You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

How to make a career change at 50

Last updated 17th February 2023
8 min read

Starting a new career at 50 may sound like a challenge, but it’s one you should face with pride. You’re a professional with decades of experience and knowledge. It doesn’t matter whether you’re moving companies or starting afresh in a new line of employment, you can tackle anything.

Either way, it’s important to do your research and ask yourself a few questions before making the move. Read on to find out more helpful tips on starting a new career at 50. Along the way, we’ll cover:

Why change careers at 50?

If you feel happy and settled in your current role, there may be no cause for you to change careers at 50. That said, many people choose to re-evaluate their job at this stage in life – and with good reason!

Some of the classic grounds for starting a new career at 50 include:

  • Finding yourself with more free time (for example, if your children have left home)
  • Looking for a change in working pattern to free up time for hobbies
  • Wanting to make more money before retiring
  • Facing redundancy or fewer opportunities in your current position
  • Searching for a new challenge or to learn new things

Questions to ask yourself before starting a new career at 50

Before you resign from your current job, or start applying for a new one, there's a few questions you might want to ask yourself.

What are your passions?

Passions are one of life’s greatest assets, and at 50, you have many of them. Starting your new career in an area you're passionate about can be incredibly rewarding. The right move can keep you interested and enthralled in your new career, setting you up for success further down the line.

Think carefully about what you’re passionate about, and which is the best option for making a career out. You may be great at pogoing, but it’s not a viable career. However, if you love baking cupcakes, starting your own cake shop or becoming a baker’s assistant could be right for you.

How close are you to reaching retirement?

In your career at 50, you’re often at your peak. You’ve got many work responsibilities and could be making the most money you’ve ever earnt. If you’re considering a career change, take a look at your pension pot first.

Are you close to your target? How much monthly income are you going to need to reach your target? If you’re nearing retirement and you’re close to your goal, early retirement could be an easier option than changing careers. And if you’re further away from your target, a new career path could give you both the financial and emotional rewards you want.

Are there any obstacles in the way of your career change?

Financial strains are often one of the biggest challenges of moving jobs or starting a career at any age. Especially with retirement on the horizon, money worries can be at the forefront of your mind. Starting a new career at 50 could just add to this stress, so make sure that you plan accordingly. We have some useful later life money tips that can help you with this.

If you think age is an obstacle, think again. Not only does your 50 years on earth mean lots of unique knowledge that gives you an advantage, but there are so many success stories to keep you going. Judi Dench and Ronald Reagan are just a few of the celebrity names, but we’re sure you’ll have a few friends who’ve made the change too.

How to start a new career at 50

By the age of 50, you may feel a little out of the game. But not to worry! There are some really easy steps you can take when starting your new career.

Decide the career path you want to take

In this article we’ve laid out some great ways for you to consider your new career path, or you might already have something in mind. If you’re um-ing and ah-ing about what career path, you could need more time to think about it – we’ve listed some potential options below to help.

When deciding, it’s important to talk to people – whether it’s a partner, family member or with a friend over coffee. Talking about your choices will help alleviate any concerns you may have, and you never know, they could give you a line of thought you may have not considered before.

And just because you're over 50, doesn't mean you can't try something completely new – like Jo, 54, who launched her dream career by opening up a toy shop...


Assess your current skills and knowledge

50 years’ worth of knowledge and experience is very beneficial to any employer. If you’re starting a new career, not all of your skills will be applicable. Be realistic about what you’re going to put on your CV. Craft your skill set so that it benefits the new responsibilities you’ll be taking on. Making a list of strengths and weaknesses is a great place to start.

It might also be time to start brushing up on new technologies and technical skills. If you’re starting a new career at 50, you could require computer skills or software knowledge. Brush up or research these in preparation. You never know, it could be the extra push and determination needed to get you the job.

Review your CV

It’s time to get your CV ready. You may not have touched your CV in a few years, or decades, so it’s high time you add all the skills and knowledge you’ve acquired. If it’s been a while, it will be worth starting from scratch. An online template is the easiest way to get all of our skills on the page without feeling overwhelmed.

When it comes to writing up your experience, try to include details from the most recent ten years. These skills are the most relevant to your new employer, and might be where you had the most impact in your previous job. Still summarise your employment history from years prior to this, but keep it short.

Apply for your new job

You’ve got your CV ready – it’s time to start applying. You can use online tools, such as Indeed or Monster to find jobs in your area. You can also look locally at the independent businesses and apply within. Depending on the line of work, taking the old school route of introducing yourself with a paper CV can make the best impression.

Career change at 50 ideas

So, you’re all set up to embark on your new professional adventure – but what exactly is it that you want to do? If you’re short on inspiration when it comes to career change ideas at 50, don’t worry! Below, we’ve pulled together some of the common options that people go for at this age.

1. Driving instructor

Looking for a change of profession altogether? Becoming a driving instructor can be an incredibly rewarding experience, as well as allowing you to use a skill that you’ve likely been developing for most of your life. What’s more, if you start your own mini driving school, you can be flexible with your hours and arrange to work when you’d like!

2. Virtual assistant

This may not be a role you’ve even heard of before, but starting a new job as a virtual assistant can be ideal for a career change at 50. Virtual assistants are self-employed workers who offer administrative services to clients, meaning you can work from home. If you’ve had an office admin job in the past, this could be perfect for you.

3. Civil servant

In the Civil Service, there are so many different departments you could work for – and in so many different capacities. The benefits of civil servant roles are also highly sought after. In addition to the above-average salaries you can expect for the work you’ll be doing, the pension benefits associated with work in the Civil Service could help to set you up nicely for retirement.

4. Tradesperson

Looking to challenge yourself and pick up some new skills? Then a job as a tradesperson could be the way to go when starting a new career at 50. There are plenty of different routes you could explore, from painting and decorating to plumbing and electrical work. Many of these jobs also come with sizable salaries, offering an added incentive to this type of work.

5. Training roles

If your career so far has set you up with a specific set of skills, why not pass these on to others as part of your new job? For example, a lifetime of working in business can put you in an excellent position to work as a management coach. Not only can this be more emotionally rewarding than simply continuing on your current path, but the pay can also be similar (or even better in some cases!)

6. Freelance work

For those who are tired of the 9-to-5 routine but still love what they do, entering the world of freelance can be a great career change at 50. Setting out on your own and building your own client base can give you the flexibility you need to explore new hobbies and achieve a better work-life balance. You may even find that your freelance work eventually opens up the opportunity to start your own business and employ others.

Things to remember when starting your new career

Starting a new career puts you in a unique position. You’re an experienced professional trying something new, or making a fresh go of it in your present line of work.

Whether young or old, starting anew or staying the path, beginning a new job is nerve-racking. Keeping yourself grounded and doing some preparation can help. There are a few helpful things to remember when starting your new career:

  • The why: give yourself a short sentence to remind yourself why you're making this change – use it in situations where you feel uncertain.
  • Ageism: it's unlikely, but there is a small chance that you might face ageism in your new job. Read our guide on how to deal with ageism in the workplace to learn more.
  • Your network: over 50 years you've gained a lot of professional contacts. Even if it feels awkward, reaching out to them for advice or opportunities will give you an advantage.
  • Your life: starting a new career at 50 may seem all-consuming at first, but you can balance this out by keeping up with things you love outside of work – starting a new hobby can help you to look after your mental health and keep stress in check.

Next steps

This guide has offered some top tips on starting a new career at 50, from the whys and the hows to potential career change ideas. If you've found it useful, you may also want to read:

SunLife offers a range of services that may be of interest as you approach 50 and beyond:

The thoughts and opinions expressed in the page are those of the authors, intended to be informative, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SunLife. See our Terms of Use for more info.