What if the career path you've been on is no longer the right one for you? It's never too late to change direction. David Israelson shows you how.
The reality for older Canadian workers today is a bit at odds with what many people might perceive. Conventional wisdom is that people who lose or leave jobs in their 50s will have a hard time finding new employment that's stimulating and satisfying or which pays as well as their previous jobs.
Not exactly, says Adele Robertson, CEO and founder of The V Generation, a Toronto organization that works with senior volunteers.
Despite common misconceptions, whether by choice or necessity, mature workers in Canada are reinventing themselves in droves. "People are living longer and working longer," Robertson says. "They just don't throw in the sponge."
Research by Statistics Canada has shown that in recent years the largest number of new businesses has been created by people over 49. Rather than finding restricted horizons because of their age, many are finding that after working for years, they finally have the flexibility and the know-how to try something new.
From Bay Street to Main Street
When Jim Knowlton traded in his executive position for entrepreneurship at age 56, he didn't see it as a setback—it was more like a masterstroke. Knowlton, now 60, eased himself away from a successful corporate consulting business to become a house builder. He set up Master Homes, a residential construction and renovation business in Oakville, Ont., with two partners.
While the business is not exactly an empire just yet, it's doing just fine, Knowlton says. "We've either built or renovated half a dozen homes in the last four years. Our business plan is clear."
The plan is simple, too: instead of working at a job he has to, now he's doing what he wants. Before setting up Master Homes in 2013, Knowlton commuted into downtown Toronto and travelled extensively to conduct corporate training programs for banks and big companies across Canada and in the United States. It was lucrative and often fun, but he grew passionate about construction after spending several summers building a cabin with his son in a remote part of Northern Ontario.
Knowlton finds working with real "stuff" like bricks and boards a relief. "You have different fears but, once you go, you never want to go back," he says. "When you step over the line from the corporate world, you create your own reality."
Anticipate and Plan
Older workers who consider moving into something different than a full-time job should be aware of the barriers and plan how to overcome them, says Bill Hill, national financial planning consultant and retirement designer at RBC.
"If you need counselling for the transition, get it. Sit down and take stock of where you are and what you want to do next. I tell people that this is life, not a dress rehearsal," he says. Hill points to a recent survey that showed that 62 per cent of Canadians who have retired did so earlier than they had anticipated. A survey published in early 2016 by RBC found that 73 per cent of Canadians over 50 were unsure of what they would do with their extra time if they stopped working.
At the same time, other research by RBC found that 69 per cent said they were "completely or mostly" ready to do something besides punch a clock at a full-time job.
Hill says that to overcome the obstacles, it's important to overcome the stereotypes about older workers.
"You can't just rely on your experience to be marketable. You need to be current, make sure you're looking forward. It's especially important to keep maintaining and building your networks," he says.
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