Dear Ask Alexis,
What are some creative ways that a person who is still looking for the right career after 50 can go about exploring career options?
Looking forward to your reply!
Starting Fresh at 50
Dear Starting Fresh at 50,
What an exciting time! There are honestly so many ways to go about this exploration process. Here are just a few suggestions for where you may begin:
Join the club!
Countless other idealists have been where you are, so why not take advantage of their willingness to share their success stories? Here are a few stories from the Idealist Careers community that may prove useful during your own period of transition:
- A Social-Impact Success Story
- Staying Motivated When Faced with Sector-Switching Challenges
- Returning to Work After a Career Break
We'd also suggest digging into resources offered by iRelaunch, the career-reentry specialists.
Start with a short-term commitment
If we've said it once, we've said it a million times: There is no better way to test out a new career path than finding a way to volunteer in the space! But beyond your traditional volunteer opportunities, how else might you explore what's out there?
Here are some ideas:
- Become a pro-bono professional by volunteering your professional skills and experience with worthy nonprofits through organizations like Catchafire and Taproot Foundation.
- Remote volunteering opportunities may offer you a wider variety of issue areas and volunteer responsibilities than keeping your search focused on local options.
- You may also want to stay open to part-time, temporary, and freelance work, taking advantage of finite projects as a manageable and time-bound way to "try out" a new field.
Learn something new
As you know, there are tons of online resources available for free (or low-cost) high-quality training and professional development opportunities. You may decide to simply browse the list and find something that sparks your interest and just dive in!
However, if you're a bit uncertain about where to begin or how to prioritize all of the new things that you'd like to learn, I'd suggest taking a step back, and starting on Idealist.org, instead. Here's what to do:
- Start by browsing job listings by using keywords and available filters.
- Bookmark at least five positions that interest you (don't worry about whether or not you're "qualified" for the role; just go with your gut).
- Review each description and see if you can identify a required skill that you do not currently have in your skills tool belt that is listed across all five job descriptions. Welcome to your first professional development subject matter!
Do most of the jobs that catch your eye require that you know how to use a particular content management system (Wordpress, Drupal, etc.), are social-media savvy, have a working knowledge of HTML, or can plan a special event like a superstar?
Do your best to identify a skill that is usually a part of the requirements for a job that interests you and start mapping out a plan of how you'll develop your knowledge in that particular area. Begin by searching for free courses online, visiting your local library website to see if there are any training events or workshops coming up that touch that subject area, connecting with colleagues or friends who have experience in your area of interest, or digging up a book that offers the basics.
However you choose to kick off your learning journey, you'll want to be sure that your end goal includes some tangible way to illustrate that you have now acquired this skill. Whether there's a place for it on your resume or in your digital portfolio, it's important to highlight this newly acquired knowledge for a future employer.
I expect that there will be a whole lot of trial and error, but keep us posted on what you try, what you discover, and where you land!
Send your questions and comments to me at AskAlexis@idealist.org, and if we plan to publish your question, I’ll be sure to give you a heads up (and I’ll also be sure to keep your info anonymous, of course).
Looking forward to reading your stories and answering your questions!
As the Associate Director of Marketing and Communications at Idealist and a lifelong nonprofit professional, Alexis offers job seekers, game changers, and do gooders actionable tips, career resources, and social-impact advice.