Five Tips to Handling a Career Transition in Your 50s and 60s

By BEN HARGROVE

These days, plenty of people are changing careers later in life. Here are some tips that could help an older worker ease the transition to a new profession.

Don’t be stodgy

Some writers only use a manual typewriter or write in longhand. If it works for them, that’s great.  But if you are part of a modern office, you don’t want to be the one whose desk looks as if it should be in a museum.

You may think that things (movies, music, society, etc.) used to be better and you may be right. But if you are managing much younger employees, you don’t want to run the risk of appearing to be living in the past and out of touch with the present.

Don’t pretend to like youthful things if you don’t

But if you don’t like the latest hip-hop music, don’t pretend that you do.  Be yourself. You are entitled to your tastes and your outlook on life. Just be open to new ideas and new experiences. Being old-fashioned is one thing; being set in your ways is another.

Be computer savvy

Some older executives take pride in barely knowing how to use a computer.  They associate something that requires typing with secretarial work and act as if they are above it. But it can also come across as masking a fear of those newfangled machines.

If you are not comfortable around computers, you will not succeed in most of today’s workplaces. You don’t need to become a programmer, just as you don’t need to be an auto mechanic to drive a car. But you should understand how to use software typically found in offices. Take a course or hire someone to teach you basics on your home computer.

You probably already know more about computers than you might think, especially if you use a smartphone, which is a pretty powerful computer compared to what used to be on people’s desks.

Be comfortable in a diverse workplace

The workplace’s population is very different than it was 40 or even 20 years ago. In addition, older people in the workplace unfortunately have to contend with bias in the form of age discrimination.  You want to be judged on your merits, so make sure that you treat others the same way.

Be available outside of the office

You may have fond memories of a time when people were not reachable 24/7. You may pride yourself on not having your cellphone on all the time. But for better or worse, those days are gone.  Depending on the needs of your business, you may need to be reachable more than you might hope, and you will want to find a way to make that work for you.

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