Changing Jobs or Careers at 50 (With or Without a Degree)

By Biron Clark


Applying for Jobs

Biron Clark

Biron Clark

Writer & Career Coach

Going through a job or career change at 50+ can be challenging, especially if you’ve been with the same company for years. Fortunately there are a few things you can do to make sure you get interviews and end your job search successfully.

I invited professional resume writer Virginia Franco to share 7 “musts” when changing jobs or careers at 50+.

I’ll let her take it from here…

Hi, Virginia here. I work with Baby Boomers all the time. Most are incredibly accomplished and passionate about their work.

But there are a few common mistakes I see if somebody hasn’t changed jobs in a while… on both ends of the spectrum… Many job seekers over 50 make the mistake of thinking the job search process hasn’t changed much recently (it has), and others overestimate these changes.

First… What Has Changed – and What Hasn’t?

Before we get into my top 7 tips for making a job or career change at 50+, let’s talk about what’s different and what’s the same.

YES – Applicant Tracking System technology must be considered when writing a resume. YES – networking takes place via LinkedIn and YES – video interviews are common.

Despite all the changes, two key aspects remain intact. PEOPLE are still working with PEOPLE to find and interview candidates, and making decisions about who to interview and who to hire is still performed by humans.

This is true whether you’re changing jobs with a degree or without a degree.

Now let’s look at a few things you can do right away to make your job search successful…

7 Tips for Making a Job or Career Change at 50+

1. Don’t wait

A 2015 survey conducted by the AARP Public Policy Institute concluded those who start their job search immediately are more successful in landing a new role than those who held off or tried to time it perfectly.

2. Know Your Deal Breakers

Before starting your job search, ask yourself what is important. How many hours a week are too much? How much travel are you open to? How long a commute is tolerable? Are you open to temp or contract work or is a full-time role with benefits a requirement?

Being able to be clear with employers about these factors will save you from wasting time and will allow you to focus on opportunities that are a great fit.

Be careful about bringing these topics up too early when speaking with the company though. As a general rule of thumb, the first interview should be 100% about the job and your abilities, unless they ask about something else.

More on interviews coming up later…

3. Identify What Skills Make You Stand Out

Let’s face it. You have more experience than your younger counterparts. This can translate into experience dealing with delicate situations with tact, and helping a company survive during tough economic times (30-somethings were not in leadership roles during the recession!) The value you can offer is critical to understand and communicate.

And if you need any new certifications or titles to combine with your experience and boost your resume, you can look into doing this online. More and more courses are being offered 100% online, for example you can get an online degree in organizational leadership, criminal justice and more.

4. Create an Eye-Catching Resume

Your resume is not a step-by-step list of everything you’ve done. It needs to be a highlight reel!

Make it catch attention by focusing on the last 10-15 years of experience, focusing on achievements rather than responsibilities, and formatting it to appeal to an ONLINE (not PRINT) read.

Here’s an article with some tips on formatting a resume for online reading if you need help. It has tips about the content of your resume too.

5. Figure Out Who You Know

If you’ve been working for 20 or 30 years, there’s a good chance your personal network of contacts is larger than your competition’s. In my experience, those who network to find a job find success much faster than those who focus on applying for roles online.

There’s a lot of competition online and it’s harder to stand out. Whereas you’ll immediately stand out (and almost certainly get interviewed) if you are introduced to a company directly.

So my advice: Figure out who you know and start talking. One conversation can land you a job, but you need to take action and get the process started.

If you want specific tips and steps to follow, this article on job search networking is a must-read.

6. Over-Prepare For Your Interview

Today’s job interviews may be structured differently than they were in your last job search. Especially if it’s been more than a few years.

Panel or group interviews, multiple back-to-back interviews, and video or Skype interviews are more common.

Try to find out the format ahead of time by asking whoever scheduled your interview.

Once you’ve done that, research the people you’ll be speaking with (if you know their names). LinkedIn is a good place to start. Look to see if you have anything in common… mutual colleagues, interests, educational background, etc. That’ll make a good talking point.

And of course, one thing that hasn’t changed at all: You should know about the position, know what’s on the job description, know how the company makes money, who their CEO is, who their competitors are, and everything else like that before walking into the interview (or picking up the phone).

Note: If you want step-by-step help with what I just mentioned, read this article on how to prepare for your interview.

7. Stay Patient

It typically takes longer for someone over 50 to land a job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it takes an average of 37 weeks for people ages 55 – 64 versus 25 weeks for those 25 – 34.

There’s also the saying that for every $10K in salary you’re earning, you should expect your job search to take one additional month. So if you’re a high-earner, expect things to take longer! It’s not always the case, but you should prepare for it mentally.


In my experience working with clients of all ages, baby boomers who are 1) prepared for the differences in job searching 2) remain confident in their experience and skills and 3) have strong resumes and LinkedIn profiles – find success in their job hunt. That’s what it takes to make a successful job/career change at 50+ in today’s market.

The following expert contributed to this post:

effective job search networking

Virginia Franco is a multi-certified executive resume and LinkedIn writer and founder of Virginia Franco Resumes. She offers customized executive resume and LinkedIn profile writing services for the 21st century job seeker.

Biron Clark

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