After a successful 22-year career in education, Queensland woman Jacquie Harvey left her secure, well-paid job at the age of 40, to pursue a dream of being a full-time children’s author.
“It was something I always wanted to do and I decided I didn’t want to die wondering,” Harvey said.
With the prospect of working till their 70th birthday, many Australian workers are increasingly keen to swap careers later in life to fit changing lifestyles and interests.
With the concept of a job-for-life a distant memory, today even a career-for-life is unlikely, with workers changing industries, professions and retraining for new roles throughout their work lives.
Forget a job for life
According to the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, Gen Ys will have up to 17 different jobs, and five separate careers.
And older workers want a taste of this job mobility too, according to Nicholas Ricciuti, CEO of Reinvent your Career.
He said a variety of factors prompted people to look for new career direction including boredom, career stagnation, frustration, a lack of satisfaction, or – like Harvey – a desire to achieve a career they’d always wanted.
“The first question people ask is ‘how do I start?’,” Ricciuti said.
“Realising or acknowledging you need a change is the first step,” he said. Workers should be as informed as possible about their new career, and start to retrain or upgrade their education while in their current position, to make the transition more seamless.
Make a gradual change
Jacquie Harvey spent several years “stealing time” to write on the weekends and at night, juggling the new role with her full-time job, until she felt confident enough to leave her education career.
“My children’s book series was published for the first time in 2010, and by 2012… I had contracts for more books in the series and felt that I could have a future outside education.”
She says the move was still challenging.
“It was scary because school was a very safe, regimented and consistent career, as opposed to writing where you have to create your own discipline and routine.”
She also had to swap a regular pay cheque for the unpredictability of a writer’s income, and went from having a management role to being a newcomer.
“It was strange to start in a new industry where I wasn’t sure how things worked. It was a bit like going from being a complete professional to being a beginner again,” she said.
It’s worth following a passion
According to Nicholas Ricciuti, although later-life career change might seem daunting and will probably involve hard work, when people were chasing a passion and moving closer to a role in which they felt fulfilled, it was a much less-difficult prospect.
Harvey agrees. “It would be worse to look back in 10 or 20 years time and think that I hadn’t even tried, that would be worse than trying and failing,” she said.
And because your career plays a large part in determining how you feel about yourself, and your personal fulfilment it was never too late to make a change, Ricciuti said.
Eight years ago, Melbourne teacher John Cal, 47, was running a successful business in language education, which saw him regularly travel around the world. But after becoming a father he found it increasingly difficult to balance his professional and family lives, so he retrained as a secondary school teacher and opted for a more predictable work life.
“I still miss the travel, but it was a single man’s life,” he said. “I miss the job sometimes, but my life today is a lot more secure, safe and great for my kids. My work is very different, but it is just as enjoyable.”
Tips to later-life career change
• Identify your strengths and weaknesses – what gaps in skills or education do you need to address to move to a new career? Assess the opportunities within the new industry and identify any possible barriers to this career.
• Start taking steps towards your goal by increasing your education or skills while in your current position.
• Identify your passion. Your career should reflect this passion and contribute to your overall happiness and fulfillment.
• Seek the advice of a professional career practitioner to plan your future.