Am I Too Old To Change Careers?

Am I Too Old To Change Careers Or Start The Right Business?
(Episode 8)


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What’s This Episode About?

Are you too old to change careers in your late 30s, 40s or 50s?
Feeling like you’ve left it too late to start their right business?
Feel conflicted because you’ve invested so many years in your current career – Even if you no longer enjoy it? 

There will always be scenarios and people for whom you’ll be too old (at any age!) – Ageism still exists – However, let’s make sure YOU are not part of that problem. 

What if instead you became part of a growing number of people who are normalising finding and creating your life’s best work in your 40s and 50s+?! 

If you are looking for an empowering (and proven) approach for making a big change in your work life after 35 – This episode will show you how to get started and how to stop getting in your own way. 


Full Transcript: Episode 8:
Am I Too Old To Change Careers? 






Intro: Welcome to The Career Change Podcast where you’ll discover the frank and practical advice and resources that are already proven to work in the real world when it comes to changing careers, or figuring out what business is right for you when you are a smart, but likely also stuck, overwhelmed or overthinking person in your mid 30s, your 40s to your mid50s.

I’m your host Rikke Hansen, a Career Change Advisor, entrepreneur, and former corporate HR professional with over 15 years experience of helping thousands of people just like you identify or create careers or businesses that are both meaningful and future proof. Welcome home!

Hey, it’s Rikke here. Welcome to episode 8 of The Career Change podcast. 

Let’s talk about age.

 It’s my birthday month, I’ve just turned 46. So I’ve been thinking a little bit more about age than usual, especially when it comes to what do I want the next 46 years to be about? Right? Because often when you get to your birthday and when you think about age, it’s so easy to look at what’s behind you and regrets and all that stuff. But my biggest mission the older I get is this: 
How can I make the rest of my life the best years of my life? 
Because that’s really the best antidote to, “My best years are behind me.” Or, “Oh, I’m getting so old.” And all of that. 
I’m always about: How can we take the most empowering approach? 
And by the way, feel free to borrow this: “How can I make the rest of my life, the best years of my life?”
I’m super grateful to still be alive at this age. If you and I had been born in the 19th century, we would have been six feet under by now, possibly even by years, right? 
Life expectancy has pretty much doubled over the last couple of centuries. 
So you, my dear listener, you and I still have a very long way to go. 
Let’s talk about how to make the most of it, especially when it comes to work.
Here’s why. 
You’ve likely hit play on this particular podcast episode, because you’re wondering:

Am I Too Old To Change Careers? 

Have I Left It Too Late To Make A Big Change? 

 You’re wondering whether it’s really too late to start your own company or make a big career transition or to move into a new field at your age, right? 
I totally get that question (“Am I too old?” “Have I left it too late?”). But if that’s what you’re wondering, then it also potentially tells me a lot about where you might be stuck right now, and how you actually look at age and the years left. 
So let’s talk about that because it’s super important, especially since you and I, those of us over a certain age, we want to make sure that we are not complicit in supporting ageism and enforcing stereotypes. 
I am all about challenging people’s assumptions about what’s possible and about age!
Here’s what I’ve noticed with a lot of my clients over the last 15 years as a career change advisor. 
So a lot of my clients are Gen X (40 to 55) – Most of my clients tend to be in that range, 35 to 55. 
And I very much see people fall in to two categories in terms of how they actually think of that age question, am I too old or not? 
And most people fall into the first category: 

Category 1 : Looking Back / Best Years Behind You / Focusing On What You Stand To Loose

Those are the people who tend to, instead of looking forward, they look back.
So this might be you, if what you look at when you think about the question, am I too old? Have I left it too late? You very much look back at your life so far and maybe worry that your best days are behind you. 
And because you’ve worked so hard to get to where you are now, you might focus a lot on what you stand to lose, if you were to make a big change. 
You’ve invested so much in your career, in your work so far that even if you don’t like it, it can seem crazy to throw it away, to give it up. 
You might also have societal, parental or cultural conditioning around what somebody at your age ought to do or not. And maybe part of you also wonders, can’t you just be happy with what you got? Why do you need to make such a big change?
But that’s very much what I call backwards looking. So you might be looking more back and worry and think that it’s too late.
There’s another category I’ve noticed, and this is a much smaller category. But my mission is to expand that category, and that’s what I call the forward-looking people. 

Category 2: Looking Forward / Make the Coming Years The Best / Focus On What You Stand to Gain

These people, rather than looking back and regretting and thinking it’s too late, they look forward. 
They’re really curious about their real potential, about what they’re truly capable of. Because if they’ve never really found their thing, or they’re not really happy in their current career. Then they’re really curious about what’s ahead of them. 
How can they still reach their full potential? 
What are they capable of? 
And they’re very much focused on what they stand to gain as opposed to what they stand to lose. 
And like I said, I’m definitely in that category. It’s all about how can we make the rest of our lives, the best years of our work life? 
I often say to my clients, Just think about everything up until this moment as being the warmup band. And now you’re ready for your big thing.
How about you? 

Take a moment, where do you tend to focus most? 
Do you tend to focus on what you stand to lose or on what you stand to gain? 
Do you tend to worry that your best years are behind you? Or are you more curious about what’s ahead? 

Curiosity driven or fear driven? 
And let me remind you, you are not a fixed entity. 
So even if right now you might fall into the first category in terms of very much looking back and looking what you stand to lose, you can absolutely change and become part of the second category. 
But right now I just want you to do a quick check. Where would you sit right now in terms of your own answer to that question? Am I too old? Have I left it too late? Because that is the important one to be aware of.
I’m really big about talking about age and I’m really big on changing people’s attitudes, both towards themselves, that’s you my friend. And also towards others when it comes to age.

Let’s make sure that you and I are not part of those who keep a culture of ageism alive. 

A lot of people at a certain age are very complicit in keeping ageism alive because they themselves believe that it’s too late. 


Instead – Let’s be part of the generation of people who are normalising finding and creating your best work in your 40s, your 50s plus. 


Where changing careers, starting a business, and having a bloody epic time is becoming the norm. 

That’s what I’m here to help you do, that’s what I’ve been helping people with for ages. 
And here’s really what I want you to think about, what are the possibilities for you? 
Let’s get really frank about what’s truly at stake here – Why it’s so important that you are open to changing your mind about this question. 
Don’t focus on or worry about being too old or having left it too late. 
Instead, switch your attention and your focus towards the many years you and I still have left to work before retirement – Compared to how many years you’ve already been working and focus on what you want those years to be like. 
Don’t worry about whether you’re too old or too late. 
Especially if you are not happy in your career or in your line of work right now!

Don’t worry if it’s too late or if you’re too old.

Worry about the many more years of regret, frustration, and unexpressed potential that you will still have to live through. 

Hour by hour, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, IF you don’t make that change now!

Here’s what I mean by that. It’s not just the life expectancy that’s been increasing over the last couple of hundred years. We’re not just living longer, we are also working longer. Many, many more years of our lives than ever are dedicated to work. And the retirement age is rising. This month in the UK, it’s just increased to 66 and the language is already around getting used to it increasing frequently. I believe the retirement age in the US is 67. 
But by the stage you and I get there – It’s a conservative estimate to think that it’s going to stay at 70, and that’s hoping that we’ve actually scrapped together enough money to retire (That’s a whole different question!). 
Most of my listeners, most of my clients, they are 35-55, from all over the world. So let me share an example here of what I mean.
Samantha, a client I recently had. Samantha is 43. She’s a lawyer, not a happy lawyer at all. She entered the legal profession when she was 23. By this stage she came to me and really wanted a career change, she’d worked in law for 20 years. Guess what? She still has way more than 20 years left to work, if she were to stay in that profession until retirement.
 So Samantha at 43, would you recommend to someone like her when she asks me the question, am I too old? Have I left it too late? To say to a person at the “ripe old age of 43,” that they should worry about being too old or having left it too late? Especially if this person does not like working in law and kind of just fell into it in her 20s. And she has even longer left to work in that profession than she’s already worked?
Just think about that, switch your attention. 
What she should worry about is not being too old or it being too late. She should be worried about the fact that she does not like what she’s doing in her profession. 
And by thinking that she’s too old, she’s left it too late – The default option therefore is she’s going to have to stay even longer doing that thing she doesn’t like. 
That my friend is what she, and you should worry a lot more about. All right? 
We are the generation that’s very much being forced and have the opportunity to normalise finding your life’s work in your 40s, your 50s plus, changing careers, starting businesses. And then doing that again and again, over the coming years. You get my point.

Here’s an excise for you:
Work out how many years you have left to work!

I don’t know how old you are, but let’s say we take 70 as being a very conservative estimate for what the retirement age is going to be when we get there. And like I said, that’s if you’ve got enough money, but just take that 70. 
How many years do you have left until 70? 
Write that number out, put it on a post-it note on your computer or somewhere you can see it. 
If that is not motivating you to make a big change, I don’t know what is!
But do you see what you’re doing when you’re saying I’m too old, I’ve left it too late?
 You’re very much looking back and thinking that’s it. But if you look forward, what you should worry about is getting the most out of those many, many years that you still have left to work.
But do you see how most people have it completely backwards? 
Now, I could stop there but I want to go even further because I know this is a hard question. It’s not that I am saying to you that I don’t get it, I don’t understand it. 
I totally understand how hard a question this age issue can be to wrestle with. Especially if you’ve invested a lot of time, blood and sweat and tears into your current line of work.
Like most of my clients they have by the stage they get to me.
So let’s for example, say you spent the last 20 years working in law like Samantha. And now you’re considering starting your own online business or changing into a different career. 

How come that you are still so torn and feeling it’s so difficult to let go of your career in law when you no longer enjoy it, what’s going on? 

The Sunk Cost Fallacy

Let me introduce you here to the concept called the sunk cost fallacy.

And that’s really this idea that we have a much greater tendency to continue an endeavour like a career, once an investment of money, effort, and time has been made. 

That’s normal, but it’s totally rational. Here’s why: The concept of sunk cost actually comes from finance. And a sunk cost is a cost that once you’ve incurred it, it’s done, it’s paid for, and it cannot be recovered. 

And in finance the primary insight of a sunk cost is that it should have no impact on future decisions. It’s a sunk cost, i.e., it’s irrelevant going forward.
That’s why, when I see people who worry about all that stuff they’ve invested in a career that they don’t even like, that’s the sunk cost fallacy, right? 
You are so afraid of letting go of it because you feel like you’ve invested so much. And human psychology has a really crazy irrational attachment to sunk cost. 
I’m sure you can think of a lot of things that you’ve done in your life, because you felt like you’d invested in something, you spent a certain amount of time, so you ought to continue even if you hate it, you don’t like it. That’s just that irrational thing that we have. 
But here’s the deal, do you really want… Taking Samantha again, as an example:
Do you really want those 20 potentially miserable years you’ve spent as a lawyer, be the reason why you decide to insist on spending the next 20 plus years, the same way? Just because of the sunk costs involved?!
When you see it like that, it’s obvious right? 
Or do you want to make the change now so the next 20 plus years could become the best and most exciting years of your work life? 
Why would you want to throw good years after bad years? 
Here’s the deal, this is really future opportunity versus future cost we’re talking about.
Make the decision based on what you want your future to be, not based on what you’ve done in the past up until this moment. 
Resist that sunk cost fallacy. 
Make the decision from the future.
You might have heard me say this in another episode: I have an advisory board and I recommend that you do as well. And one of the most important advisors on that board is my 70, 75 year old Self. That Rikke, who’s going to look back at me and say, “Okay, let’s think about you. Think about yourself at 70, 75. What would that person say to you right now? 
“Oh, yeah. Just stay stuck in that career. That job you hate, that’s making you miserable for another 35 years! I am going to be such a jolly, happy epic person by the time I get 70.” 
Nah, I don’t think he, or she would say that, right?

It’s never about whether you are too old.

 It’s about how you want to spend the rest of your life from this moment onwards. 

Don’t let the years that you’ve invested in your current career overshadow the real cost of staying stuck there for the next 20 to 30 years plus. 
And yes, there will always be people or companies that are going to think you are too old. But don’t focus on them because they can’t help you. 
Yes, there will always be other people who think you’re too old, you left it too late. But that is exactly why it’s so important that you decide to answer that question for yourself first, in the most empowering way possible. 
 Do you see where I’m going with this? 
You and I, we each have an impact in terms of how we are going to either reinforce or challenge ageism.
So make sure you answer this question for yourself first, before you start complaining about what others might think. Right? 
I always challenge my own assumptions. It is one of the healthiest things that you can possibly do.
But let’s dig even deeper, you know that I like doing that. 
So here’s another thing I’ve noticed. Career changers and aspiring entrepreneurs and their beliefs about what’s possible for them. And the actions they take or not. 
So let me ask you this: Is it really down to the fact that maybe you don’t actually believe that you have what it takes to change careers or start a business at your age? Or at any age?
 Maybe you deep down believe that a lot of things are out of your hands? 
Or do you actually believe that you have a lot of agency in terms of changing things?
Again, nothing is fixed. Just be aware of where you are right now, and then you’ve got the option to change. Right? 
But here’s something I really want you to think about because it might not just be a matter of age. It might also be other things that are holding you back. So here’s something I want to share with you that I’ve seen again and again, and you might’ve heard this quote: 

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t. You’re right.” (Henry Ford) 

I love that quote because it emphasises just how much your attitude determines success or failure.
 And do you know what? Study after study after study, after study has actually proven that quote to be right. We’ll talk about that in a minute. 
The basis of motivation is very much your belief in whether you’ve got the capacity, the ability to affect change. Or not.  
Meet Albert Bandura
Let me introduce you to a university professor who’s in his 90s and who’s actually still working. He’s a professor at Stanford University, Albert Bandura, a Canadian- American psychologist. You’ve probably heard him quoted. He’s always within the top five of psychologist quoted. 
He’s very much the father of a more optimistic and empowering way of looking at psychology. He doesn’t believe psychology is destiny. You’re not earmarked for life with all kinds of things. He was really one of those people when he came, especially in the 70s, with some of his seminal papers. Really challenging these ideas that we’re all this kind of black box, and there’s not a lot you can do to change. And he’s a very interesting character, by the way. If you Google “Albert Bandura”, there are some wonderful interviews with him. I love him because he’s one of those older people who is just intellectually bright and still just so enthusiastic about his subject. I love googling people like that because that’s what you want to be. That’s the kind of role model, I recommend you start looking at – People much older than you, and you might have to do some digging because the media is not fantastic at that. And let’s change that too!
Anyway, one of his breakthroughs, and this was in a seminal article (followed by a book)  published just a couple years after I was born – He introduced the  concept of self-efficacy – Which he defines as “the belief in one’s capabilities to organise and execute the course of action required to manage prospective situations.”

Albert Bandura & The Concept Of Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy is the ability to impact change. For you to actually believe that you have that power. And it’s highly relevant, both when it comes to career change and when it comes to age. 
A lot of his research (and a lot of other research) was very much about proving that people’s belief or not in their efficacy, affects almost everything that they do. How they think, how they motivate themselves, how they feel, how they behave. 
Study after study shows that how we judge ourselves or what we believe about ourselves and our capabilities is very very important in real terms. 
Because if you believe that you are capable of something that belief will actually directly increase your chances of making it happen.
Whereas if you judge yourself as not capable, same thing. You know that very well, right? 
If you believe something, you’re going to go for it. If you kind of don’t really believe it, you’re just going to half-arse it. Right?
 Henry Ford was right. 
And again, like I said, you have the ability to change this. 
But let me ask you this:

Does YOUR way of thinking about yourself, your age and your career change help or hinder you?  

This was something Bandura also talked about:
People tend to think of themselves and what they’re capable of in a self-enhancing manner (optimistic) OR in a self-debilitating manner (pessimistic). 
And if you think about it, of course, that influences everything.
So here’s how you know where you might fall into right now and how you can change. 
Often when I speak to people about career change and about starting their own business and about age. 
One group of people will very much be the people who fall into the sort of self-enhancing way of thinking – They believe there is always something they can do. They believe they have agency. They can make things happen. 
Whereas the other group is more the sort of self-debilitating pessimistic type who will be like “Oh, but most things are out of my hands anyways.” 
So just ask yourself right now, where do you actually sit? 
Do you believe that most things are out of your hands, so why even bother?
 Or do you believe that yes, you have the ability to make a dent and therefore you’re going to go for it?
This is why it is so important for you to challenge and get to know what you really think. Because if you do believe that most things are out of your hands then you’re probably not even going to try and maybe that’s why you’re stuck?
And of course – Here’s the thing – Action can help you change. So this is not just a matter of just changing your mindset, how you think or believe. It’s also a matter of taking action because action gives you proof in the real world, but that’s me getting ahead of myself there…
But here’s a great way to start implementing this:
When you think about something that you really want to do, like changing careers or starting your own business. Then you wouldn’t ask, “ Do you think I can reach my goal?” Instead, what you ask yourself is, “ What is required of me to reach my goal?


Don’t Ask: “Do You Think I Can Reach My Goal?”

Ask: “What Is Required of Me To Reach My Goal?”

 Do you see the switch? And try and apply that to the question about age as well. 
So instead of, “Do you think I am too old? Do you think I left it too late?” You ask yourself, “What is required of me to change and what can I do? What can I focus on?”


Don’t Ask:

 “Am I Too Old”

 “Have I Left It Too Late?”



“What Is Required of Me To Change?”

 “What CAN I do?” 

“What CAN I Focus on?”

Stop giving your power away, my friend!
Don’t outsource your agency, make up your own mind. 
Yes, there is ageism, but it’s up to all of us to change that in ourselves first. 
A lot of us have a lot of biases, a lot of ideas about age. And this is why I’m being very, very direct in this particular episode, because maybe part of the issue is that you yourself secretly have the ageism, that’s what you believe. Let’s change that. Take this really, really personally. 
Whenever I find something in myself that I’m like, “Oh, whoa. I really need to change that.” I always try to latch on to a much bigger purpose. 
Latch Onto A Much Bigger Purpose: Become A Role Model!
You and I have the chance to become real role models about what’s possible at any age, when it comes to career change, when it comes to businesses. 
Especially if you are potentially willing to do your own business, collaborate with people who also believe in people like you, we can change all of this. 
Step-by-step, not overnight. There’s always going to be… I’m not going to swear on this podcast, but they’re always going to be people out there who won’t agree, but let’s just ignore them. Let’s be so loud and so proud that they will see the evidence out there, okay?
I really want you to think long and hard about this every time you ask a question – How can you ask it a more empowering way? 
And how can you ask yourself first, figure out what you believe? 
And then challenge yourself to believe and act in a much more empowering way. 
So here’s the deal.
 Am I too old? Have I left it too late? 
That is totally up to you. 
But I can tell you what I’ve seen again and again, that people who decide that they want to become a role model for what’s possible – They go ahead and do it. 
Have you noticed the shift there is? Especially with a lot of us who are Gen X’ers, when we see other people of a certain age doing things, we’re like, “That’s so cool. I want to give you my money. I want to help you.”
Just this last week alone, there are three businesses I have bought from, I have purchased from. I got really excited because they on purpose made it clear that there were a certain age and they were loud and proud. 
Come join us. Be part of that my friend, stop giving your power away. 
This is not about whether you’re too old, whether you left it too late.
This is about looking forward and thinking about how can you make the rest of your life, the best years of your life? 
Right? Let me help you with that.

How Can You Make the Rest Of Your Life The Best Years Of Your Life? 

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Here’s a fun bit – Albert Bandura used to, even in his 80s, 90s, sign off his emails with this quote, “May the efficacy force be with you.” I wish that for you too. 
Come on over to  Let’s show the world just what we’re capable of. I’m sending you a big virtual hug. Thank you.