How to switch career at any age – in fact being older can be a real advantage

Age is no barrier to striking out on new employment paths, says career coach Joanna Booty of Metier Career Growth

It’s a worrying time for many of us work-wise – but it could be the cue to strike out on a new career path. What’s more, discovers Eimear O’Hagan, being older can be a real advantage   

Starting a new job at any age can be intimidating: whether it’s the idea of having to learn new skills, adjusting to a new workplace environment or potentially taking a salary cut. And the effects of Covid-19 mean that many people are already finding themselves in the position of having to change careers: between March and June this year in the UK almost 650,000 fewer employees were paying tax, with a large number expected to lose their jobs when the Government’s furlough scheme ends in October.

But age is no barrier to striking out on new employment paths, says career coach Joanna Booty of Metier Career Growth. ‘The prospect of change – whether it’s of your choosing or because it’s been forced on you by redundancy – can be scary. If you’re in your 40s or 50s, there’s a worry it’s too late to try something new. It is a big decision, but experience, maturity and transferable skills are going to be very valuable in the jobs market going forward.’ 

The notion that once you’re in a particular profession you’re in it for life is outdated, adds Joanna. Now, being open-minded is key. ‘Whether it’s switching to a job in a completely different industry, retraining or launching a “portfolio career” – where you have several roles – it’s essential that women take a flexible approach to ensure not only employment, but also satisfaction in what they do.’ Overleaf three women reveal how they forged successful new midlife career paths – and have never looked back.

‘I was never ambitious – until i was made redundant’

Sophie Rahim

Sophie Rahim

Sophie Rahim, 41, qualified as a social worker after being made redundant.

She’s single and lives in Luton, Bedfordshire, with her two sons. When I lost my job four years ago, I panicked. As a single mum of two, the most obvious course of action would have been to get another job – any job – to keep a wage coming in. Instead, for the first time in my life, I stopped and thought about what I really wanted to do.

I dropped out of university in my early 20s when I became pregnant with my eldest son. After that I was always employed, but income was more important than ambition and I did everything from work in a coffee shop to being an admin assistant.

In 2016, I was made redundant from my job as a learning and development trainer at a local authority. For the first few weeks I was unsure what to do, but I realised that I didn’t want to look for yet another job that I didn’t love. I also believed that having a formal qualification was the key to a more secure future.

I’m adopted and so social work had always interested me, plus I’d done some safeguarding work at the local authority. I knew there was a shortage of social workers, and felt a degree would lead to employment – it was vital for there to be a good job at the end of my studies.

I applied for a student loan to live off and pay my tuition fees and also took on several part-time jobs in retail and in a pub. My course was a mixture of lectures, workshops and studying at home. I was one of the oldest students in my year but that didn’t bother me. When other students were out partying, I was happy at home in the evening with my books. My confidence and self-belief really blossomed as I studied and my graduation – with a first-class degree – was a day I’ll never forget.

Today, I work as a social worker for a private outdoor education company, overseeing safeguarding and staff wellbeing. I’m pragmatic enough to realise that every industry is going to feel the effects of Covid-19, but I’m not frightened. Now I have my qualification, I’m confident that whatever happens, there will be a job for me.

If you find yourself redundant 

Career coach Joanna booty says: Start looking for another job online.,, and all have job boards spanning multiple industries. I also cannot emphasise enough the power of using LinkedIn; it has a job board with a huge number of roles and is a great way to connect with people from industries you are interested in, as well as recruiters. If you proactively manage your account you could find out about opportunities that haven’t been advertised. I would also advise looking for industry-specific or career-specific job boards, as well as working with a recruiter who specialises in your career sector. 

 ‘I walked away from a 20-year career to be my own boss’  

Geraldine Joaquim

Geraldine Joaquim

Geraldine Joaquim, 50, is a clinical hypnotherapist and stress management consultant. She lives in Petworth, West Sussex, with her husband and two children.

By the time I left my career in international marketing nearly three years ago, I’d describe myself as ‘walking wounded’. I was doing everything I needed to at work and home, but I can see now I was on the fringes of depression.

For a long time, I loved my old career. I travelled the world, earned a good salary and relished having a working identity separate to being a mother. But over time the shine began to wear off and my tipping point came in September 2017 when, after spending my 25th wedding anniversary working in Germany, I was informed my contract was changing – less money for more work. I realised I wanted something different from my working life, and soon after that I handed in my notice.

The year before, in 2016, I’d spent £3,000 studying to become a hypnotherapist, attending a weekend course in Guildford every month for ten months, as well as gaining practical experience. At that point I’d no plans to turn it into a career – it was just something that had interested me since I’d had hypnotherapy in my 20s after an injury.

However, once I’d decided I wanted to strike out on my own, it made sense to fuse that qualification with the corporate skills I already had and create a new career for myself. I had years of experience giving presentations, which, when added to my new knowledge about the brain, neuroscience and the impact of stress, resulted in my company Mind Your Business. Today, I offer training on stress management and mental wellbeing to employees and their managers, because happy staff make a more productive business. I also do one-to-one hypnotherapy sessions.

I feel so fulfilled now and love working for myself after years of being a small part of a bigger organisation. I have no regrets about stepping off the corporate treadmill and taking my skills with me to become my own boss.


Joanna says: It’s essential to acquire practical knowledge on how to run a business – everything from budgeting in order to pay your tax bill, managing your accounts and having a business plan. There are lots of regional business support organisations, so research what expert help is available in your area and utilise it.    


‘I took a leap of faith and now I have my dream job  

Jeanette Dean

Jeanette Dean

Jeanette Dean, 52, is a midwife and lives in Liverpool with her husband. She has three children. 

There is no better feeling in the world than seeing a happy mum with a healthy baby in her arms. Ten years after I qualified as a midwife, I’m thankful I had the courage to leave my uninspiring job in the Civil Service and retrain in a new career. There were definitely moments when I thought, ‘What on earth have I done?’, but now I have an amazing sense of job satisfaction.

I joined the Civil Service in 1988, and went on to have my three children. With each pregnancy, my fascination with midwifery grew and I’d daydream about being one myself. I knew I’d found my vocation, but the thought of leaving a secure job and income to retrain when I had three young children and was approaching my 40th birthday was daunting.

My husband Barry encouraged me, assuring me we’d manage financially and telling me I’d be setting an example to the children to always follow their dreams. I knew that if I didn’t do it I would spend my life regretting it, so while I was on maternity leave with my youngest daughter Rebecca in 2005, I resigned from the Civil Service. Over the next two years I took an Access to Health course (which helps people lacking A-Levels to access higher education in medicine and healthcare), and also volunteered at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital, filling jugs of water, making tea and toast and restocking supplies.

In September 2007, I enrolled at Liverpool John Moores University on a three-year, full-time midwifery degree. The course was a 50/50 mixture of academic studies and practical experience in the community and hospital. I loved it but it also meant a lot of sacrifices – missing school plays and studying instead of reading bedtime stories.

But I knew it would all be worth it and that kept me going when I felt overwhelmed. After graduating in 2010, aged 42, I worked for the NHS for five years, before joining a private midwifery service.

Now I split my time between that role and my own business Positive Pregnancy & Parenthood, offering hypnobirthing and antenatal courses. No two days are the same, and I feel privileged to share in my patients’ journey to motherhood. It’s my perfect job.


Joanna says: Look before you leap. If you’re considering investing time and money in training or a qualification to move into a new industry, do your research. Speak to people who work in that field: are there opportunities and will they give you the working life you want? What skills do you already have that you can take with you? What do you need and will the training or studies you’re contemplating deliver those? 


You’re hired! Joanna’s five CV golden rules 

Remove unnecessary dates 

Leave off your date of birth and the dates of any qualifications older than about 15 years. There is no need to include a photo. Your CV showcases your skills and achievements to demonstrate you are a great candidate for the job. What you look like and your age are irrelevant.

Make your profile fit for the 2020s

Set up a LinkedIn profile if you don’t have one, and include a link to it on your CV. It shows you’re familiar with current methods of networking and will improve your chances of finding more opportunities. Remove your landline number and your physical address, and include a mobile number and your email address.

Keep it relevant

Detail the last ten to 15 years – these are the most relevant – and highlight key achievements for each role. As an older applicant, your advantage is you should have plenty to choose from. Consolidate experience older than 15 years in one section without dates and just list companies and job titles. Only include up-to-date skills that are advantageous to the role you’re applying for.

Tailor your content

Tweak the content of your CV for each job, as many recruiters will use databases that automatically search for relevant CVs. Use key words that are included in the job advert as this means your CV is more likely to be picked up. Once someone looks at your CV, they will also be gauging how relevant it is for the job, so ensure it highlights the skills and experience that match those advertised for each role.

Pay attention to the layout

Make yours easy to read so the important bits don’t get lost in the detail. Use a simple layout – a combination of brief paragraphs and bullet points – with a modern, clear font such as Calibri, and make sure the pages don’t look cluttered. Keep it short – ideally two pages

For more information, go to 


Spicy Prawn Noodles | Daily Mail Online

Spicy Prawn Noodles

Pak choi, ginger, garlic, chilli jam & sesame seeds 

Energy 600kcal | fat 24.1g | sat fat 4.3g | protein 28g | carbs 67.4g | sugars 9.4g | salt 1.7g | fibre 2.5g

Serves 1

Total 10 minutes

1 pak choi

1 clove of garlic

2cm piece of ginger

75g fine free-range egg noodles

80g raw peeled king prawns, from sustainable sources

1 heaped teaspoon sesame seeds

1 heaped teaspoon chilli jam

2 teaspoons low-salt soy sauce

  • Finely slice the pak choi, putting the leaves aside. Char the base slices in a dry non-stick frying pan on a medium-high heat, while you peel and finely slice the garlic, then peel and finely grate the ginger. Cook the noodles in a pan of boiling water according to the packet instructions, adding the pak choi leaves for the last 10 seconds. Alongside, stir-fry the garlic, ginger, prawns, sesame seeds, chilli jam and 1 tablespoon of olive oil with the charred pak choi slices.
  •  Pour the soy into a serving bowl. As soon as the prawns are pink, spoon everything from the pan into the bowl, then use tongs to drag in the noodles and pak choi leaves with a few splashes of cooking water. Twist and toss it all together well, taste and check the seasoning, then devour.

Mushroom & Chicken Cacciatore | Daily Mail Online

Mushroom & Chicken Cacciatore

 Italian red wine, sweet pepper & tomato sauce, rosemary & olives 

Energy 255kcal | fat 10.8g | sat fat 2.4g | protein 23.6g | carbs 11g | sugars 9g | salt 0.9g | fibre 3.2g

Serves 6

Total 1 hour 30 minutes

6 free-range chicken thighs,

skin off, bone out

6 large portobello mushrooms

2 red onions

1 x 460g jar of roasted red peppers

12 black olives, stone in

4 sprigs of fresh rosemary

200ml Italian red wine

2 x 400g tins of plum tomatoes

  •  Preheat the oven to 160C fan. Season the chicken with sea salt and black pepper, then put it in a large shallow casserole pan on a medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Cook for 10 minutes, or until golden, turning regularly. Meanwhile, peel and tear up the mushrooms, peel and chop the onions, drain and tear up the peppers, squash and destone the olives.
  •  Remove the chicken to a plate, leaving the pan on the heat. Stir the mushrooms, onions, peppers and olives into the pan, then strip in the rosemary. Cook for 10 minutes, or until softened, stirring regularly. Pour in the wine and let it cook away, then add the tomatoes and half a tin’s worth of water, breaking up the tomatoes with your spoon. Bring to the boil, stir in the chicken and any juices, then put in the oven for 1 hour, or until the chicken is tender.

Bacon Rarebit Burger | Daily Mail Online

Bacon Rarebit Burger

Mushrooms, gherkin & soured cream in a soft bun 

Energy 517kcal | fat 24.3g | sat fat 12.3g | protein 42.3g | carbs 34.1g | sugars 4.6g | salt 2.8g | fibre 2.3g

Serves 1

Total 12 minutes

3 chestnut mushrooms

125g quality beef mince

2 rashers of higher-welfare smoked

streaky bacon

1 soft bun

2 heaped teaspoons soured cream

1 gherkin

25g Cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

  •  Trim the stalk and base off each mushroom, giving you a beautiful cross-section (saving the offcuts for another day). Place the mushrooms cut side down on one side of a large dry non-stick frying pan on a high heat. Cook for 5 minutes while you scrunch and work the mince with your hands. Divide into two equal balls, flatten each to just under ½cm thick, then pat and push a rasher of bacon on to each one.
  • Turn the mushrooms, put the burgers into the pan, bacon side down, sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper, and fry hard and fast for 2 minutes, pressing down with a fish slice to crisp up the bacon, then flip to fry for 1 minute on the other side. Move the mushrooms on top of the burgers, then halve the bun and quickly toast alongside. Remove the bun to a serving board, spread with the soured cream, stack in your burgers and mushrooms, then slice and add the gherkin.
  •  Off the heat, coarsely grate the cheese in a pile at the cleanest side of the pan, pour the Worcestershire sauce on top, then tilt the pan and stir vigorously for 30 seconds until it combines into an oozy consistency. Pour the rarebit mixture over the burger stack and put the bun lid on. Devour.


Elizabeth Day: The power of positivity …and big pockets

Elizabeth Day: The power of positivity …and big pockets

Hair: Fabio Nogueira. Make-up: Ruby Hammer. Styling: Holly Elgeti. Dress, Stine Goya, Jewellery, AlIghieri

As I grow older, there are two overriding qualities that I look for in clothing: bright colours and pockets. The colours are because I wasted years seeking to disappear in a palette of blacks, greys and neutrals, believing these were chic rather than what they actually were: appallingly conventional. 

The allure of pockets should be self-explanatory: they are highly practical and solve the issue of what to do with your hands when talking to someone in the corridor at work.

So when I recently saw my friend Belinda sporting a vibrant yellow skirt with one capacious pocket, I gave an audible exclamation of delight.

‘I love your skirt,’ I said.

Belinda told me she’d bought it in a designer sale. At full price, it would have been a luxury beyond reasonable means, but as it had been discounted, she decided to go for it.

‘And now that you’ve complimented me, I can take £5 off the price tag.’

‘I’m sorry, what?’

‘I’ve decided that every compliment I’m given translates to £5 off what I spent.’

Instead of cost per wear, Belinda had invented an alternative ‘cost per compliment’ system.

There were rules: compliments from the same person more than once on the same occasion didn’t count. Each compliment had to be sincere. But what I loved about The Belinda Compliments Scale was the sheer positivity. It was a way of assessing something’s worth because of what it gave you (pleasure), rather than wringing your hands over what it had taken away (money).

It strikes me as a sensible way to live: focusing on what we have rather than what we don’t. Much has been written about the lasting effects of practising gratitude. One 2016 study, conducted at Berkeley University, divided 293 adults seeking mental health counselling into three groups. The first wrote letters of gratitude for three weeks. The second were asked to write about their deepest thoughts and feelings on negative experiences. The final group didn’t write anything.

Those who wrote letters reported significantly better mental health 12 weeks after the exercise. It was partly because the practice had unshackled them from toxic emotions, and encouraged them to reframe negativity in a productive way.

Three months after that, the participants were given an fMRI scan. Those who had written gratitude letters showed greater activation in the medial prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for memory and decision-making. The researchers concluded that revisiting a memory of gratitude could make you more sensitive to the experience in the future, which in turn could contribute to longer-lasting improved mental health. (Simply put, if you’ve experienced something pleasurable, you’re more likely to recognise it and categorise it as a good thing.)

It turns out that thinking positively is not a superficial question of skirts with pockets: it actually helps rewire the brain. Of course, we live in a world where terrible things happen – a global pandemic, for instance. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed by the challenges we have faced recently but we can also find meaning in them. Every challenge teaches us something important if we allow it to.

So the next time I think about whether to buy a skirt or how I feel about life, I’m going to remember The Belinda Compliments Scale and focus on the good that could come from what I’m going through.

It really was a lovely skirt, by the way. I hope she reads this and takes another £5 off.

 This week I’m…

Adorning my ears with these Cohesion earrings from Completedworks: gorgeous mini sculptures in each lobe. 

Wearing Teva Original Universal Sandals in white. Don’t knock ’em until you’ve tried ’em. So comfortable and surprisingly cool. 

Spritzing Coqui Coqui eau de cologne in Tabaco. Inspired by freshly picked tobacco leaves and peppered with tart notes of citrus: delightful and exotic.