It’s a popular belief that hitting 50 marks the descent into retirement, rather than the opportunity for a fresh start. If you’re one of many who think it’s impossible to reinvent yourself after hitting the big half-century, meet Mark Reynolds.
The 52 year-old father of three (and grandfather of one) spent most of his employed life owning a successful motor vehicle repair company. About a year ago, however, he started hankering for a little more. After successfully using personal trainers to lose over 40 kilograms, he felt immediately inspired to put his newfound knowledge and experience to good use.
“With the health industry growing as fast as it is, I wanted to help other people like myself lose weight,” says the busy dad.
In February, Mr Reynolds received his certificate in personal training from the Australian Institute of Personal Trainers. Now, he works 7.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. in his panel-beating job and heads straight to the gym where he can work until as late as 11.00 p.m. Rather than feeling burdened and disadvantaged by his extra years, Mr Reynolds has found his services to be in increasingly high demand.
“Being a personal trainer at my age is hugely beneficial to me because I can attune myself to older people who ask ‘How can I get in shape gently without listening to some young whipper-snapper?’” Mr Reynolds says. “Because of my age, I’ve got more knowledge than someone who is 23.”
While he admits that his younger colleagues have playfully nicknamed him “Dad” and “Granddad”, he notices that they also are more likely to come to him for advice and wisdom. Personal training has also complemented his other part time job – coaching younger children in soccer, football and baseball.
Mr Reynolds advises other over-50’s to “find something you’re passionate about. If you’re passionate you’re a much better asset to your employer, because you can combine that passion with your worldly knowledge.”
JOB HUNTING TIPS FOR THE OVER 50’s
Acknowledge that there are negative stereotypes towards mature-age workers
Heidi Holmes, managing director at job search website Adage.com.au, says that mature-age workers should be prepared to encounter misconceptions about their demographic.
These include the notion that older people aren’t tech savvy or don’t deal well with younger people.
Help debunk those myths by doing the following:
Utilise social media
“Make sure you have a digital profile,” says Ms Holmes. “Specifically, a LinkedIn account.”
Having an internet presence accessible to potential employers means you can immediately prove that you are not technologically clueless and are open to change.
Demonstrate your age adaptability
“There is a common belief that mature-age workers don’t mix well with other generations or fit into the office culture,” says Ms Holmes.
During job interviews, make sure you reference times in your past career where you have worked well with different age groups.
Hone your interview skills
Bev Brough, director of Women’s Business Now, a career coaching service for women over 50, suggests going to as many job interviews as possible – even if you don’t necessarily want the position. The more experience you have at interviewing, the more confident and prepared you’ll be when your dream job eventually crops up.
It’s worthwhile remembering that it’s likely to be a younger person who will interview you. If you’re worried about how you present to 20-somethings, Ms Holmes suggests finding a young person you trust and asking them to give you some (polite) advice. A fresh perspective can be helpful – even if they just tell you that you’re wearing a daggy tie.
If you think you’re too old, you will be. Remember that age really is just a number and having a positive mindset is the biggest advantage you can give yourself.
Ms Brough, now 56, made the transition from teacher to motivational speaker and trainer in her 50s and says her age has “never been an issue” because of her energy and enthusiasm.
It’s also important to never assume you missed out on a job simply because of your age – there are likely many other factors at play.
Ms Brough is a huge believer in networking, using corporate contacts she made at events to help her make her own career change. She advises you to attend events relevant to your desired industry and start chatting to other guests to create new professional bonds.
Alternatively, utilise the massive network you have built up throughout your lifetime. If you want a career in real estate, no doubt you will know at least one person who can help.
Have realistic expectations
If you have been in one job or unemployed for a while, you may be out of touch with the climate of the employment market. Acquaint yourself with current salaries in your chosen field and adjust your expectations accordingly.
Ms Holmes estimates that the average period of unemployment for a mature age worker is 73 weeks – so prepare yourself for the long haul.
Figure out your strengths
When choosing a new job, Ms Brough recommends that you “don’t go into panic mode” and instead put some thought into your next step.
It helps to sit down and write out all the skills you have acquired throughout your life. Ask your friends and family what they think you’re good at – they often offer a fresh perspective and notice strengths you didn’t even know you had.