Looking for a Career Change in Your 50s? Clean Energy May Be Your Best Move

A feeling of dread drapes over your shoulders as you endure rush hour traffic on the way to your cubicle. Unstimulated by your work and uninspired by your company’s mission, you wonder how many more dismal days you can survive before retirement. After all, you’re 51. People in their 50s don’t just change jobs, much less careers, right? Wrong.

Watching the clock tick by as you rush your life along is no way to spend the day. Job satisfaction and purpose has a positive impact on your health and well-being, not to mention your personal life. With retirement less than two decades away, now is not the time to be miserable. You’ve spent decades learning and fumbling, overcoming and excelling. You’re armed with an array of expertise – from communication skills to management prowess – that can be transferred to various other occupations.

Choose a Career You Care About, But One You Can Live Off Of

Some professionals over age 50 leave their traditional job to pursue a career in the arts. But if you’re trying to pay off a mortgage and put kids through college, you’re going to want a decent paying job.

An industry switch, one in which you take the skills you already have and implement them in another field, is the easiest career move to make, according to career coach and former recruiter Dawn Graham. Career changes where professionals must learn a new set of skills are harder, and changes to a new industry and learning a new set of skills are extremely challenging for the 50+ crowd.

Your chances of succeeding will be much higher if your new career path doesn’t require too much additional training and education. However, if you have the time, money and desire to earn a new degree, don’t let something as trivial as age stop you.

As more senior-level professionals begin their search for a new industry – one that sparks their passion and fills their day with meaning – more individuals are turning to jobs in the green economy.

A Diversity of Green Jobs for Seasoned Workers

“Green careers” aren’t limited to occupations that involve renewable energy or recycling. Any job that provides goods and services to conserve natural resources, or makes a production process more environmentally friendly, is considered a green job. Occupations that help save energy, like a manufacturer or installer of energy-efficient appliances such as refrigerators and low-flow plumbing systems, would qualify.  

Fish and game wardens make sure hunting and boating laws are enforced. Financial analysts are needed to evaluate the stability and economic influences for green investment programs.

Maybe you’ve spent years as a real estate broker. That experience could make you perfect for energy brokering, a fairly new occupation. Energy brokers work as intermediaries between energy producers and consumers. If you’re an experienced carpenter, there are opportunities in green building construction and retrofitting old structures. If you’ve traded securities or commodities, there are careers in energy trading that involve the sale of energy resources. These occupations utilize business skills combined with a strong understanding of energy technologies.

Clean Energy Workers Are Older Than Average

When you think of a cleantech employee, you may envision a hip 20-something professional in the South Bay. Yes, there are plenty of this demographic, but they’re not the majority across the nation. According to a Brookings study that evaluated workers in 2016, “the clean energy economy workforce is relatively old.”

The report states that the median age in three sectors – clean energy production, energy efficiency and environmental management – is at least as high as the national median (42.2 years) and higher. In fact, employees in the environmental management sector were more than two years older than the national average, at 44.3 years old.

Even though age discrimination does exist in some workplaces, it’s reassuring to know that not every clean energy worker is fresh out of college. Still, job experts recommend networking as the best way to find job opportunities later in life, as it helps applicants get past any bias in the hiring process.  

How Successful Are Late-Stage Career Changers?

Changing careers at any age can be challenging and risky. Making this switch in your 50s can make that even more daunting. But thousands of Americans have made professional changes and their lives have vastly improved. For example, a 2014 study by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) surveyed hundreds of older workers and discovered some encouraging statistics:

  • 82 percent of the qualified respondents who made a career change after age 45 were successful.
  • 87 percent of those who changed careers successfully said the move made them happier.
  • 50 percent experienced an increase in income after switching.

Survey respondents were asked to offer advice for others considering a career change. They stressed the importance of being flexible and willing to work for a lower wage, at least initially. “Successful career changers reported that after a period of hard work and persistence, they worked their way up the income ladder.”

Professionals over 50 may not have to take a pay cut if they make the switch to a sustainable career. Clean energy workers can actually earn salaries that are 8 to 19 percent above the national average.

As for the inspiration to change careers? Successful job changers were motivated by the need to do something different (28%), followed by the desire for more money (20%).

The clean energy industry offers both.

If you’re ready to make a career change to clean energy, start by creating a free professional profile. From there, you can begin networking and searching for opportunities in your desired location.  

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