Starting over

Brave Starts talks about the need to lower expectations about following your passion and give yourself time if you want to pivot your career.

Older woman using tablet


Many older workers find themselves at a point where they want to change tack in their working lives, where the work they are doing is not fulfilling enough, but they are held back by a number of factors, a recent Brave Starts workshop heard.

Brave Starts is a not-for-profit community of mid and late career professionals led by seasoned career development experts. It provides research-backed insight and programmes to support professionals who are looking for a career transition.

Its research shows the top reasons why people don’t act on their dissatisfaction. Top is that many older workers are hampered by having no idea what they want to do. Others feel ageism is a barrier while others feel financially trapped in the jobs they are in. “People often don’t know what they want to do so the safe option is to do nothing,” says Lucy Standing, founder of Brave Starts.

She wants to change that. She acknowledges there is a lot of ageism around and a lack of the kind of flexible jobs that many are looking for, but she says that is not a reason to think there is nothing you can do.

Getting in the right head space

Standing says older workers need to begin by giving themselves the right head space to explore what they want, to do some realistic self analysis and brainstorm ideas. She recommends exploring four or five ideas in depth, researching job descriptions, salary and so forth and engaging with people who do those jobs on LinkedIn.

Brave Starts offers a three-month process which supports people to brainstorm and talk through their ideas in workshops and one to ones as well as through e-learning. Standing says one size definitely doesn’t fit all and people need to take the time to work through their ideas.  Standing adds that people are more likely to completely change their career if they are not currently in a full-time job due in part to the lack of time to investigate possibilities.

She adds that people looking to change careers often start with the wrong expectations. They are told they should do a job they love, but she says only 4% of people work in jobs that are related to their passion. “We need to lower the bar,” she says. “Not many people are willing to pay you to do what you are passionate about. Loving what you do is an end point not a starting point.”

Be bold

Self analysis includes understanding your skills, interests and values as well as the kind of context you like working in. Standing advises against rushing into hiring a career coach, saying many are overpriced and the sector is unregulated. She says the right kind of jobs boards can help, such as, which is targeted at older workers, and she that voluntary roles can be a way in.

“You have to be bold,” says Standing, advising people to address the age issue head on. “Talk about your age. It is one of your biggest assets,” she says. “Employers are missing an opportunity by discriminating against older workers and if they are going to do that changing your cv is not going to make a difference. You cannot hide your age and so you might as well make it work for you. Age – what you have learned over the last 20-30 years – is an asset.”

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