While having life experience can be useful in most walks of life, there are certain jobs where the application of skills and knowledge gained simply by living can be invaluable. These jobs often revolve around supporting people through the big things in life that many of us go through, for instance, making important financial decisions, giving birth, or getting an education.
Every time we go through an experience (particularly if it’s a challenging one), we usually develop knowledge and/or skills about how best to cope or excel in those circumstances. This makes us more prepared to approach a similar situation the next time around and can give us a great deal of empathy for others who are going through the same set of circumstances.
Many of our members have also told us that they’re keen to find roles and opportunities where they can use their skills and experience to help others. So with that in mind, here are 13 job roles where life experience can be a real advantage…
Do you find that you really enjoy helping family and friends with their problems? Are you always happy to lend a listening ear and offer some kind words?
Counsellors work with individuals, couples, or families – offering them a safe place to speak and get things off their chest whilst helping them work towards resolving certain issues in their lives. People seek counselling for many reasons; some are looking to fix problems in their relationships, while others may be trying to overcome feelings related to a particularly traumatic experience.
Although counselling can be an incredibly rewarding career path, it can also be very challenging trying not to get caught up in others’ circumstances, which is where having those extra years of life experience under your belt can be a real bonus. Experienced individuals who have lived through life’s ups and downs can often find it easier to empathise with others who are going through similar circumstances.
You don’t need a degree to become a counsellor, but the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) tend to set their own standards for people wanting to enter the profession, which are widely recognised by many employers.
If you’re interested in becoming a counsellor, it’s recommended that you undertake a three-stage course. This can take about three years, but it ensures that you have plenty of opportunities to put your counselling skills into real-life practise and get feedback from supervisors and tutors.
Stage 1 – Introduction to Counselling – a course designed to introduce you to the basics of counselling and help decide whether it’s for you before you fully commit. It usually takes eight to twelve weeks and is run by adult education centres or local colleges.
Stage 2 – Certificate in Counselling – a course designed to help you develop your counselling skills and give you a deeper understanding of counselling theories, ethics, and self-awareness. It’s usually run by adult education colleges or local colleges and is run on a part-time basis for a year.
For these first two stages, it’s best to check with your local colleges, universities, and adult education centres to see which courses are running, when, and what the associated costs are.
And for the final stage…
Stage 3 – Core Practitioner Training – at this stage, many people take a diploma in counselling which consists of in-depth training based on internationally recognised standards. This stage of training usually takes one year full-time or 2-3 years part-time and will involve classroom and placement-based learning.
BACP have a list of accredited diplomas on their website which you can view here:
Midwives have a privileged role because they’re responsible for helping mothers deliver their babies safely into the world – and there’s no delivery more precious than the gift of life!
During labour, both a woman and her baby are at their most vulnerable, and midwives – as well as having all the right medical knowledge – must be able to do and say the right things to coach them through what’s usually one of the best, but also most labour intensive experiences that they’ll ever go through – both emotionally and physically.
Midwifery is the sort of role where all kinds of life experience can be valuable. For example, if you worked in coaching or leadership roles in the past, then you may find it easier to adopt the calm but firm demeanour needed to encourage a woman to keep going throughout labour. Or if you’ve had your own kids, then you’ll likely be able to relate to many of the things mums are thinking or feeling.
Becoming a midwife is a big commitment, so if you’re not sure whether you’d like it, then the best way to find out is to spend some time volunteering in a maternity ward to see whether it’s right for you. If you decide that it is, then the next step would be to do a midwifery degree course, which usually takes three years and will allow you to learn plenty of theory in the classroom and then practise what you’ve learnt out on placement.
Like most degrees, there’s a significant cost involved, but depending on your circumstances, you may have the chance to apply for grants, loans, and bursaries to help you out with the cost of daily living. Sadly, it’s worth pointing out that frustratingly, Government-funded postgraduate loans currently have an age cut-off of 60. This is something we simply cannot understand.
3. Local councillor
If you’re keen to make a difference in the lives of people in your local area and promote change where necessary, then it might be worth thinking about becoming a local councillor.
Councillors must either live or work in their local area because they’re elected to the local council to represent that community and communicate council policy and decisions to them. They act as advocates for the people in their constituency and ‘case workers’ for individuals in that area who request advice and support.
Councillors spend time in formalised council meetings and out in the community speaking to and working with the public. They’re expected to balance the needs and interests of residents, the political party they represent, and the council.
Each councillor works in their own way, so your working pattern will be up to you to decide depending on your role within the council and how many commitments you choose to take on. This isn’t a job to take on if you’re keen to earn a high salary, as you don’t earn ‘wages’ as such, but you’ll be paid an allowance, which varies depending on how many responsibilities you have within your role.
If you’re thinking about applying for this role, then you’ll need to have good leadership and decision-making skills because you’ll have a lot of people relying on you to try and help make their lives better. The role can be very challenging and no two days will be the same with new issues arising all the time, so having a large amount of life experience can be helpful in giving you awareness of both yourself and of political and social matters.
If you think this is a role that you could really sink your teeth into, then there are two main routes you can take. You can either decide to stand for one of the political parties or independently.
Want to stand for a political party?
If you decide that you want to stand for a political party, then it’s a good idea to get in touch with your chosen party locally as soon as you can so they can advise you further on what’s involved.
Or do you want to stand as an independent candidate?
If you want to stand as an independent candidate, then you can contact your council’s electoral services department. You’ll then need to start identifying issues in your local area and identifying how your opinion differs from the political parties to make your case for why people should vote for you.
Getting officially nominated
No matter how you choose to stand, it’s important to make sure that you have been officially nominated by at least ten people (and that you have consented to being nominated) before the local election. Your nomination papers and written consent must be submitted to your local democratic services department 19 working days before the election date arrives.
4. Care worker
Caring is a role where you can make a real positive difference in people’s lives. Care workers support individuals who’re in need of care due to a range of factors, such as age, disability, and/or illness.
They typically spend their days helping people with everyday tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, washing, and dressing. Although, care workers will also provide emotional support to both the person receiving care and their families.
Care workers often work closely with families and other professionals to deliver the best care plan possible. And this role can be carried out in a range of different settings – from schools and care homes, to hopitals and private housing. There are also a range of different roles available; you can work in a part-time or full-time capacity, and you can choose to live-out to live-in.
This is a role that’s perfectly suited to those with some life experience under their belt. Older adults tend to have a great deal of emotional intelligence, which is ideal when you need to be a shoulder to lean on (or cry on) for the person you’re caring for.
You don’t necessarily need any formal qualifications to become a care worker – you just need to be kind, compassionate, and eager to help others. Lots of hospitals, care homes, or other care organisations will hire you with no previous skills and experience and train you on the job – so there’s no reason why you can’t apply now…
Alternatively, you can complete some courses before sending off your application, to boost your chances of being hired. Why not take a look at our guide to becoming a care worker to find out more? Or read Lina and Caroline’s stories of how they became care workers later in life?
5. Driving instructor
Do you enjoy the freedom that driving gives you? Would you like to help others enjoy it safely too?
Driving instructors teach people of all ages to drive – from how to start the car to passing their test. It can be very rewarding seeing the progress they make each time they get behind the wheel.
The role is ideal for people who are calm, patient, and confident behind the wheel, as you’ll need to try and instil these attributes in the students that you teach, and help them become as safe behind the wheel as possible.
Most people who become driving instructors have been driving for several years and have built up enough experience that they feel comfortable sitting in the passenger seat next to a complete beginner; identifying potential issues ahead of time so that they can intervene if necessary.
As a driving instructor, you could earn anywhere between £20-£30 per hour, depending on what area you teach in and whether you work for yourself or a driving school franchise. Some people prefer to work for a driving school or agency first whilst they build up confidence in their teaching ability, whereas others prefer to work on a self-employed basis, choosing their own schedule – but it’s completely up to you!
The journey to becoming an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI), is a fairly straightforward three-step process.
- Apply to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) who will assess your suitability for the role. They usually accept people who are:
- Aged 21 or over
- Have had a full car driving license for at least three years
- Qualified to drive the same category of vehicle they plan on supervising students in
- Once your initial application has been approved, you’ll be able to start your driving instructor training which will prepare you for three qualifying tests and is offered by a wide range of driving schools across the country.
Although the training (and tests) come at a cost, you can often successfully complete each test within a matter of weeks at a test centre near you.
When you’ve successfully completed training and passed each of the three qualifying tests, you’ll have 12 months to apply for your first Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) badge – there’s a fee for this but once you have it, you won’t need to renew it for four years.
The ADI badge means you’re now allowed to get out on the road and charge students money for your teaching service.
Or find out more…
Teaching is more than just a transfer of academic knowledge. Good teachers usually have a strong desire to help their pupils fall in love with learning, which invariably means adapting lessons to make learning as easy as possible.
Many pupils look up to teachers and see them as role models who they can turn to for advice and guidance on various life matters, including future goals. Teachers with plenty of life experience are often well equipped in helping pupils look at the bigger picture and understand how hard work and determination in the present can make a significant difference to the future.
Pupils often learn lessons about life from teachers that they carry with them long after they leave the classroom – and most of us will remember our most inspiring teachers for the rest of our lives!
If you’re interested in becoming a teacher, then there are several routes that you can take to gain Qualified Teacher Status, depending on what skills and qualifications you have already – from completing an undergraduate teacher-training degree, through to taking on a specialised training programme that’s geared towards people who are retraining later in life.
An option for those who have a great deal of experience in a subject area – but not necessarily a degree in it – is to join a Now Teach programme. You’ll receive school-led training whilst working towards QTS and will also be supported thereafter once you become a Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT).
The programme is designed to respect and understand the leap of faith that people take when they consider starting a teaching degree later in life. Now Teach’s developed programme of wrap-around support aims to make sure that people remain in the profession long term.
7. Set up your own business
Have you got many years of experience in a particular industry or profession? Or perhaps you’re skilled in a hobby that you spend time doing outside of work? If so, then it might be worth thinking about how you can use this experience to become your own boss and work to a schedule that suits you.
For example, if you love getting creative in the kitchen, then you could try setting up your own baking business or, if you’ve got knowledge and experience in a particular subject area, then you could try your hand at online tutoring.
When it comes to setting up your own business, the hardest part is often getting started and building up a client base. But if you’re confident in your ideas and your ability to make it work, then the chance to be your own boss, choose your own hours, and set your own rates can be quite attractive. As the saying goes, fortune favours the brave!
And while going into business for yourself can seem a little daunting, especially if it’s your first time, then remember that you don’t have to go it alone – you can always get help from experienced professionals, through organisations like Auditel.
Auditel is a network of 100 self-employed business consultants that can not only help you to build your own business, but to achieve a better work-life balance, save money, boost profits, and most importantly, enjoy your new venture.
8. Relationship counsellor
Would you enjoy helping couples to move past points of conflict, communicate more effectively, and strengthen their bond?
Relationship counsellors provide couples with a safe, non-judgmental environment to communicate with one another and identify any underlying issues that may be causing them to argue or feel disconnected. Couples may seek counselling to work on a range of different problems including infidelity or trust issues.
Helping couples to go on a journey together and seeing the progress they make as they address and understand their issues better can be very satisfying – especially for people who get real enjoyment out of helping other people better their lives.
However, as with any counselling role, you’ll need to be able to separate your own thoughts and feelings from those of your clients. For many, this can prove challenging, which is why it’s often a necessary requirement for counsellors to undergo counselling themselves to help them work through what they see and hear in client sessions.
It can also help if you’ve had both good and bad experiences with relationships yourself, as you may be better able to understand and empathise with where each partner is coming from – but the trick here is to be able to use this experience to your advantage without letting it cloud your judgement or create bias.
9. Youth worker
Life experience alone is not enough to become a good youth worker, but combined with solid training and strong boundaries, it really does add magic to the role.
Youth workers support children and young people aged between 11 and 25 years old; enabling them to have a voice and place in society. This is usually achieved by helping them to improve their social, personal, and emotional development so that they can achieve their full potential.
The young people who usually benefit from youth work are those who have problems with things like bullying, difficult family relationships, crime, or their health, which means they tend to feel somewhat cast adrift from their community.
Many young people who are going through a very difficult time can find it hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel and to look beyond the struggles they’re facing in the present. But youth workers are able to help them look towards a brighter, more positive future and show them that things can get better. There are many youth workers who have been through very trying times themselves but have come out the other side and now want to help others do the same.
To become a qualified youth worker, there are a few different routes you could take:
- Complete a bachelor’s degree in youth work or youth studies that is recognised by the National Youth Agency (NYA). You’ll also need to try and gain some experience alongside your studies if you want to increase your chances of applying for professional youth work roles when you graduate (i.e. by volunteering at a local youth club).
Once qualified, you could work at a local youth club, community centre, or religious centre running activities or drop-in services where, in addition to your training, you’ll also need to have a good business sense as you’ll often be managing budgets and applying for grants in order to fund these activities and services.
- Volunteer at a youth club whilst you complete a Level 2 Certificate or Level 3 Diploma in Youth Work Practice. Some employers will also take on youth work apprentices – which could give you the chance to earn whilst completing your Level 2 or Level 3 Award. You can then apply for a job as a youth support worker and take further training on the job.
However, to reach professional youth worker status, you’ll still need to complete a degree (which is possible to do on a part-time basis alongside your job).
It’s best to contact your local youth clubs, community or religious centres to find out whether they are taking on volunteers or apprentices.
- If you’ve got relevant skills, experience, and qualifications (e.g. in career guidance, probation, teaching, or community development), then you can apply to be a youth support worker. You’ll then be able to complete either an undergraduate or postgraduate degree whilst you’re working.
Consulting is a great career role for professionals who have spent many years in a corporate environment building up extensive knowledge and experience. You might be surprised how valuable your skills can be to others…
Consultants simply exchange their knowledge for money and mostly work for businesses that want access to specialist knowledge and advice. Many consultants work on a freelance basis and have regular clients – for example, a consultant might be called in every few months on a freelance basis by a local company or an individual who needs their website updating and will happily pay you to update it for them. Others, however, are hired by big businesses to help with specific projects or initiatives.
For freelance opportunities, could try starting with sites like Guru and Upwork to build up a client base, or you if you’d prefer something more permanent, you can apply to companies advertising roles online. This is one area where using your own personal and professional network to open up opportunities and to get introductions to potential clients can be incredibly powerful.
11. Financial coach
If you enjoy number crunching and you’re great at managing your money, then perhaps you should consider a career as a financial coach…
The decisions we make about our finances are some of the toughest and most nerve-wracking decisions that we’ll make in our lives, which is why it’s so important for people to make sure that their choices are logical and well-informed. It’s at this point that some people seek outside help from someone who has financial expertise and can help them carve a positive path for themselves.
People who go into financial coaching need to have a solid understanding of money and of the consequences of making various different financial decisions. While much of this technical information can be learnt through resources such as courses or books, you’re likely to have a better idea about the emotions and consequences linked to important financial decisions if you’ve lived through them yourself, for example, taking out a mortgage or budgeting after being made redundant.
You don’t need to be a financial expert to get started as a financial coach as many employers will train you on the job, but it does help if you have a strong academic background (which doesn’t have to be related to finance) or a professional background in coaching or influencing people, such as teaching or general management.
If you want some more inspiration, then why not take a look at Phil’s story? Phil became a financial coach at 60.
12. Life coach
Life is full of ups, downs, twists, and turns and sometimes it can be difficult to work out where we’re supposed to be headed next or to find the courage to make the move that we know is for the best. This is where a life coach often steps in.
A life coach’s job is to motivate, inspire, and encourage people to follow a positive life path; whether this means giving them the support they need to leave a toxic relationship or encouraging them to follow their dreams and go back to university.
Although it isn’t essential to have life experience to become a life coach, it will certainly help you to better understand, relate to, and empathise with clients who could be facing a range of different decisions or dilemmas.
Nearly all life coaches work on a self-employed basis, enjoying the flexibility that the role offers and setting their own hourly rate. You don’t need any formal qualifications to get started but if you are new to coaching, it’s a good idea to develop your coaching skills and enhance your credibility by taking a course.
As you’ll be self-employed, it’s also helpful to sharpen your skills on how to win new clients etc. There are some helpful courses out there that will give you tips on how to go about setting up your services as a business and trying to win new clients.
13. Tour guide
By becoming a tour guide, you could get to visit your favourite destinations, whilst helping others to see why these places are so special. If you’re well-travelled, with excellent communication skills and a desire to meet lots of new people, then touring could be a natural career path for you to take.
Whilst it’s a lot of fun, it’s also a fairly competitive field, so you’ll need to have determination and a genuine passion for your profession and your passengers.
The best way to get started is by doing some research to make sure that you find a tour operator that aligns with your interests. For example, would you prefer to give historic tours at a slower pace or fast-paced activity-filled tours where you’re hopping from one place to the next? This is also a good way to find out how much experience your preferred tour operator requires from candidates, or whether there are certain qualifications required.
Many tour operators – both local or major ones – will be willing to provide training as long as you’re enthusiastic about the role and willing to learn. However, many will expect you to be knowledgeable about the area that you’re applying to work in e.g. maybe you’ve lived there or visited it frequently, or have a degree related to culture or history of the region.
There are many jobs in which professional skills and experience are only one aspect of what can help you to succeed.
From being empathetic in a counselling job to having plenty of advice and wisdom to share with your students as a teacher, life experience can give you that extra edge. So if you’re looking for a new role or simply considering a change of career, don’t underestimate the power and value of your journey so far.
For some more inspiration, why not check out the job ideas section of our website? Here, you’ll find anything from 13 career change ideas for the over 50s, to articles such as Unique jobs you might not have considered and Top driving roles that offer you flexibility and freedom.