I’m Starting An Entry-Level Job At 51 While Others Retire

After years of trying to figure out what I truly want, things are starting to make sense.

Excited woman, starting a new career at fifty one MariaDubova | Canva

On Monday I’m starting a new, full-time job. I haven’t worked full-time for more than 18 years, which makes me slightly anxious.

My daily to-do list includes work, cooking, cleaning, exercising, walking the dog, and getting some writing done. I’m a routine person and my current ones have been perfected over the years. The fact that these will be thrown up into the air starting Monday is a little nerve-wracking, and I've questioned if I am mad to be taking this step at my age.


But it’s an uncomfortable step that’s worth taking because, finally, after years of trying to figure out what I truly want, things are starting to make sense.

But not everything makes sense. The decision to take on a new career in my early 50s makes no financial sense; I’m going to be working more for less money. And I'll have line managers and bosses who are more than 20 years my junior.

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A few years ago, my ego would have balked at this suggestion. I was caught up in the hamster wheel of self-employment, constantly trying to be more, do more, and earn more. Setting goals that I never stuck to and changing my mind every few months about what I wanted to do. Trying to copy those that had achieved success within the numbers game — income, followers, likes, comments. And trying to get to where I should be at this stage of my life.


Frantically working on my mindset and manically manifesting yielded small triumphs that didn’t last long. Trying to persuade myself to be happy and forcing myself to be someone I wasn’t did little to boost my fragile self-esteem.

Even the so-called flexibility of being my own boss felt uncomfortable. I felt guilty when I wasn’t working as there was always something I "could" be doing. Since I was yet to experience that Eureka moment when everything fell into place and money fell into my lap, I felt obliged to use every bit of spare time to work toward my “success.” I've never been motivated by money, but I told myself that’s what I should be motivated by. I wasn’t very convincing.

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Frustration popped up regularly and when it did it hit me hard. Why couldn’t I just find my “thing?” I felt unfulfilled and useless. My regrets were allowed to run unfiltered through my head, filling my soul with disappointment and shame that at nearly 50 years old I still hadn’t figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up.


And then I turned 50, and something switched inside of me.

Maturity, improved self-esteem, no longer giving a crap — whatever it was, enabled me to gradually drop the societal yardsticks I had been striving to achieve. I stopped comparing my life to people I knew nothing about and focused on my journey. I dropped the goal-setting and decided to follow a more natural path.

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It hasn’t been an easy transition. My manic routines have been difficult to extract myself from because being busy has always been a personal accolade of mine. I got stuck in between two differing mindsets — one of doing and one of being. This has caused a lot of uncertainty, frustration, and feelings of never getting anything right. But, as I was juggling these two perspectives, something popped up on my laptop: Volunteering.


My heart said yes — this was a volunteering role for a domestic abuse charity, a subject I'm passionate about.

My head said no — you should spend that time trying to earn more money and attain the success that will make you feel “enough.”

I completed the form and my heart flipped when I realized how strong my application was. My head immediately interjected with a question: “Do you want to add more to your schedule?” By the time I had finished debating with myself, I was 50/50. I clicked submit on the volunteer application and left it to fate to decide.

Within days I received a reply and was asked to come for an informal interview. It was surprisingly easy. I was used to impatiently forcing things along. The interview was enjoyable. We spoke about the charity and the issues facing victims and survivors. I felt energized and alive. My cheeks were flushed, and I knew I was speaking too quickly but this woman seemed to match my energy. She offered me the position on the spot.


Despite this initial flurry of enthusiasm, I still had doubts but followed that little voice inside of me that urged me to continue. It was a big triumph — no triggers, just the opportunity to use my skills to provide a heartfelt service to women who were in the same position I had been in many years ago.

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In my new position, I facilitated training, helped out with events, and supported various women in their journeys away from domestic abuse. I always left with a deep feeling of satisfaction. But an issue quickly arose: It wasn’t enough. I wanted to do more and be a bigger part of the team I had got to know and respect.

I had visited the jobs section of their website numerous times over the years but always talked myself out of applying. Long hours, low pay, and a long list of personal and professional requirements. I told myself I was too old to start all over again.


This time, I started the application form before I had the chance to talk myself out of it. As I filled out my personal and varied professional details, excitement surged through me. I felt everything coming together. My life experiences, myriad previous job roles, and varied qualifications, all clicked together to form an impressive personal statement. This was where I was meant to be.

The interview was nerve-wracking as the job was so important to me. Self-doubt took over and as I left, I ran through everything I said and didn’t. I was offered the job that same day, with feedback that I interviewed extremely well. I have continued volunteering while waiting for my paid start date because I genuinely love doing it. And from next week, I will be getting paid to do the same thing.

Suddenly, I am enough. I don’t need to earn more, do more, or be more. My age is irrelevant, and so is my income. My heart is full, my soul is on fire and my regrets have dispersed because my long, chequered past has led me to where I am meant to be.


I have found myself with goals — goals that feel deep within me. They do not need forcing or encouraging, they are just there. My personal growth is no longer focused on surface-level markers based on what society says I should be, do, and have. My growth is personal to me.

Finally, my life is clicking into place. The dots from my past are connecting and everything is making sense. Responsibilities are naturally falling away, allowing me to throw myself into something I am passionate about.

I’m 51 years old, starting a new career at entry-level on an entry-level wage decades later than other people and I couldn’t be happier. I have found my purpose and I have rediscovered myself.


You’re never too old to do that.

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Lisa Johnson is a writer and coach, based in the UK. She is a regular writer on Medium, sharing her personal experiences and lessons learned, proving that there is life, love, and happiness after domestic abuse.