Photo: Ray Bouknight/Flickr Creative Commons

Photo: Ray Bouknight/Flickr Creative Commons

Ok, people, it’s crunch time. Today, I’ve hit the big 50! There it is..I’ve said it out loud (or written it black on white). Yikes! How does it feel? FABULOUS! I’ve never felt more alive, more fulfilled and more energised.

People say that life begins at 40 or 50. Well, my life truly began at 40. Before then, I had been wandering through life aimlessly with no real sense of satisfaction or achievement both professionally and personally. Life started to change, personally when I met my husband and professionally when I got ill with breast cancer. After that, there was no stopping me, professionally at least.

Now I am not recommending a serious illness to instigate a career change, but quite often we need a dramatic change, like being laid off, in our circumstances (life) to give us that much needed push. Why is that? The biggest factor is a genuine fear of change. As we say in English, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t”. It’s safer to live with an unsatisfactory situation than try something new and therefore potentially risky. The fear of the unknown often stops us from trying something different. I would also add the fear of failure is a real demotivator.

I remember in the past wanting to make a change in my career but being too scared to take the plunge for all sorts of reasons – I was earning good money, I could go on wonderful holidays, I could buy lovely clothes, what else was I good for? The status quo was the easiest and safest option even if I was living an unfulfilling existence.

6 years on, I have reached the ripe old age of 50. Old? Who said old? I have more energy and I have learned far more in 6 years than in 20 years in Finance and continue to do so. Every day is a fresh discovery. It’s exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. I’ve never worked as hard as I do now and each day can bring a new challenge that can be daunting and nerve wracking. Here’s the thing though, I am now doing all this for me. No one is telling me what to do. I want to take on these new challenges and to keep trying. There is so much to learn and explore.

We’re all living longer and healthier lives, and that means being 50 isn’t the end of our life. In fact, in today’s reality with the retirement age rising in most countries, we’re going to be working for another 15 to 20 years. We could groan about this or embrace it with open arms and rejoice in the fact that we are still so young and able to do so much more and, most importantly, to contribute to society.

Of course, it does help if we enjoy what we do. What if you don’t or worse still, you’ve been laid off (made redundant) and you’re at a crossroads in your life wondering what you’re going to do next? And you ask yourself – what do I do now? What am I good for? Who will employ me? Is it too late to make a change?

Here’s the truth behind three myths about the job market for the over-50s. (Source)

#Myth One: Employers don’t want to hire people over 50.

Experience matters. We have good leadership skills and a strong work ethic, we’re focused and loyal, and we have strong networks. If you have worked in a role where you have been responsible for working with customers and keeping them happy, you can perform that role in any career. Employers are looking for people who can do the job the best; age does not play nearly as much of a factor as a person’s abilities do.

#Myth Two: You won’t be able to keep up with the younger employees’ technology expertise.

I can so relate to this. No sooner have I learned how to use a piece of software than there’s something new on the market! It can be so frustrating. I even wrote a post about this.Getting to know a new technology can be overwhelming, but if you digest the information in small chunks, it may become clear that the new technology is not that different from what you did previously. The only difference is it’s simply digital, easier to access, and can make it easier to collaborate with others. I discovered this for example with Google Docs and using it to collaborate with fellow teachers and my clients. Once I got the hang of it, I was hooked.

Don’t let what seems like a never-ending wave of technology scare you. If you are capable of doing the job without technology, then you are just as capable of doing it with technology. And even if a younger employee is more comfortable with technology, the most important measure of their effectiveness in their position is whether or not they can do the job well – technology or no technology.

#Myth Three: It’s too late to learn a new trade or new skills.

How many times have I heard this from my clients younger than me saying that it’s too late for them to learn English? It drives me insane!!! It’s never too late to learn new skills. My mother learned Spanish at the age of 60 and started teaching English as a Foreign Language at the age of 70! Her students love her lessons. My mother reads and travels widely. She’s always discovering new things. She is an inspiration to me, my siblings and her grandsons.

I didn’t think I could be a teacher when I left the world of business after 20 years. I didn’t think I had the relevant skills. And yet, not only did I discover I could do it, I realised how much I loved it. Of course, I had to re-train as an English Language teacher and there were times when I questioned my decision but when I look back now I don’t have a single regret. We all have skills we’ve developed in our previous careers that are transferable. In other words, you can use them in another situation.

The online world and that of social media have also changed the way we learn. There is so much available out there that we didn’t have only 10 years ago which makes our search for knowledge that much easier. I know the sheer volume of information can be overwhelming but that’s where a support group of like-minded individuals can be of invaluable help. By sharing your concerns and thoughts with others, you learn so much and above all, stay motivated.

Hitting 50

Hitting 50 is exciting and I can’t wait for the next decade to unfold (although I am not in a rush to get to 60!). I have so much I want to do and achieve. I just need to learn to sleep fewer hours to achieve everything!

I conducted a recent survey with you, my readers which was a “Getting to Know You” type of survey. I wanted to find out where you were from, what your first language was, how old you were, if English was important for your career and so on. Just under 10% of you responded to the survey ( a big thank you).
This is what I found out: 72% are working and 30% are aged between 51-60 – making this group the largest age group of my readership.

My fellow 50 year olds, I salute you! This proves to me that we’re never too old to learn something new and indeed, will never stop. Rock on!

For those of you who plan to keep learning, please make sure you subscribe and download my FREE guide on how to communicate better at work in English (see below). And if you feel that your friends and colleagues need some inspiration to keep going, please share this post with them.

Ciao for now