Baby Boomers Changing Careers: Happiest Jobs

Are you singing “I can’t get no satisfaction” when it comes to your job? Do you find yourself daydreaming about a career change? Do you feel bored, dissatisfied, or exhausted? Do you have the career burnout blues? Or have you recently lost your job or retired and want to keep working but yearn to change directions?

career changeYou’re not alone. Many baby boomers feel the same way. Nonetheless, a career change can be scary. Fear of failure, financial concerns, and perhaps a less than supportive spouse prevents many from leaving their comfort zones.

On the other hand, the biggest rewards come from taking the biggest risks, says life coach Caroline Adams Miller, author of Creating Your Best Life. “Otherwise, you may be filled with regret at the end of your life—and that prospect helps put steel in your spine,” she says.

Studies show that up to 80 percent of baby boomers plan to do some sort of paid work until age 70 to stay mentally sharp, keep engaged socially, and achieve financial security in retirement. That leaves a couple of decades after 50 to work. Perhaps that’s why more and more boomers are contemplating an “encore career” to pursue their passions and create a fulfilling life they can enjoy.

But is it really possible? Certainly!

The American Institute for Economic Research looked at people who changed or tried to change jobs after age 45 and found that 82% of people aged 47 and older who took up new careers in the last two years were successful, and 50% saw a salary increase.

“Don’t view your age or your experience as a liability. It’s a benefit to companies to have a multi-generational workforce,” says Oriana Vogel, vice president of global talent acquisition at American Express. “One of our goals… is to hire employees that can provide a variety of different perspectives and experiences.” Age doesn’t come into consideration when it comes down to hiring the best people, she says.

A report from the Bankers Life Center for a Secure Retirement found that “boomers are just as likely or more likely to be engaged in their work than are the younger Generation X or Millennial generations.”

So, yes, it’s possible to find a different career you love after the age of 50. But which job will make you the happiest? To help you decide and perhaps narrow your choices, I did a bit of research on America’s happiest and unhappiest jobs:


Kununu created a “Career Happiness Index,” looking at nearly 200,000 employee reviews from 2016 to name three of the nation’s happiest industries of 2016.

Public administration topped the list, perhaps because government employees enjoy great benefits, hours, vacation policies, job stability, and support from management. In addition, employees felt that they were working for the common good, serving the public.

Consulting is a booming industry with a projected growth rate of 18%. Workers found their work challenging and enjoyed collaborating with others.

ARtistInterestingly to me, since I work as a writer, the arts and entertainment industry made the top three. Creative pursuits may not make you rich but could help you be happier.

CareerBliss created a ranking of the Happiest and Unhappiest Jobs in 2016. At the top of their list were recruiters.

“Finding great jobs for other people creates a happy work environment for recruiters…many recruiters find joy in helping others find jobs and earning bonuses for doing so,” said CareerBliss CEO Heidi Golledge.

A USA Today article summarized job satisfaction as jobs involving caring for, teaching, and protecting others as well as creative pursuits. Research published by NORC at the University of Chicago listed the top five positions for job satisfaction, in ascending order, clergy, physical therapists, firefighters, educational administrators, and artists.


unhappy womanAccording to kununu’s data, professionals in healthcare/pharmaceutical, legal advice and real estate/facility management score the lowest. CareerBliss listed sales account manager as Unhappiest Job. Rounding out the bottom five are security officer, merchandiser, cashier, and driver.


A word of caution. Remember, an encore career that brings you happiness isn’t all about pursuing your passions. As the research above proves, when considering your choices, don’t forget to consider practical work issues such as job security, pay, benefits, work-life balance, and office environment. For example, just because you love a hobby doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy it once you add the stress of making a living. Take it from me, I chose to write professionally – and no regrets – but it wasn’t near as fun and carefree as when writing was something I did for my own pleasure.

Another option to think about? As I wrote in a previous blog, many boomers approaching retirement are choosing to become entrepreneurs and starting their own businesses. They want to continue working – but on their own terms.

In fact, a new Gallop study showed adults over the age of 50 are one of the fastest-growing groups of entrepreneurs in the U.S.  An overwhelming majority — 83% — say their main reason for launching a venture was a lifestyle choice or to increase their income. This poll suggests that boomers are searching for independence, a flexible schedule that leaves room for volunteering and traveling. And they want to pursue their interests and passions before it’s too late.

Keep your mind open and be creative. Consider wearing more than one hat and find a customized solution that puts you in control of your life. For example, you could combine writing, public speaking, teaching, and consulting. The Internet has opened up new freelancing opportunities.

The good news? Despite the hard work and dedication required to start and run a small business, 94 percent of U.S. entrepreneurs are happy being small business owners, according to a new survey by the online small business community, Manta.


Don’t rush into any decisions or immediately quit your job. Prepare and take it one step at a time.

Depending on your financial situation, “you might have to do it [a career change] incrementally,” says Kerry Hannon, author of Great Jobs for Everyone 50-Plus. “You need a job that pays the bills now. Then, on the side, take the classes you need, build those skills you need,” she suggests.

Do the necessary research. Learn about the new career you’re interested in, including pay, job satisfaction, and trends in the industry as well as the skills, qualifications, certifications, and credentials you’ll need. Strategically network with people in the field. Keep your skills up-to-date and utilize LinkedIn and other social media sites.

Internships and volunteer work can help you gain hands-on experience and test-drive a new career path before quitting a job.

Keep these tips in mind and you can move forward with confidence to reinvent your life and start that new career!

Images courtesy of Stuart Miles and David Castillo Dominici at


Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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12 Responses

  1. We seem to be on the same wavelength this week, Julie, when it comes to job changes and charting new pastures career-wise. 🙂

    I’ve seen a lot of my late father’s colleagues start a post-retirement career and do well as political analysts, journalists and authors. My Dad devoted his post-retirement time to writing for newspapers and promoting my Mom’s art. He was ahead of his times when he realized that an artist website was important for her visibility and reach. We’re talking about 2004 and her’s was one of the first artist website in India. We changed it when Google changed its rules. Who says life is meant for only 1 career?

    • juliegorges says:

      Thanks for sharing all the inspiring experiences about older people, including your Dad, who changed their careers later in life with much success! Enjoyed your blog on this same subject as well, including seven insightful signs that show it may be time to take the plunge and make a career change. So glad you stopped by!

  2. As someone who has engineered a few major life shifts through the years, I love this post and topic, Julie! Starting at the bottom of the barrel, I spent some time as a sales manager before working my way up the corporate ladder, so I can understand why it ended up at the bottom. Most sales managers have very little control. They live under a microscope and are bombarded with expectations and quotas and that can really wear you down.

    My last major pivot took me from the travel industry into life and small business coaching. I still do some of that and am working on a series of courses, but find having the freedom to work at home and invest my time on my art, writing and helping people has made me a very happy person indeed. 🙂

  3. Suzie Cheel says:

    As someone who has had many career changes, this is a brilliant article. Having moved from teaching to governess to teacher to trainer to artist and entrepreneur, I understand the importance of knowing when to make the shift. xxx

    • juliegorges says:

      Wow, that’s a real compliment coming from someone who has clearly experienced many career changes in her lifetime. Thanks for sharing your inspiring example!

  4. Change seems to be a subject that is on the minds of millions, so your blog is so “right-on.” A idea of changing jobs can be scary but sometimes necessary. I like your tips for choosing a new career because it can make the the thought of job-change less stressful. Like our clothes often we grow out of your job.

    • juliegorges says:

      Love your example – yes, because of personal growth experienced during one’s lifetime, people may “grow” out of their job. As you pointed out, this can be scary, but a necessary step to find satisfaction and fulfillment. Thanks for your insightful comments!

  5. Tracy Bryan says:

    Hi Julie! It’s so refreshing to know that “ageism” is becoming less of a trend in the workforce and more people are feeling encouraged to be inspired in their jobs, regardless of their age. Even though it may be a cliche, it seems like the older I get, the less time I want to spend doing something that doesn’t bring me happiness! Thanks for the enlightening post:)

    • juliegorges says:

      Couldn’t agree with you more, Tracy. Now that I’m well into my 50’s I feel the same way. Glad you enjoyed the article and thanks so much for stopping by!

  6. Annie Romero says:

    Been reading up on this, this was a great post and these comments are very helpful. It’s daunting trying to reinvent yourself at our age. I have been reading John Tarnoff’s book Boomer Reinvention. His methods seem as though they would work for me, but it is still intimidating. But I have to just go for it!! Tarnoff’s site with his book info is, could help others.

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