Starting a Career after 50

Learning Doesn’t End When You Turn Fifty

We’re constantly hearing about shrinking retirement funds and pared-down pensions. Add to that the fact that we 50-plus citizens are dropping the term “senior” as we enjoy better health than people our age ever have. We want to do more with our lives. And if we can make more money and put off collecting Social Security, more power to us! Friends talk about “retiring when they drop while on the job” — and they’re usually not kidding. For those of us who are eager to do something besides babysit the grandkids or catch up on the daily soaps, here’s how to get started on your NEW career path.

Things You’ll Need

  • Catalogues from local community and four-year colleges
  • Local telephone directory
  • Legal pad and pen
  • Ability to perform introspection

Your Next Career Should Be Something You Love

1.  Take a morning, a cup of tea or coffee, and give some concentrated thought to what you have always wanted to do with your life. Have you yearned, for instance, to teach small children? Does your heart go out to the bedridden elderly or those who are incapacitated in other ways? Or, if you’re an Internet afficianado, would you like to go further in your understanding of computers and what you can do with them? Jot down some notes after you’ve had time to really think about it. Unless you are really strapped for cash (and I know that some of you are), you have the luxury of choosing something you really want to do. Now is the time for you to decide what those options are. Jot down your degrees, certifications, licenses and skills — all of them (don’t be modest). Those of you who lost your jobs through layoffs or forced “retirement,” follow the same steps as listed above. There’s a job waiting for each of you that you will be delighted to find.

2.  Those college catalogues are available from your local library — leaf through them to find programs that interest you. The community college catalogues offer a wealth of certificate programs that can be completed in less than a year. You can become a Licensed Practical Nurse in about one year at many community colleges. And here’s the best part: you can get a price break on tuition at many colleges if you’re 55 or above. Think about getting certification for being a nurse assistant if you would like to work as a private duty caregiver — many of these jobs just involve watching over an incapacitated person, no heavy lifting necessary. My neighbor is working on his certification in Welding, something he’s always wanted to do. Need financial aid? Again, the colleges can assist with that as well.

3.  Join the AARP if you haven’t already. For just $12.50 a year, you’ll like the discounts and all the other timely advice. And for job hunting, they offer Career One-Stop Centers where they can help you find a job, plan your next career, or locate additional job training. The AARP has just printed some very interesting information concerning what you can do about age discrimination when you feel that it’s happened to you (did you know that it’s perfectly legal to ask you outright how old you are?) Check it out and find a wealth of information for the active 50-plus set.

4.  Many older Americans have found their dream job through volunteering at the nonprofit of their choice. If you think this might be a good idea of you, check in with your local United Way. One of the many things they do is match volunteers with nonprofits. You can do everything from reading to hospitalized children to delivering meals on wheels. I worked briefly with a retired civil servant from Washington DC who volunteered with a shelter and counseling service. In a matter of months, he was working as the organization’s Executive Director. Even if you don’t end up going to work for your nonprofit, you’ll make some great friendships that could lead to permanent employment elsewhere.

5.  Give a lot of thought to starting your own business. For many jobs, from babysitting to tutoring, your only cost outlay will be business cards, brochures, mailings and perhaps a notice in the local newspaper’s classified. If sewing is your favorite hobby, try alterations and tailoring, skills that are always in demand. My favorite sitter for my children was always booked — she also watched over elderly dementia clients, did cooking, light housekeeping and overnights. She made enough money to go to Europe every summer. As far as I know, she never regretted her decision to go into business for herself. Sometimes, word-of- mouth is the only advertising you’ll need, and your home can serve very nicely as your office.

Tips & Warnings

  • Don’t be afraid to advertise yourself (the younger generation would call it “branding.”) You owe it to yourself to make others aware of your skills and your job search!
  • Make the most of free resources–your library, your community college advisor, your network of friends and relatives.
  • Be on the lookout for scam artists who promise easy money and little or no training. Check out thoroughly any offer of employment that sounds too good to be true–it probably is.
  • If you opt for education, don’t be discouraged by being the oldest in the class. More and more older people are going back to school, so chances are good that you’ll have lots of company in your age bracket. If not, sit back and enjoy the fact that you no longer have the stresses that your classmates have.



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