The happiest jobs for baby boomers looking to change careers

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 sadness of professional exhaustion? Or have you recently lost your job or retired and want to continue working but long to change your address?

You’re not alone. Many baby boomers feel the same way. A career change can be scary. Perhaps financial concerns, fear of failure, or a lukewarm spouse have kept you from stepping out of your comfort zone thus far. But keep in mind that the biggest rewards come from taking the biggest risks, says life coach Caroline Adams Miller, author of Creating Your Best Life. “Otherwise, you may find yourself with regret at the end of your life, and that perspective helps put steel in your spine,” she says.

Studies show that as many as 80 percent of baby boomers plan to do some form of paid work until age 70 to stay mentally sharp, socially engaged and financially secure in retirement. That leaves a couple of decades past 50 to work. Perhaps that’s why more and more boomers are contemplating a “repeat run” to pursue their passions and create a fulfilling life they can enjoy.

But is it really possible? Surely!

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 over 47 who took on new careers in the last two years were successful, and half of them earned more money.

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

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

So yes, it is possible to find a different career that you like after the age of 50. But what job will make you the happiest? To help you decide and perhaps narrow down your options, I did a little research on the happiest and unhappiest jobs in America:


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

Civil service topped the list, perhaps because government employees enjoy great benefits, hours, vacation policies, job stability, and management support. In addition, employees felt they were working for the greater good, serving the public, the study noted.

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

Interestingly for me, since I work as a writer, the arts and entertainment industry made the top three. Creative activities may not make you rich, but they could help you be happy.

In another study, CareerBliss created a ranking of the happiest and unhappiest jobs in 2016 and listed recruiters as the happiest employees. “Finding good jobs for other people creates a happy work environment for recruiters…many recruiters find joy in helping others find jobs and earn bonuses for doing so,” said CareerBliss Executive Director Heidi Golledge.

A USA Today article listed jobs related to caring, teaching, and protecting others, as well as creative pursuits, as the most fulfilling.

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.


You may want to stay away from jobs where people aren’t jumping for joy. What careers seem to make people moody and miserable?

According to kununu data, professionals in health/pharmaceuticals, legal advice, and real estate/facilities management scored the lowest on happiness.

CareerBliss listed sales account manager as the most unhappy job. Completing the bottom five are the security officer, merchant, cashier, and driver.


A word of caution. Remember, an encore career that brings you happiness isn’t just about pursuing your passions. As the above research demonstrates, when considering your options, don’t forget to consider practical work issues such as job security, salary, benefits, work-life balance, and the 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. Believe me, I think about writing professionally, and I don’t regret it, but it wasn’t as fun and carefree as when writing was something I did for my own pleasure.


Another option? Many boomers nearing retirement are choosing to become entrepreneurs and start their own businesses. They want to keep working, but on their own terms.

In fact, a new study from Gallop showed that adults over 50 are one of the fastest growing groups of entrepreneurs in the US income. This survey suggests that boomers are looking for a flexible schedule that leaves room for the independence of volunteering and travel. 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 custom solution that puts you in control of your life. For example, you could combine writing, speaking, teaching, and consulting. The Internet has opened up new opportunities for freelancing.

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


Do not rush into any decision or immediately quit your job. Prepare yourself and take one step at a time.

Depending on your financial situation, “you may have to [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 sidelines, take the classes you need, build the skills you need,” she suggests.

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

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

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

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