It is an interesting thought – how much risk we can take, personal or professional, at what time in our lives. We know that change and working towards achieving any kind of goal requires some element of risk. Stepping out of our comfort zone, trying something new, putting ourselves out there in order to move forward – it all involves risk, large or small.
My clients often ask me about the risk required in career change. They understandably want to know what compromises they will have to make in order to change jobs – will they have to move? Will they have to take a pay cut? Obviously those questions are not answerable up front, but they need to be considered along the way. Circumstances and life situation can affect the amount of risk one can take in career change. I believe it does change as you age to a certain extent but, it changes more based on life or career situation. Here are some things to consider…
Age can have an impact - For instance, people in their 20s might switch jobs and even careers a few times before finding a niche, but it can be riskier to make those types of choices later in your career. It is not impossible, and it depends on your situation, but it can become more difficult over time. For example in some industries or roles you could experience age-ism (high tech for example where younger workers who have grown up with technology may be preferred), but for other roles experience is greatly valued, like a doctor or a lawyer. So you need to consider the industry and the role you are going for. How long you have been in your industry can have an impact on the risk you take as well, if you are or feel pigeonholed by very specific work experience, it may take longer to implement your transition. The amount of risk can change based on your family situation and what you own. For example if you own a car, a house and have a child, it limits your flexibility somewhat. This is not to say you cannot take a risk. It may just be a different kind of risk or a smaller one. You may have savings, support from a spouse or some other cushion that enables you to step out more, but these are all things you need to keep in mind. Again, you are not limited, but the pieces on the chess board are different for you so you will move your pieces around, and there are more of them, than when you were younger perhaps.
The type of benefits you require can change as you age. Health insurance, retirement benefits, education benefits – all of these have varying levels of importance for you as you get older. We tend to require better health insurance as we age, retirement benefits as well, but you may care less about educational benefits. The training and development that you are willing to take on in order to make your transition can be different as you age. You may be less willing to get an undergraduate degree later on so you opt instead for a career path that only requires a certification for example. At a later age you may choose online courses instead of in person because of the convenience they offer while you are working full time.
Finally, your priorities naturally shift as you age. Younger workers may be willing to commute further, or work longer hours to advance their career as quickly as possible to get to that next step. Once you have arrived so to speak, those things can become less appealing.
If you do decide to make a change and take that professional risk, the positive elements to job seeking when you are older is you have a larger network to draw upon. You simply need to tap into instead of working towards growing it as a younger professional does. As you age, keep these things in mind so you can take a risk if you need to, and make it easier to do so. Keep your skills sharp, stay up with technology especially, stay physically healthy and maintain your professional network, do not let it lag because you never know when you will need it.