Adult Education and Career Changes

Posted on Category: Career Management
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Adult Education and Career Changes | Susan Heim


Baby Boomers in their 50’s and 60’s are heading into the final stretch of their working years. And it has become a period of great vulnerability for some. While you are not quite ready to retire, you may want to slow down, both physically and mentally. However, your employer must compete in a fast-paced, technologically advanced, global marketplace. Your skills must match their needs, or you risk redundancy. Do not become blind to the reality of someone younger, more energetic and qualified replacing you. Your experience and laurels will only take you so far. A job loss in your mature years will feel like a slap in the face. Adult education offers many individuals the key to remaining relevant and employed, at least, until you are ready to retire.

Changing Times

Boomers remain strongly influenced by the world they grew up in. Following the Great Depression, their parents experienced job security like no other generation. Through the Industrial Revolution, most worked at the same job for their entire adulthood and were buoyed into retirement with secure pensions.

Fast forward to a generation later and the landscape is unrecognizable. Automation has replaced human driven manufacturing jobs. And technology is impacting jobs in virtually every other sector. Driving a cab for a living is no longer a viable profession today because of tech giants, Uber and Lyft. Similarly, AirBnB has forced the hospitality industry to pull up their socks. Amazon is bringing brick and mortar retail giants to their knees. All of this has a direct impact on not just the number, but the quality of jobs.

On top of it all, layer in the impact of globalization. Many jobs like tech support, bookkeeping and even HR, can be farmed off-shore, at a fraction of North American costs.  No sector, public or private, is immune from seismic economic forces which govern the world today.

Boomers in the workforce are not in the same situation their parents were at the same age. A job for life is a pipe dream. And retirement with a private pension plan is no longer the norm.

Matching Skills to Jobs

However, the job market remains stronger than ever. At one end of the scale, you will face fierce competition to land full time jobs, which come loaded with health, dental and other benefits. Very few organizations offer pensions, especially in the private sector.

At the other end, you will graze through a plethora of part-time gigs, independent contractor jobs and entrepreneurial pursuits, where you will remain in a constant job hunt. However, these working arrangements offer you flexibility and hours that might allow you to work at the slower pace you desire. With proper planning, many candidates in their 50’s and 60’s, can successfully slide into well paid consulting careers.

Regardless, of the path you choose, your skills must match the needs of a dynamic commercial society. You are operating in an environment that did not exist when you entered the workforce. Your education and decades of marketing experience, for example, must be transferable to Social Media platforms today. Facebook is only 15 years old. Chances are, you did not learn it in school. Can you work Instagram and Snapchat as proficiently as a millennial who grew up with it? Your marketing experience might mean little if it does not align with your employer’s needs, or those of your clients and customers.

The biggest paradigm change for working Boomers today is discovering that continuous learning through adult education must become the norm. It will allow you to remain nimble and on top of your game.

Back to School As an Adult

The truth is, as a youth, going to school was the normal thing to do. You will find returning to a learning environment more difficult, the farther removed you are from your younger self.

In addition, life shapes our unique personalities. Your learning style may be very different from another individual. You may not appreciate being boxed into a classroom full of strangers, like you were back in your university days. It can be demoralizing, nerve-wracking and confusing.

This is when the services of a career transition coach become very helpful and it is exactly what we do at Equity. Among other things, we help you prepare for life as an adult learner.

Assessing The Opportunities

After an initial consultation that helps us get to know you, we will assign a personal coach to work with you. Our staff come armed with information you will find invaluable. We will go through the factors and trends that affect traditional industries and provide you with insight into new and upcoming careers in the job market. Together, we identify your inventory of transferable skills and consequently, direct you to education choices that can round out and enhance your talents.

The number of responsibilities you carry in life will play a direct role in your availability for studying. You may be working full-time or responsible for children and parents. And most importantly, you will require downtime for yourself. We factor all of this in when counselling you about your options.

On-line Learning

Fortunately, technology brings the classroom to you. On-line learning affords you the convenience to study on your terms and at your pace. Platforms like Udemy offer hundreds of thousands of courses, cost effectively and conveniently with their famous mantra, “learn anything, on your schedule”. Their downloadable app literally allows you educate yourself, using your phone, while sitting on a hammock, sipping iced tea.

College & University

Traditional educational institutions, like universities and community colleges, too have stepped up to the plate to make adult learning accessible. In addition to on-line courses, they offer distance learning, part-time and evening instructions. Some support continuing education programs that allow mature adults to pursue undergraduate and even postgraduate degrees with flexibility.

Industry & Community Organizations

Education opportunities through industry associations and local community groups require extra research. You will find numerous options through local Facebook, Eventbrite and Meetup groups. Here, you can access skill building, general interest and hobby courses, hosted in a casual environment, right within your neighborhood. The Toronto District School Board, for example, has offered their Learn 4 Life programs for over 160 years to residents of Toronto.

Adult Education

At first glance, adult education can seem like an intimidating subject. However, it is perfectly suited for mature students, who in their quest for self-improvement, remain dogged and highly motivated. It has liberated many of our clients from the rut of boring and dead end jobs.

If you are feeling bogged down or vulnerable at work because of a lack of skills, give us a call. We can help shape your career path through convenient and accessible adult education options.


Susan Heim is the president of Equity Career Transition and Outplacement Services, offering personalized coaching services for individuals in their quest for the perfect job and career. Equity also provides cost-effective outplacement services for organizations, large and small, in both the private and public sector.  Contact us for a quote.

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