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The challenges of re-invention

"Become like a bird. Expand your wings, and fly as high as you can"


I graduated on 4th April 2018 with a Bachelor's degree in Social Science, majoring in counselling. Looking at this image it blows my mind that that was at the same time that the seeds of Silver Sirens were taking shape.

I was fifty-two years old at the time, and by far one of the oldest students in my year. I left school at 19 and had no formal study since then.

Here are some of the challenges that I faced as a mature student:

1. Like other mature students, I had a number of responsibilities outside of school. I worked part-time and ran a small private practice as an energy healer and meditation teacher. As a childfree woman, I did not have to worry about taking care of children caregiving. However, balancing these work responsibilities with schoolwork was challenging and required careful juggling.

2. I struggled with the tech part of study. Technology is an integral part of modern education, and I had to adapt to new tools and platforms that were unfamiliar to me.

3. Being in an environment filled with younger people can be refreshing but it also had its challenges. I generally feel comfortable in multi-generational situations, but I missed not being connected to my peers and the shared interests and experiences that exist when you are surrounded by peers.

4. Financial concerns were a big one for me. Juggling paying my normal expenses with textbooks, and extra study resources on a part-time wage was a struggle at times.

5. I was fortunate to have minimal menopause symptoms, but I still recall many months of hot flushes and slight brain fog while trying to learn something new.

Many female mature students may have severe menopausal symptoms and other health concerns that can impact their ability to attend classes or complete assignments.

Despite these challenges, I have no regrets. In my experience, there were far more advantages than disadvantages. Like other mature students, I could draw on a wealth of life experience and knowledge in the classroom, as well as having a strong sense of purpose and motivation to succeed in their studies.

The truth about changing your career after 50

You have made the big decision to re-invent your career after 50. You have all the life experience, plans, skills, and attitude to do it – but things don’t always go the way we plan.

If you are looking for a change of job after the age of 50, statistics have shown that you are in the hardest age bracket to find a new job. Not only are mature age job seekers unemployed for longer (an average of 68 weeks, compared to 30 weeks for 15- to 24-year-olds), a third of the people surveyed in the University of South Australia’s Centre for work Excellence study, found age discrimination was very much alive and well.

This may be due to a number of factors, including a perceived belief that younger managers may feel intimidated by older workers, and concerns that we ‘oldies’ may not be willing to take instructions from somebody younger, or learn as quickly as a younger employee might. We are also perceived as being ‘Techno-phobes’, lacking in ambition and energy, are grumpy and unwilling to adapt to change. (I don’t know about you, but when I am being ‘trained’ by someone younger than my kids, who rolls their eyes every time I ask a question – yeah, I can get a bit grumpy.)

Making a career change can be daunting at any age, but particularly for those of us on the other side of 50. Changing companies may mean a loss of seniority or status. We may need to take instructions from someone with much less experience than we have. We may struggle with self-doubt, believe that we may have difficulty learning a new skillset, or worry that we will suffer financially while we get our new career off the ground.

We may also face judgement from family and friends, who don’t understand why we would bother making such a big change in our lives ‘at our age’. Any confidence we have had in ourselves, and our abilities, is quickly leaving the building.

But it is not all doom and gloom, there are some steps we can take to be sure we are making the right decision to change our career.

You will, by now have had some years of life-experience and possibly some training in the area you want to work. If not, enrol and upskill!

Get clear about why we want to make this move. Is it a life-long ambition we have held to be whatever our career choice is, or are we in a rut in our current job, or are we wanting to do the same work, in a company that offers us more options?

Is there an option to scale-back our current employment to part-time, so we can study, or tiptoe into our new career, rather than taking a giant leap and risk falling flat on our faces? (A side bar – any fall forward is still a move in the right direction).

Do you want to work for someone else, or start your own business?

According to the ABS, women make up 35% of all full-time business owners. The beauty of having your own business is the freedom of time and earning potential. Unfortunately, the danger of having your own business is the freedom of time and earning potential.

You have to be very committed and organised to run your own successful business and be prepared to possibly go without earning a proper wage for a while.

Although there is plenty of free help out there to get you started, you will need a good financial advisor, a good business advisor, a good plan and a great product.

If you are thinking about building your business or career around a long-held passion, you can often become stuck in the ‘overthinking paralysis’ stage (pronounced FEAR). Thinking, research, and planning is all very necessary, but don’t forget to take action, or you will never move forward.

Find a cheer squad – someone who will help you celebrate your wins and commiserate your setbacks. It will also help if they keep you accountable.

I have had some massive career changes throughout my life, (I started out as a Ballroom Dancer!), but later in my life, I have been lucky enough to have a great cheer squad in my husband Dale. At 52, I was working as an employment coach for the long-term unemployed in a low socio-economic rural community, and it was wearing me down. I was coming home every night exhausted, I had been physically threatened by a couple of clients and I hated working there, but because of our financial situation, I could see no way out.

Out of the blue, I received a phone call from the editor of a regional newspaper, offering me a job as a journalist at a small local paper. I said ‘yes!’ and resigned my current job straight away. But a couple of hours later, the doubt hit me. I would be the ONLY journalist at this paper. I would be responsible for the WHOLE newspaper. The interviews, the layouts, the sport reports, and the photos. What the hell had I done???

Dale just smiled and said, “You’ve got this.” And I did. I never looked back.

A career change can be overwhelming, but if you take that first step, it could lead to your dream career. My Life Coach always tells me to “say yes to opportunities and figure out how later.” And at Silver Sirens, we say “It’s never too late” - so what are you waiting for? You’ve got this.

Jody Webster

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