Can you really change your career path over 50?

Written by Beverley Hadgraft for Australian Seniors. Here, she speaks to Brad Yorke.

Melbourne-based Brad Yorke, 60, had been a sales rep selling stationery for most of his working life. At 54, he switched to selling signage but was unexpectedly let go after just 19 months. He then spent two “miserable” years in retail before finding his current job as a truck driver, which he loves. This is his experience.

1. Don’t lose your motivation

After I was let go by the signage company and given eight weeks’ pay, I found myself lying in bed in the mornings. Keep to regular work hours and stay active so it’s not such a shock when you do find a job.

2. Use your vast network of contacts

I was going on job sites like Seek and it was getting dispiriting going for interviews and being knocked back, especially as I was pretty sure it was just my age. It was a mate who told me he could offer me a position as a truck driver.

3. Be realistic about your salary expectations 

He warned me it wasn’t much money but I’d already accepted I wasn’t going to earn the same salary I had as a sales rep and it [the salary] was better than I was getting in retail, so I jumped at it.

4. Invest in retraining opportunities 

I spent $1,300 on a Heavy Rigid truck licence to enable me to drive the truck.

5. Remember to list all your skills

I thought my background in sales would mean I’d be good at retail but I was stuck behind a checkout and had few opportunities to interact with customers. As a sales rep, however, I’d done lots of driving, so being on the road and driving long distances was nothing new to me.

6. Don’t lose your confidence

Even when I kept getting knocked back I reminded myself I’d been a good salesman and was articulate and educated.

7. Always have a go and put yourself out there 

I never thought I’d be a truckie but it’s perfect for me. It’s not physically taxing, I don’t have managers who have half my years and experience, I’m constantly meeting new people and it’s given me the same freedoms I loved as a sales rep. 

Age is just a number

A late career change can be an opportunity to press the ‘refresh’ button and embark on a fulfilling new phase. But whether it’s a change of direction or continuing with the job we’ve been doing for years, one thing’s for certain – we want to keep working for longer.

The Australian Seniors Series: The 100 Year Lifespan report finds that many over 50s are putting off retirement, with 45% of those surveyed saying the next big issue for Australia’s older workers will be continuing to work later in life on a part-time or casual basis. 

Read the full results of The Australian Seniors Series: The 100 Year Lifespan report