It is something of a Catch-22 situation. Children are forced into picking a career while they are mostly too young to fully understand the reality of working in that field, from 9 to 5 for years and years. All too often, they choose wrong, opting to chase the big money in the hope that they can retire young and do the things they really want to do. By the time they realise that actually, that fortune is not going to be made quite so easily and that they are going to have to persist in their chosen career for decades longer than originally planned, they feel that they are now too old and must just stay where they are, growing older and more depressed as their dreams turn to ashes and drift away.
What a depressing happenstance! Fortunately, this is occurring less and less these days, mainly because there is a deeper understanding of the psychology of young minds and we now know that choices made in our teens are unlikely to be the same choices made as twenty-somethings or thirty-somethings, and also because of the vastly improved careers guidance that is available, either in school or online.
The mid-thirties is the most common time that people realise that they are unhappy and unfulfilled in their current field of employment, but retraining and reinventing oneself can happen at almost any age.
Of course, if your dream is to be a circus performer, or major league sports star, you are probably out of luck from your mid-twenties onwards! Unless you are tremendously gifted and have kept yourself in truly superb shape you would not even be able to keep up with the youngsters that comprise the team during a light training session, never mind during an actual game!
Caveat two is to not rush into a decision. Once you realise your unhappiness with your current field, unless you have a strong and burning passion for an alternative career, you must devote some time and attention to finding your true passion. Often the people who transition best to a new career are those who always had that passion but were persuaded into another direction for job security, financial benefits or social status. Returning to the thing they love is a good choice, and often is not as hard as it might otherwise be as people tend to dabble in the things they love even if they do not work at them for profit at first.
So How Old is Too Old?
In general, if you are in decent health and can spend the time in retraining in your new field, sure of having a few years at least of profitable engagement with that new career, then you are not too old. Conditions like Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson and age-related debility will most likely put paid to most retraining, but even here, new skills can be learned and enjoyed – maybe just not as a career. One woman trained as a doctor when her husband passed away leaving her at sixty; she then worked for a solid twenty years as a GP. There are many other instances, although usually not quite as extreme. In general, if you are anything up to sixty years old and in good health and willing to work into your seventies and eighties – and even beyond – then why not give it a try?
How to Find that New Field?
You might think that recruiters are just a service to match jobseekers to available jobs, but this is not entirely the case. Recruiters often use career quizzes, and psychological tools to help place their clients in the right job – and occasionally that means guiding someone away from their long-term career and setting them on an entirely new and much more satisfactory course. Explore headhunters in London here and see what dream job is waiting for you!