The older we get, the scarier career change becomes. But if you’re unhappy with your current job, waiting out retirement could be even more frightening.
Luckily, plenty of women have lived through a midlife job change and lived to tell the tale.
The Reddit group AskWomenOver50 featured a thread about finding employment in midlife. The original poster was worried about making a big change, and plenty of other women job seekers over 50 could relate.
“Have any of you found a new job after 50?”, she asked. “If so, how long did it take? Did you find a better job or a worse one? I am not happy with where I am and I’d like to switch jobs. I have heard a lot of horror stories about job searches taking a long time for women over 50.”
She went on to explain that she has a chronic illness and worried that her current employer would ask her to return to the office after working from home during the pandemic. She also noted she was a former teacher and published writer who was currently doing clerical work.
“Is it better to suck it up and put in the time until retirement, or is change possible?” she wondered.
Women who had been in her shoes responded with surprising optimism, saying that while ageism is an issue in the workplace, she shouldn’t underestimate her skills.
“I was told ‘ageism is real’ and that ‘at 53 finding a job will be really hard,”” one person commented. “Well, my current company gave me one interview, didn’t accept me for the position I applied for, but actually created a position for me that was more in line with my skill set. I was out of work for three weeks. Don’t underestimate your experience. You have a lot to offer. I do agree that you should probably stay put with your current job until you find something better, but look with confidence. You’ll find something. Good luck!”
Another shared that a midlife job seeker may need to be patient and/or flexible. She wrote that it took her a little over a year to find something comparable to the job she was laid off from at the age of 55. But she made it happen by revamping her resume—including omitting her university graduation dates so she “wouldn’t look like a total dinosaur on paper.”
“Bottom line, definitely look for something better if you’re unhappy with your current job because you have a while to go before retiring and life is too short to suck it up if you don’t have to,” the commenter wrote.
Workplace Ageism Is Real
The job-hunting landscape has certainly improved for older women of all ages in the past few decades. CNBC reported in July that many companies are “increasingly looking to attract mature workers.”
Plus the labor market is tight, with two open jobs for every worker in the U.S., and employers are struggling to recruit and retain talent. Research suggests that older workers are more likely to be engaged, look forward to work, and connect with their employers. They are also less likely to consider quitting.
“I’m 65 and I just found a new job,” another Reddit commenter wrote. “… Employers know we have a better work ethic than most millennials.”
But despite the optimism, the reality is that ageism is alive and well in the U.S. AARP found that workplace age discrimination is currently higher than it’s been since 2003. A 2020 survey found that 78% of workers said they had seen or experienced ageism—a significant jump from 61% in 2018.
Finding Non-Discriminatory Employers
To identify an age-friendly employer, check out the AARP Employer Pledge program—which is a list of more than 1,000 companies that have signed a public pledge to level the playing field in the job market for older workers.
To be eligible for this list, which includes Microsoft, Marriott International, Humana, and McDonald’s, a company can’t have any discrimination lawsuits within the past five years, and they must agree to recruit across all age groups and consider applications equally. AARP also has a jobs board, and they certify companies who are considered “best in class” for workers 50+.
When job hunting in your 50s and beyond, watch for language that specifically states there is no age discrimination, or visit the company’s website and research the culture. If you see terms like “digital native” in a job description—or there is a cap on the required years of experience—those are red flags.
Also, check to see if older workers are featured on the company website or in promotional materials. If everyone appears to be in their 20s and 30s, that could be a sign that they’re more interested in young employees. And if a job application asks how old you are, when you graduated, or tries to gauge your age in any other way, keep searching.
Now 55, the original Reddit poster updated the thread in June, saying she decided to stick with her current job.
“We are still working from home and have been told this will be indefinite,” she wrote. “… right now things are ok. I am taking care of some personal issues and paying bills.”