Starting over in your 50s
May 27, 2015 6:28 PM   Subscribe

My friend is looking to change careers and hopefully move into the nonprofit world. Is a career change possible at her age? What should she be doing? What types of positions should she be looking for? She's in her 50s and has a legal background. She can practice law and formerly worked in legal publishing, but she hasn't worked in law for decades. She's spent the last decade or so as an analyst at a financial company.
posted by topoisomerase to Work & Money (8 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
My mom did this. She edged her way in by doing an unpaid internship for maybe 6 months at the local office of a national nonprofit, and also did a fair amount of networking at events for professionals in nonprofit fields. She's now working for a local nonprofit organization as a grant writer.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 6:36 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

"The nonprofit world" is big. Her skills are useful, but do you have any sense what she cares about within that sector? Like, does she want to work for an advocacy organization, a health charity, global aid, a museum, environment, education, etc? It's much easier to tailor suggestions by organizational genre.
posted by Miko at 6:58 PM on May 27, 2015

I would suggest maybe looking at the other half too - like what does she want to do everyday? Fundraising? Administration? I'm not sure what a financial analyst does but would her skills match up to? Interning is a great suggestion for getting a feel for things.
posted by oneear at 7:12 PM on May 27, 2015

Yes, she has useful skills. Small (100 staff or fewer) nonprofits especially need people who can wear a variety of hats, and one is "all the compliance related stuff," which usually actually means HR, Admin, Finance, and Legal, and is usually called Operations or Administration or Finance. She would be a good fit for that, it sounds like.

A good path to that would be for her to get on a board of a small nonprofit, ideally in the treasurer role. (Which should be easy: small nonprofits have a lot of difficulty recruiting competent financial oversight.) She might also want to brush up on accounting for non-accountants, and maybe learn a little about IT, which is often part of that overall package of work.

It is much easier to move from the private sector to nonprofit rather than the reverse. Kind of dumb, but true :)
posted by Susan PG at 7:13 PM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

My dad just received a nice hiring package from a company that is a career move, and he's a few years from possible retirement. The reason that this worked for him is because not all companies are looking to hire newly harvested youngsters right out of college. Some are looking for people who have a proven track record of responsibility and a particular skill set in working with people and teams that has been refined over time, and then able to be adapted to a new work environment. All that to say, age isn't necessarily a deterrent. There are places out there that value a history of hard work and predictable responsibility for a potentially more limited number of years versus someone they think might be around for the next couple of decades, but they may have to roll the dice a bit on them.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:23 PM on May 27, 2015

Yes, definitely reach out to local nonprofits and offer to serve on the board. It's really hard to find people with legal and financial skills.
posted by betsybetsy at 3:59 AM on May 28, 2015

Just a note, boards are volunteer roles.

IF she can practice, she could actually set up her own business being on retainer for nonprofits for their various legal needs.
posted by Miko at 6:15 AM on May 28, 2015

Highly trained people, especially those with law or other technical expertise, will be welcomes into a nonprofit org with open arms. Your friend will not be paid anything like what she may have grown accustomed to earning, but her skills and experience will be much appreciated.

(FWIW, the 501(c)(3) I work with most often is staffed about half by young idealists willing to work for less, and half by retirement-proximate professionals who have made their $ and are looking to make a difference. It's a nice melange.)
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:17 AM on May 28, 2015

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