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Marie Claire UK

Career change at 50: why it’s the perfect age to rediscover your purpose

Kate Hollowood

11 Nov 2022

Often with decades of professional experience, fewer personal commitments and greater self confidence, your fifties can be a brilliant time to reassess your working life and try something new

Sure, a career change at 30(opens in new tab) or even at 40 sounds doable — but at 50? It could be easy to assume that by this age, your path in life has been set. 

However, starting a new profession in your fifties is more common than you might realise. “Of the women I work with, I would say that approximately 50% of them are 50 and over,” says Hannah Miller, a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach and Founder of sidekick(opens in new tab). 

It’s also a time of life when our priorities might shift. “As we age, we can care less about proving ourselves with status or financial gain, and more about discovering more of who we are and what we can contribute,” says Hannah. “We might be more comfortable in ourselves, and able to see the bigger picture of a team and the purpose of an organisation. There’s arguably less ego at play for many women in this life stage, especially if they have committed to their self development over the years that preceded.” 

For all these reasons and more, it can be the perfect time to apply your experience and skills to a brand new field. Here, we meet five women who have done exactly that, and rediscovered a sense of purpose along the way. 

Sally Evans - From marketing to wine making 

“It can be a real advantage changing careers in your 50s,” says Sally Evans, who had previously worked as a marketing director for a big consulting company in Paris. A single mum of two boys, Sally decided to leave her job when her youngest was 15 to spend more time with him. “When he left home, I thought, well what am I going to do now?” she says. 

52 years old at the time, Sally didn’t want to go back into the corporate world. So she decided to do what she’d always wanted. “I enjoyed drinking wine, but I'd never had the time to study it,” she says. After gaining qualifications through the WSET, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, she decided she wanted to start making wine herself. 

“I thought, where do they make great wine?” says Sally. “Bordeaux. So I travelled eight hours from where I lived in the South East of France. I didn't know anybody in Bordeaux, but I found a patch of vines with rundown buildings, and I bought them”. 

Sally let the previous owner continue to work on the vines for the first couple of years while she finished her studies and renovated the house. Then in 2018, she built her own barrel rooms and has been making wine at Chateau George(opens in new tab) ever since. “I only make 15,000 bottles a year, which is relatively small,” says Sally. “But I don't want to rule the world. I just want to make the very best wine I can. And I’ve won loads of awards for it and I'm really proud of what I've done. At this age, you don’t necessarily feel the need to go big or just expand and expand.”

There are plenty more advantages to making a change in your 50s (although Sally notes that “wine is not not ageist”, unlike some industries). She explains: “My kids are gone, I don't have to worry about bedtimes, homework or ferrying them around. It's all about me now. And at 50, we've got all these skills that we didn't have 30 years ago.” 

In doing something she loves, Sally says she’s got more energy now than she’s ever had. “We mustn’t forget to have fun,” she says. “It’s about having the confidence to not care what other people think, to keep learning, and to focus on what makes you happy. We’ve spent all our lives worrying about everyone else. Don't feel guilty. This is about you.”

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