Up and down the country, millions of Americans are asking, “I lost my job, now what?”
Whatever your age, you’re never too old to change careers. Julia Child had careers in both advertising and secret intelligence before she wrote her first cookbook at 50 and launched a successful career as a TV chef. Vera Wang was 40 before she turned to fashion design, leaving behind careers in figure skating and journalism. Need more examples? Adriana Huffington founded Huffington Post at 55, while Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t even begin her Little House on the Prairie books until the age of 65.
Whether you’re looking at a career change at 40 or a career change at 50, here’s our guide to getting back on your feet.
Get Your Finances under Control
It might be hard to know what to do when you lose your job. Emotions will likely be running high and all sorts of thoughts may be running through your head.
You won’t be able to focus on bouncing back while your finances are a worry. First and foremost, apply for unemployment benefits and make sure you have health insurance covered. Before you do anything else, read our guide on steps to take when you find yourself unemployed, and remember you aren’t alone — as of April 2020, 11.5 million American women found themselves in the same boat.
Freshen up Your Tech Skills
If you’re already tech savvy, great — show it by adding a Technology Skills section to your resume. Update your LinkedIn profile and post regularly, and consider including a link to your profile in your email sign off.
It can be easy to bury your head in the sand when it comes to LinkedIn, but even just spending 20 minutes a week updating your profile and making connections can be a real boost. Don’t forget you can easily import a list of your email contacts, helping you quickly build a network of contacts you know in real life – people who are more likely to like your posts and endorse your skills. Not sure what to post? Try sharing industry news and articles, blog posts or helpful tips and advice that are relevant to people in your field.
Don’t panic if your IT skills are on the rusty side, but think about signing up to a course at Udemy or Coursera to boost your confidence. Some of the courses on offer are free, while others offer official accreditation, so do your research to find one that is the best fit for you.
Focus on the Advantages of Being Older
There are some definite advantages to changing careers when you’re a bit older. If you have kids, they may now have left home or at least need a little less of your attention than when they were young — hopefully, this may leave you with more time to focus on building a second career.
You’re also likely to have a larger network of people you’ve worked with over the years, many of whom may well have gone into different careers themselves. You also may have friends and acquaintances in different industries who could end up being useful contacts. Now’s the time to put feelers out there — send emails, check in for a chat, link up on social media. You never know what new opportunities may come your way.
Pivot to Your Passion
This could be the time that you finally switch to that career you’ve been dreaming about. Whether it’s a creative project, a sustainable business, or retraining in a totally different field, finding yourself between jobs could end up being the catalyst for something wonderful.
If you don’t have a clear goal of what you’d like to achieve, try jotting down everything that makes you happy. Now make a list of any jobs you could do that would include your passions — write down everything that springs to mind. At this point, it’s important to figure out if what you love works best as a hobby: for example, if you love taking pictures, would photography be a viable career path, or would working on this all day kill your creativity? Investigate potential earnings and job stability, and think about activities that you enjoy.
As unnerving and stress-inducing as job loss might be, the best thing you can do right now is try and regain control of your narrative. Think of this as a semi colon, rather than a period. This might even be your chance to pivot to a new and fulfilling stage of your career.
Rosie Hopegood is a journalist, editor and content writer based in London. Her work has appeared in publications such as the Guardian, the Telegraph, Vice and Al Jazeera.