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Most Older Adults Who Want to Change Careers Succeed

Topics: Data & Research
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New research from the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) finds that most older workers who want to change careers are successful.

Pursuing a new career path can be more than a little scary at any age. At first glance it might seem like this kind of major life upheaval is best left to the young. After all, they’ll have more time to invest in a new industry.

However, new AIER research finds that older professionals are often successful when they make a career change. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key findings from this research.

The majority of older career changers ultimately succeed

Many older Americans expect to work beyond what were once considered to be traditional retirement years. So, it stands to reason that some consider making a career change at a point along the way. However “occupational mobility” is something that’s often spoken about as it concerns younger workers. Times are changing, though.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

The AIER Older Worker Survey (which used survey results from 405 respondents age 47 and older who had attempted a career change after the age of 45) found that 82 percent of these career changes were ultimately successful. The remaining 18 percent had tried unsuccessfully to change careers later in life.

There were a few interesting differences between older workers who successfully changed careers and those who didn’t.

For example, unsuccessful career changers spent longer in their former careers than successful job changers. They also spent longer looking for a new career (22 months compared with 11 months for the average successful switcher). Those who were unsuccessful applied to 20 jobs, on average, whereas the successful group only applied for an average of eight jobs.

Successful career changers are generally Glad They Made the Move

The days of working for one company from your first job through retirement are steadily waning. These days, many workers crave a change at some point along their career path.

This research found that most older workers who’d successfully changed careers were happy they’d made the switch. Eighty-seven percent said they were happy or very happy after the change. The majority felt that their stress levels had declined, and that they were doing work that they were more passionate about than what they’d been doing prior to the change.

It’s notable that these increased rates of happiness occurred despite the fact that 3 in 10 of the workers surveyed for this report saw a decline in income.

Often, They enjoy an increased income

The majority of older workers who made a career change saw their income increase or stay the same. Just three in 10 saw a decline in earnings. Some respondents reported that they initially took pay cuts when they made the switch but that they ultimately worked their way up the income ladder in the new career. Half of successful respondents experienced an increase in their wages over time.

“Sometimes you have to take a little pay cut but in the long run it will pay you more,” one respondent reported. “If you feel you need a change, then do it.”

Tell Us What You Think

Are you thinking of changing careers? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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