Drastic Career Change at 50 Years Old?

Dear J.T. & Dale: I am 50 years old. I’ve been in the financial arena all my life but had some terrible tragedies this past year and have done a lot of self-reflection. I’ve been thinking of selling my house, moving into another, less-expensive property I own and using the capital from the sale to go to a two-year program for radiation therapy. What do you think of a drastic career change at my age? What do you think about getting hired at age 52 or 53? — Cynthia

J.T.: I’m a big fan of the Big Change, but only when it is done with thought and planning — and it seems like you’ve done just that! The fact that you have a plan to reduce living expenses sounds smart, as does getting into health care, a booming industry. I would suggest that you speak to the placement officers at the school you’re considering and ask about their placement rate for graduates. But don’t stop there. Find out where the students are finding jobs, and ask to speak to two or three recent alumni so you can hear first-hand about their job searches. Get a good response on all those items, and I’d say go for it!

Dale: Agreed, although I’d add in one more test of the plan: Try to talk to people who’ve gotten into the field in ways other than the schooling you are considering. There may be a better school or a better alternative. I recently was a speaker at a conference for people who run medical labs. I was there to talk about leadership, and in conversing with the lab managers, some had initiated their own training programs, including on-the-job training. My point is that you might just discover that there are better ways to implement the Big Change. As for your other question, Cynthia, about getting hired at your age, the B.C. will give you the energy and curiosity of a beginner — you’ll be younger in two years than you are now.

J.T.: I know what you mean. When you show enthusiasm and flexibility, age doesn’t matter. My mom went back into nursing at age 50. She’s now in her 60s, and her employer begs her, “Never retire!”

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and founder of CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten’s latest book is “(Great) Employees Only: How Gifted Bosses Hire and De-Hire Their Way to Success” (John Wiley & Sons). Please visit them at www.jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

© 2009 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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