I'm almost 60 years old, can I still change jobs?

Is it possible to change jobs at 60? The short answer is yes, you can. Age should not be an impediment to making a career change. However, the reality is that doing so is not easy for seniors. This is what Amparo Agustí, 58 years old, tells us, who has worked since he was 18 in the logistics and construction sector. Since 2018, the year they terminated her contract, she has been sending between 50 and 100 resumes a week, without receiving feedback. She is sure that age is an obstacle. “In Spain, those over 45 are already considered senior, that’s why I don’t put the age on my resume. In an interview, they even told me, without any shame, that they did not hire me because of my age.”

It seems unthinkable that a professional, with decades of national and international experience, with positions of responsibility and awards to her credit, would not find a place to work. Her long work history fills about five pages, but that, for her, is no longer useful. “You are valid until the day they fire you.” This is a harsh statement, but one that is repeated over and over again among those seniors who want (or have to) change jobs. They feel invisible, as everyone says.

As we approach age 60, the range of opportunities narrows. According to the most recent statistics from the Active Population Survey (EPA), of the 2,767,860 unemployed people in Spain, more than 46% are over 50 years old, making our country the leader in unemployment among people aged 55 to 59 years old; 75% of them believe they will never work again. “Although these figures may be discouraging and do not show a scenario conducive to change, it is important to keep in mind that it does not mean that it cannot be done,” says Angélica Barrero Guinand, clinical psychologist and leader of the Corporate Clinical Department at ifeel.

Your office colleague is an example of this. Carmen Martínez, 59 years old, changed jobs after she went through different attempts to reinvent herself. “Since she was 20, she had never been without work. When the last company closed, I had a hard time finding a position that matched my experience. I started with collaborations, but they were not very motivating and without any stability.” She decided to change and set up her own restaurant, but it closed shortly after. “I returned to the job search and realized that, although they ask you for a career, age is a barrier.”

Carmen has the feeling that new companies prefer to take staff from scratch and train them. “They tell you that you are overqualified or that they are looking for a lower profile, which is tremendous frustration. You have experience and desire, but it seems that no one sees you,” says Carmen. Again, invisibility.

She stayed that way for a few months, until she arrived at the company where she works today as a sales technician and mental health consultant. “In the interview I wanted to convey to them that my age implied a great desire to work and I only asked that they give me the opportunity to show that I could add value.” Carmen recognizes that seniors have to prove more than a younger person. “You have to justify that you can and that you are capable.”

The reasons that lead to leaving a job that has been held for many years play a relevant role. According to the update of the latest LinkedIn study, 62% of Spaniards are considering changing jobs in 2024. The percentage is reduced in the case of older people: only 29.87% of baby boomers (59-77 years old) consider change. Another study by the consulting firm Robert Walters reveals that 75% of professionals over 50 believe they have reached their peak in their professional career. 72% of these professionals affirm that their current companies do not offer them promotion opportunities, while 41% consider that they do not find professional development options.

Rosario Sierra, Director of Corporate Business at Linkedin, comments that among the reasons for changing jobs among older people, the search for a better salary (33%), confidence in finding a better job thanks to their skills (28%) or the desire for a greater balance between their personal and professional life (26%).

Angélica Barrero adds that “changes can also be linked to the search for greater meaning, finding something that connects them. It is possible that as we progress in life we ​​become more ‘burned out’ and a change is, many times, what we need.” She notes that it is very common for people to reach a point where they are no longer passionate about their career, activity or professional challenge that they had set for themselves when they were younger. “Since we were very little we have been taught that we must know fairly quickly what we want to dedicate our entire lives to and we are expected to fit in. This, after several years, makes us realize that we are in a place where we do not want to be.”

Doing the same thing every day for 40 years can be, to say the least, exhausting and exhausting, both physically and mentally and emotionally.

It is also important to think that when the barrier of 60 years is crossed, life and work are seen in a different way. Some values ​​change and things that were not crucial before now become priorities. One of them is time, when you want to enjoy doing the things you like and leave behind the idea that work should consume your day to day life. For this reason, many seniors not only consider leaving work to prepare for their retirement, but also to change sectors, companies, people, and schedules to enjoy their time more.

Excessive work, the number of hours, responsibilities or one’s own attitude towards all of this can generate high doses of continued stress and sustained fatigue, which lead one to think that the best solution is to change jobs. The same if there is burnout or burnout syndrome. Experts clarify that a job change is just transferring the problem to another place.

If after dedicating many years to a company, the person does not feel valued or believe that they earn according to their worth, they may think that they will feel better working in another company that remunerates them properly and that guarantees a better situation for the future and retirement. .

It is not always in our power to modify certain situations. In the world of work, things happen that are beyond our control, such as global crises, closures, restructuring, staff cuts, etc., which can force staff to take another path. When this happens, workers who have perhaps been in them for a long time, become unemployed at an advanced age. Elena González is one of them. She has dedicated 35 years to working as a publicist in different agencies; 25, in the last one. “I was happy, I did what I like most at work, I had a good time, I earned well and my projects won awards for the company.” She was recognized and valued by her company, until the pandemic arrived and, at 56 years old, they told her that the company would make cuts. “One day everyone praises you and recognizes your achievements until you leave your company, and you become invisible to everyone.” She is active in her search, always with the optimism that someone will pay more attention to her talent than her age and to be able to continue working on her thing. Elena has different resumes depending on the recipient, although she has had to shorten them so as not to “scare” recruiters.

Facing a layoff is never an easy time for either party and at any age. Barrero Guinand emphasizes that, in the case of an older person, there may be fear of not knowing if they will be able to find something soon. “This fear is very logical, since, unfortunately, many companies prefer to hire younger people, although this is not always what is needed.”

Neither Carmen, Amparo nor Elena see the solution in a venture. “You have to have capital, risk, patience for it to prosper,” says Elena. According to the report The map of entrepreneurship 2022, developed by IE University, the profile of the Spanish entrepreneur is a young man of 33 years old. It is unusual to start a business at 60. However, there are positive points. Rosario Sierra maintains that the experience and skills that these professionals bring from all their years of career are, of course, very useful for entrepreneurship. “The knowledge and contacts they have are an added value when it comes to giving life to their own business, but I don’t think it is, nor should it be, the only way out for them,” she says. “The bet is on companies to build a corporate culture based on the diversity of voices that contribute various points of view to a team.”

Fortunately, although few, there are companies that are already thinking about changing the paradigm because they understand that a multigenerational workforce is much richer and more productive. Furthermore, it is a bet on the future. “You have to think that in 2030, 60% of the active population in Spain will be made up of people over 45 years of age, so either companies will change the way they recruit or they will have very few people to hire,” says Alfonso Bermejo, one of those responsible for DiversiEdad, a program of the human resources company WTC, which calls on the business world to end discrimination based on age.

Age is one of the biases that prevail in the personnel selection process. Numerous studies have investigated biases that operate consciously or unconsciously and can affect an interviewer’s ability to make fair and accurate evaluations of candidates. A meta-analysis, published in Personnel Psychology, concluded, after reviewing more than 400 studies, that older candidates face discrimination in both interview evaluations and hiring decisions. The research authors suggest that negative stereotypes about the productivity and adaptability of older workers contribute to this bias.

“When you automatically rule out people, you haven’t even stopped to look at whether or not that person is the best fit for the position. This is due to the many prejudices associated with ageism,” says Bermejo. 

“Companies work better when they have that diversity, when the workforce is multigenerational. Older people have a lot of experience and can teach younger people, and, at the same time, learn their skills. Diversity means complementing the vocations, values ​​and talents of some generations and others. Finally, in addition to their knowledge and experience, their commitment, responsibility and desire to give meaning to their work and life are notable,” he adds.