Although the fact that pension ages have been pushed back even further in the last decade can feel like a pretty negative career development, on the plus side it means it’s never been easier or more acceptable to switch careers – for a range of reasons but particularly later on in life. Moreover, with approximately 33% of UK workers feeling unfulfilled by their jobs (You Gov survey, 2015) it’s clear that a making a change is something that 1/3 of the population might consider at any given time in their working lives.
Switching careers early in your professional life, such as your 20s or 30s, is usually as a result of realising that your chosen career isn’t quite as ideal as anticipated or, particularly in your 30s, having reached a promotion ceiling or becoming dissatisfied with career progression. This age feels plenty young enough to consider a re-start in a new career by retraining or even by taking an apprentice opportunity, depending on personal responsibilities and finances.
A decade or so later, those milestone mid-life birthdays are famous for motivating changes in our personal and professional lives. Dissatisfaction with current career prospects or the urge to complete new challenges whilst we still have the motivation and energy are common reasons for changing careers at this stage of life. And those are just the intrinsic factors – add in the external motivation that comes from the fact that 35.5% (the majority) of UK redundancies occurred for employees aged over 50 in 2015, closely followed by 33% of those aged 35 to 49, it’s no wonder that during those mid-life years, restarting a career is becoming increasingly the norm.
Taking a chance or taking control
What motivates this change of career is important to informing what happens next -whether it’s intrinsic, such as by individual choice to achieve personal goals or challenges, or whether it’s externally driven by demands of life and responsibility (such as finances and families) or by the choices and actions of current employers, such as promotion ceilings, redundancies or changes of terms and conditions.
Even if things have happened by chance, part of the challenge is to take control of the situation, such as by looking carefully at the career options ahead, matching up skills and experience and identifying gaps to fill with retraining, additional qualifications or volunteering within the industry.
Even when there’s pressure to get into another career quickly, taking time to look at the opportunities available, plan accordingly and even spend time retraining is not wasted time, because demonstrating the motivation to move away from a comfortable (even if not fulfilling role) and retraining to come in at possibly just on or above entry level in a whole new industry is taking action which demonstrates personal motivation, productivity and ambition to potential employers (whatever age group of event management trainee or graduate you happen to be).
Considering all aspects
That said, motivation may be high, but as we get older, our ability to follow through with our actions in the way we would want may not match our ambition, so although making a move into event management at any age is possible and should be aimed for positively, it’s worth also taking a quick reality check.
After all, it’s naturally the case that health issues start to creep in as we get older, so for some, it’s necessary to consider whether your health is likely to be an issue. All event management can be mentally and physically demanding, but specific event types, such as trade, education and exhibition events can require considerable physical exertion, coupled with long days at peak times and being ‘on-call’ throughout events lasting days, weeks or even months at a time. If you are someone who is physically or mentally fit, or who is prepared to focus on improving personal fitness in preparation for a move into this incredibly busy industry, then moving into event management might end up improving overall fitness, but if you already experience health concerns, this aspect may need careful consideration.
As mentioned, the role of an event manager can also be demanding in terms of flexibility, as long and unsocial hours, as well as the requirement to travel considerable distances, can all form part of the role, depending on the type of position. That point in time when a younger family becomes independent enough to allow for this can unfortunately co-incide with a time when older members of the family, such as your own parents, can become more dependent, so it’s as well to consider how the change may impact on family life, to help identify whether all aspects will be manageable against the busy backdrop of the events management profession.
Changing careers to take up event management means making best use of the skills you already have and the majority of previous careers will have helped you to develop some of those key competencies and skills which are essential to the role. Known as transferable skills, these are skills such as using IT, organisational and administrative skills and customer-facing communication skills, core competencies in event management. With one, or even two different careers previously behind you, age is irrelevant as skills and experience demonstrate capability and competence in this new profession.
And if you’re still not sure? It’s worth knowing that each year in the UK, approximately 1 in 10 workers intend swapping careers (Guidance Council, 2010) – that means around 2.5 million people at any one time are considering making a change that could bring them much more. You’re certainly not alone, but will you be one of the few to actually take action and venture into the rapidly growing world of event management.