that you are in good company with a number of successful people who did the same at that age.

You can look at your age as being old or you can look at being in your 60s, 70, or even 80s as having a whole lot of experience in life. It’s a glass half full or glass half empty kind of situation.

In this guide, we talked about how important it is to plan your career change at this stage in life and we also gave you a step-by-step guide to help you achieve success with your new career goals.

The Unmudl team wishes you success! Just remember what my friend James’ grandpa used to say, seize the opportunity no matter what the age. God bless him.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is 60 too old to start a new career?

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