Vera Wang left her job at Ralph Lauren at the age of 40 to design coveted wedding gowns. Restaurant critic Nina Zagat left her career in corporate law to focus on her Zagat Guide. What makes these women special? They didn’t let age keep them from pursuing their dreams — and neither should you.
Changing careers when you’re a woman in your 40s, 50s, or older can be downright terrifying, especially in the high-tech, social media-savvy, millennial-run marketplace. But don’t count yourself out. There are plenty of reasons to make a career move later in life — and plenty of advantages for both you and a potential employer.
“I find that women ages 50 and older are poised to step into their professional power in a big way,” says Barbara Berger, career coach and founder of Career Wellness Partners in Pennsylvania. “A lifetime of experience in both our personal and professional lives has made us innovative thinkers and given us an ability to see problems from multiple angles while we seek solutions.”
Ready to take the leap? Here are some of Berger’s tips for success.
1. Know Yourself
Consider your lifestyle and how you want your work. Contemplate your goals for a career change. Research companies to identify culture and make sure you are aligned before reaching out. That said, many women find that midlife is a time for going out on their own — setting their own schedules and reaping the full benefits of their expertise.
2. Have the Right Mindset
If you are planning to find work with an employer. Ask yourself a few questions. Do you feel vibrant and energetic, with a lot to bring to the table? Do you believe you can make a positive and significant impact in an organization? Or do you see yourself as a victim of your age and wonder how you’ll get along with the younger people in an office — one of whom might even be your boss? Your mindset will be evident during any interview. Don’t look for a job unless you’re ready to charge forward with good energy.
3. Know Your Worth
Older women have more experience simply by virtue of having been in the workforce longer. When interviewing, think about the things you bring to the table, such as connections fostered through the years. Other advantages include the fact that older women usually don’t have young children at home, so they may have more flexibility when it comes to hours and travel. With maturity also comes a desire for less drama and a strong work ethic. And finally, older women can serve as role models and mentors for younger women in a company.
4. Refine Your Skill Set
The way we work changes constantly, and it’s important that you continually hone your skills and stay on top of current trends. You really do need to be tech savvy and active on networking platforms like LinkedIn. If you aren’t confident in your online skills, take some classes so you can be relevant in the changing landscape.
5. Be Brave
Above all, don’t let fear hold you back. “Sometimes we haven’t listened to ourselves for a very long time,” says Berger. “Learning to tune in to what you want to become and how you want work to fit into this new chapter of your life is the first step in believing a change can be possible.”
Get inspired: Read our story about five women who made big life changes after 45.