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It's never too late to start a new career

"When I closed my business in 2014 I believed my life was over. I had no idea that I would go to uni and create a brand new career for myself"

Faith Agugu

Most of you know my midlife crisis story. I closed Raw Fashion Agency after 14 years of supporting emerging fashion designers. A victim of the GFC in 2008, I hung on for as long as I could almost losing everything in the process.

When I laid off my remaining 3 staff members and closed the doors for the last time, I had no idea what I would or could do next.

When I began my search for my new career, I had three criteria:

  1. That it would be well paid. I spent the last 5 years of my business paying my staff and not myself. I knew this had to change.

  2. That I could sit down as I worked. There's a lot of standing around in the fashion industry so I didn't want that anymore.

  3. That I would get better at the job as I aged. Fashion is very youth focus that I was quickly ageing out of.

I had applied for university when I left school at 18 but I scrapped that idea and went traveling instead.

The thought of going to uni for the first time at the age of 51 was daunting and overwhelming but I learned that all the years of running a business were not enough to open the right doors for me.

We hear about the many challenges of being a mature student, but no one told me about the advantages which include, the wisdom that comes from lived experience that I could draw on in many different ways.

Attaining a uni degree allowed me to transition from the CEO of a fashion company to a registered psychotherapist with a thriving private practice.

My experience is not unusual and many women in midlife have their own version of my story of transition which confirms that it's never too late to restart our career.

Is it ever too late to change career direction?

When we are kids, well-meaning family members and friends often pose the question: What do you want to be when you grow up?

They will listen indulgently, while we rattle off careers like ballerina, teacher, singer, and in the younger generations today – influencer. As children, we believe that we will grow up, make the perfect career choice and ‘be’ that for the rest of our lives.

Studies have shown that, unlike our parents and grandparents who tended to stay in one job their entire lives, we move around a bit more, career-wise. In fact, 46% of Australians will have experienced a career change by the time they reach 30, by the time they reach retirement age, 42% of Australians will have had three or more different careers.

17% of Australians didn't find their true career calling until they were over 48.

But, in today’s culture of ageism in the workplace in Australia, it can be a daunting prospect to change career direction, especially for women after the age of 50.

I accidently became a journalist in my early 50s. I was able to sample many career directions in my lifetime, because my first husband was in the RAAF, and we moved around a lot. Every couple of years, we would be packed up and moved interstate for his career, so I never really had time to get bored with the job I happened to be doing at the time. Unfortunately, I never had a chance to enjoy, develop or advance my career either.

After my divorce from husband number one, I moved to a country town and managed to secure a job selling advertising at the local newspaper. It wasn’t my ideal job, but the hours were good, and it paid the bills.

The journalist at the paper, was a woman around my own age, who had a serious career as a serious political writer in Canberra before she married a farmer. I used to help her out with proof-reading and occasionally write an article for her and I found I really enjoyed the writing process. She encouraged me to take a chance with my writing, as it was something I had never considered as a career. I enrolled in university in my late forties.

Unfortunately, life took a different turn and although I kept studying, I moved jobs. A couple of years (and jobs) later, I ended up being offered the journalist role at that same paper. I basically said yes and figured out how to do it along the way. I had found my passion.

We are at work for a large amount of time every single week, and if you are not doing work you love, or are passionate about, it can be a hard road. And with the rising retirement age, we are going to be there longer.

A recent study showed that 49% of Australians don't think they are in the right career. What keeps us turning up every day?

Most women I know who are over 50, are nowhere near ready to retire, and their motivation is not necessarily a financial one. They have built a lifetime of skills and expertise and are not ready to be made to feel invisible. They just need to be challenged and they will undoubtedly rise to the occasion.

As women over 50, our colleagues and managers are most likely making assumptions about us. They may assume that we are not really interested in continuing to grow our careers and therefore, offer the interesting and challenging tasks to our younger colleagues. They assume our ambition has left the building, but in fact, studies have shown that our ambition begins to increase after the age of 55 and doesn’t peak until we are over 65. If this is the case for you, you need to let everyone know that you have no intention of slowing down any time soon.

But what if you have become bored with your current career, and the thought of doing the same thing for the next 20 years is enough to send you screaming to the self-help section of your local bookshop?

If you are thinking about changing your career, you really need to get clear about your direction. You need to ask yourself why you want a career change.

  • What are your career goals from this point forward?

  • What are your life goals from this point forward?

  • How can your career and life goals align?

  • Are you fully willing to put in the time, effort, and patience to change careers and get up to speed in a new role or industry?

If you are ready for a change, NOW is the time to do it. If you wait for the time to be right, and for everything to be perfect, it will never happen. There will always be something that keeps you stuck.

I had a friend in her 50s contemplating enrolling in a Uni degree, who said to me:

“But I’ll be over 60 when I graduate!” My response to her was that she was going to be over 60 anyway, and she might as well be over 60 with a degree. She enrolled and never looked back.

And me? Well, obviously I am still writing. And I still love it. But I have also just completed my Masters in Life Coaching, Conscious Hypnosis, and Professional Speakers Training. Because, who knows? I am only 59, I might need a change of career sometime in the future.



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