Practical ways to change career

Brave Starts is an organisation that helps older workers to rethink their working lives and enables them to find out from the horse’s mouth what different sectors might involve.

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As people live and work longer, they are likely to change career more. With redundancies  increasing over the last months and some sectors badly hit by the pandemic, the need to consider career changes will increase. But what support is there to do so, particularly for older workers?

Research shows the vast majority of over 50s are anxious about the future. If they want to try something different, they often don’t know where to start. While there are many training schemes available online, there is not much in the way of practical support to help people hone down where they want to focus their energies.

One organisation that has been supporting career change for older workers over the last three years is Brave Starts.  Co-founder Lucy Standing is critical of a lot of coaching advice to follow your passion. “That implies you have a passion,” she says, adding that it also creates unrealistic expectations. She has seen many people change course and take the plunge without properly researching what they are getting into. Brave Starts allows people to shadow a job and to talk to people who actually do it who will give them a real insight into what it involves before they commit.

Brave Starts is a small non-profit organisation of just 10 people – 40% of the programme fees go to small businesses and charities.  It built up slowly and has so far worked with 72 people, mainly through word of mouth. They go through a series of workshops over three months, working in cohorts which helps to show they are not alone. This is important given many may have have faced knockbacks and age discrimination while looking for new jobs. The first workshop focuses on exploration of what they want to do; and the second on what options there are available. One of these is usually starting a business.

The next phase focuses on making connections with experts to find out more through asking to shadow them or, if this is not possible, to do a structured interview with them. Experts include Jo Swinson. Lucy is clear that people need to go into new ventures with their eyes open, particularly when it comes to starting a business, given the high failure rate. “The reality is not always the way you dream it.” she says. 42% of employees on the programme have gone on to start their own businesses and 18% have made a complete career change. 

Putting career changes on the map

Lucy says the organisation has seen a rise in interest from over 50s since the Covid pandemic began, but she says it is harder to get employers on board despite the huge benefits of hiring older workers, including their reliability and maturity. “Employers should actively recruit older workers,” she says, adding that the focus is still on the traditional career for life model with resources focused on graduate entry and working your way up the career ladder.  She says: “Large employers all tend to have a graduate scheme, but they don’t have a career changing scheme.” 

For Lucy, a chartered occupational psychologist with a background in financial services recruitment, the traditional recruitment process is not effective at empowering people to make the right decisions for them. She is also critical of the way employers fail to help workers to take control of what happens to them later in their career.

The idea for Brave Starts was in part inspired by her experience of introducing an internship programme at one bank she worked at. She found that the interns who stayed on often outperformed the graduate intake and had higher levels of job satisfaction. “They had insight from doing the job so they made better decisions. They had test driven the job to know if it was right for them,” she says.

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