I recently had a career consultation with a client of this age.
It turned out that women of this age often feel they are considered “outdated” in the market. Of course, nobody says that outright. It’s disguised in phrases such as “we’re looking for a modern approach”, or “we want a fresh look”, or “you’re overqualified” (overqualified, in other words, too expensive). Basically, women of this age have been on the labor market for about twenty years. The first career is complete, the children are grown up or have finished school, and these women are considering changing their field, or even changing their career. While the market tolerates those who migrate within the same field (e.g. from bank to bank, from retail to retail), those looking for a major change are, unfortunately, not really welcomed with open arms.
How could this be explained?
First of all, there is a stereotypical perception that these managers have already reached the peak of their careers. Secondly, there is a fear out there that such managers come with the mindset of “I know it all, I’ve seen everything, I’ve done it all”, or “I know what works and what doesn't”. And that such a mindset will hamper flexibility.
The paradox here is that, even though there’s a shortage of skilled workers and managers on the market there is also a significant reluctance to hire people, especially women, aged 50 plus. Futhermore, specific stereotypes also come into play, and teams dominated by young professionals are skeptical about hiring older people.
However, Kantar’s employer survey shows that people in the oldest age segment are actually becoming more loyal to the company and less likely to start searching for a new position. Or maybe they want to, but don't dare. Does this mean that, having reached this age, you have to tuck in your tail, work as quietly as a mouse, not show off, and not try to change anything?
It’s not prohibited to undergo a major career change in the end. There are a few conditions that, in my opinion, increase success.
To start with, this is the age when a woman who, having had one career, starts to get a clear idea of what she wants next. Not just a job, but a form of personal fulfillment. Perhaps realizing a bygone dream, or joining a profession where she can contribute to social change. Salary requirements may be higher, or the person may be less suited to the new career than they were to their previous one. But, such career changers are highly motivated and possess the personal prerequisites to achieve their goals.
The second element that increases the likelihood of success is education and self-development. Unlike some decades ago, we don’t stop learning in our twenties or thirties. A first degree, a second degree, a master’s in management, maybe even a bachelor’s in a completely different subject. Not to mention piles of certificates, specializations, trainings and courses available on various platforms. Knowledge and self-education have never been so easily accessible. Ten years ago it was rare for a manager to decide to study again. Now it’s very different. If you’re a recent learner, your attitude, knowledge and theory are up-to-date, so you are up-to-date.
Two careers, so to speak, are becoming the new trend. Not like in our parents’ days when one career was enough for a lifetime. If your skills aren’t specific (medicine, finance) or require mastery, but instead universal, then there are still excellent career opportunities post-50. Marketability means being versatile, compatible and inquisitive. Openness to new ideas, innovation, learning, I would say, are all key success criteria when changing the direction of your career. (And yes, I'm deliberately referring to women managers only here because generally, the age of a man is less of a barrier in the managerial field than, unfortunately, that of a woman.)
Executive Search & Recruiting Professional, Partner at Master Class Lietuva (www.masterclass.lt)
Board Member, Red Cross Lithuania
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