By Kyle Elliott
If you’re asking whether starting a new career at 60 years old or older is possible, keep reading, as I answer this question and share steps for transitioning later in your career.
Before diving in, I want to share context on how this article came about: I recently authored an article on how to make a career change at 40 or 50, which resulted in several outreach messages from job seekers inquiring, “Okay, Kyle, but I’m late-career. Is starting a new career at 60 possible? If so, how do you change careers if you’re an older worker?”
Is Changing Careers at 60 Possible?
For starters, yes, it’s absolutely possible to change careers at 60 years old. However, those who are late-career face unique challenges (and opportunities) compared to younger job seekers, which you need to be aware of.
On the one hand, there is a stigma that older workers are less adaptable and stuck in their ways. (Continue reading, as I explain several ways you can counteract this stigma in your job search in the next section.)
On the other, older workers have additional experience and accomplishments that can set them apart from those who are earlier in their career, which you can use to your advantage in the competitive job market.
Now, before I dive into how to change careers after 60, I want to share a few examples of clients who have successfully made late-career switches:
- A 65+-year-old retired four-time entrepreneur landed a senior sales executive role after a significant employment gap.
- A 60+-year-old professor transitioned from academia to a tech startup and received a significant salary increase.
- A 60+-year-old operations leader transitioned from manufacturing to software development and received a promotion and salary increase.
How to Start a New Career At 60
So, how do you successfully switch careers after 60? Here’s where to start:
1. Be realistic about your career change goals.
You must start with a realistic goal for your career change. While my mission is to help people “achieve the impossible,” I also want you to be successful, which means being cognizant of the realities of the world and the current job market.
Consequently, you might find it helpful to categorize your career change goals into a few buckets:
- What are requirements and deal-breakers for you? (Example: minimum salary and no toxic workplace)
- What are your preferences? (Example: technology industry)
As you set your job search goals, ask yourself what’s most important to you and whether you might be able to find it somewhere else. If you’re drawn to the larger salaries and total compensation packages associated with the tech industry, for instance, consider whether there are adjacent industries you would also be open to.
2. Find companies that hire older workers.
Next, begin to identify potential employers that align with your career change goals. Candidly, not all employees are right for you if you’re switching careers later in life. You’ll want to target those organizations that are open to both older workers and career changers.
One way to find companies that hire more experienced workers is to look at those who have completed the AARP Employer Pledge. As of writing this article, more than 1,000 employers have completed the pledge to promote equal opportunity for all workers, regardless of age. As a career coach specializing in tech, I was excited to see Amazon, Apple, LinkedIn, and Microsoft on the list.
3. Work on your internal confidence.
As you begin to identify target companies and positions, your confidence might take a hit. Identifying your career accomplishments can help with this by significantly boosting your confidence as you head into the job search. I encourage you to grab a piece of paper and write out all your major career wins. Aim for multiple pages!
Taking it a step further, practice communicating what sets you apart from younger, less-experienced candidates. If you’re targeting product management roles, for instance, I want you to write out at least a dozen reasons why a company should hire a 60-year-old product leader over a 30-year-old product leader. Then, strategically weave these statements into your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile.
4. Be open to learning.
Finally, be open to learning through this process. If you notice you fall short of any of the job requirements, for instance, see it as an opportunity to hone your skills. Although you’re not required to check off every item in the job posting, it can help to get closer, particularly if it’s a skill or software you can quickly pick up. There is a plethora of on-demand courses available on LinkedIn, which can help counteract any age-related stigma.
Speaking of LinkedIn, the platform can be incredibly powerful as you begin applying for roles. You can see if you have anyone in your network who works at your target companies or knows someone who does. And if you don’t have any connections, you can also send a networking message requesting an informational interview to learn more about the company and culture.
While changing careers at 60 and beyond takes more effort, it’s still possible if you have the right strategy and believe in yourself. You’ve got this!