“Is It Too Late For Me To Change Career?”

Richard is approaching the end of his contract. The sensible option would be to find another job in the same profession, but his heart's telling him to follow his passion project. How do you find the confidence to jump into something new, when conventional wisdom, and your age, says to play it safe?

What's your career history and current job?

I've been a teacher for 13 years.

I teach chemistry at further education level.

Prior to that, I was a research scientist with the Ministry of Defence, but due to government cutbacks I was made redundant.

How do you feel about your work?

I fell into teaching really.

When my dream career fell apart 13 years ago, it was quite a loss because I loved it so much. I loved the science and the research.

And that's never gone. In fact, it's my main driver.

I dislike the bureaucracy in teaching though and I no longer want to be in front of a classroom.

It's quite a challenge because of my age to feel this way.

I've still got a very sharp mind. I love problem solving, and that's why I'm a scientist. I think I've still got a lot to give.

It's frustrating though; I feel we live in an ageist society where it's harder to find work or do something new when you're at the older end of the working age spectrum.

What would you like to be doing instead?

I'm still interested in education, but I’d rather help teachers develop new skills.

I have an idea to develop a business where I'd help teachers learn to use electronics in their lessons in the science curriculum.

One possible role would be to deliver training to teachers in schools on how to incorporate microprocessor-based methods into the teaching of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects.

I've been slowly networking with hobbyist groups and science clubs to develop a prototype of some new electronic measuring equipment, which would give teachers new skills and involve students too.

My heart tells me to pursue this business idea.

On the other hand, and this is my dilemma, my head tells me I should find another role in teaching.

What's the biggest obstacle in your way?

I don't have the confidence to sell my idea.

The trouble is that I'm not a salesman. I've always been a doer, the back seat driver, never at the front taking credit.

I suppose I could get a partner to help me, or learn new skills in that area.

My age plays on my mind a lot.

When I think about applying for another job, I remember that all the job adverts I see these days in other areas of education, such as training teachers rather than teaching itself, specify “graduates with a few years' experience”, which applies to people in their 20s, not me. That puts me off applying.

It's not so bad in teaching because there's high demand, so I could probably find another role.

If I worked for myself, maybe the age barrier wouldn't be there.

Money would be a challenge but I know I could get some supply teaching work on the side, just to support myself.

At least if I went down that route, following my business idea, I know I'd be very happy, although there's a lot of trepidation involved.

Whereas If I go down the route of looking for another job in teaching, it offers me financial stability, but I face the challenge of being older and the fact that science has moved on since I got my PhD in chemistry.

The business idea feels like the route for me, but I can't seem to find the confidence to jump into it with both feet.

Is it ever simply too late to change?

Can you help Richard?
  • Have you been in a similar situation, or are you in the same boat right now?
  • How do you think Richard could move his shift forwards?
  • Do you know anyone he could talk to?

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