Pandemic pressure sees one-in-four over-45s considering career change

Career anxiety is a major side-effect of the pandemic and it’s affecting workers of every age. Young people are concerned about their career prospects, but the over-45s are just as worried about their future. This has sparked a wave of interest in mid-life professional pivots, with our research revealing that one in four over-45s is considering a career switch or role change.

This growing interest in “encore careers” is motivated by insecurity about the future. One-in-three over-45s cite fears about financial security and a quarter worries about the rising state pension age, as the reason they’re exploring new career paths. And they’re prepared to put the work in to help them switch direction, with nearly three-quarters saying they’d spend time learning new skills. On average they’d be happy to devote three hours and 36 minutes per week to retraining.

It isn’t only workers from the hardest hit sectors of the economy who are thinking of switching careers. Our research reveals that over-45s currently employed in sales, media and marketing (58%), manufacturing and utilities (54%), finance (53%) and travel and transport (52%) are the most likely to be considering a new career.

But despite their willingness to adapt and upskill, only 23% of over-45s say they’d consider a technology career, and 60% say they don’t know what resources are available to improve their digital skills. This is a real missed opportunity as the UK needs more than three million skilled people in technology careers by 2025.

Simon Lambert, Chief Learning Officer at Microsoft UK, said “There is a dangerous misconception that the tech industry is just an industry for the young. The truth is that we need people with a diverse range of experiences, backgrounds and ages. And we need them now to fill the growing skills gap which, left unplugged, will significantly impact the UK’s recovery. I’d encourage anyone who is considering exploring an encore career to look at the opportunities available at Microsoft Digital Skills Hub for advice on how to get started.”

Finding the confidence to retrain is the key to getting more mid-career switchers to upskill and become part of the post-pandemic tech workforce.

Stuart Lewis, Founder of Rest Less, a digital community for the over 50s, said “Investing time into learning digital and technology skills is important for self-development at any age, however one of the biggest barriers for this generation of workers is simply a lack of confidence. Tailored, accessible courses to help boost the digital skills of mid-life career changers will help to open up new career paths as we rebuild a future for the economy post-pandemic.”

To provide a route into tech for people of all generations, and to ensure employers have access to right talent to help them build back after the pandemic, last year Microsoft launched a five-year campaign called Get On 2021. It will help 1.5 million people build careers in technology and help 300,000 connect to tech job opportunities.

One example of a successful mid-life tech career changer is Carol Milligan, 57. After 25 years working on the ground for an airline, she was made redundant at the age of 48. Following some professional career advice, Carol used her transferable skills and landed a role troubleshooting technical problems for customers at leading travel technology company Amadeus – proving that tech careers are not just for the younger generation.