Changing Careers After 40

Updated Dec 21, 20225 min
Changing Careers After 40

Changing Careers After 40

Caroline BantonUpdated Dec 21, 20225 min
Changing Careers After 40

People change jobs often over their lifetime. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that from 1978 to 2016, people aged 18 to 52 changed jobs over twelve times. That frequency will be even greater now given the effects of the COVID-19 epidemic.

So, if you’re thinking of embarking on a new career path after age 40... good for you! You are definitely not alone. And it’s not too late to make the change that you have been dreaming of for months or years.

This article is a guide on a midlife career change. It will show you what steps to take to prepare yourself and those around you for the transition to your next job, and how to manage the job search.

Finding the “Why”

If you are in your 40s and itching to change careers, undoubtedly, you have good reason. But you do need to find out exactly what your reasons are. Why? Because changing careers is serious stuff, particularly when you are already established professionally.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many to look for new careers to secure an income, particularly those in the hospitality industry. You can read the story of Patrick Watkins here, who transitioned from a career in event planning to a career in tech after being laid off when the pandemic hit. 

Patrick is young and without many financial obligations. This made changing careers easier for him. Patrick did not yet have the financial obligations of a mortgage, a family, and he did not have elderly parents to take care of as so many in their 40s and 50s now do.. 

If your reasons for wanting change are the right ones, then you should go ahead and start planning your best career. However, if you are just fed up with some aspect of your work, and there is a less disruptive way to solve the problem, you might want to rethink a career change at this stage in your life. How can you know if you are doing the right thing? Here are some ways to tell.

The right reasons to change careers:

  • You have a lifelong dream that you would like to pursue, and you can envisage yourself in your chosen career.

  • You are burnt out with your current career, have no work-life balance, and you fear it will start to affect your psychological and physical health if it hasn't already.

  • You’ve been successful in your current career, but it feels wrong.

  • You are convinced your abilities and talents could be more impactful in another career.

The wrong reasons to change careers:

  • You are fed up at work with your boss/colleagues, but you have no idea how to embark on a career transition or which career options to choose.

  • You think you can get rich quickly in a new and different career with a new employer.

  • You think the grass will be greener in another career, and you have not discussed ways to improve things with your current employer.

Thinking about your situation and state of mind will reveal how committed you are to a new job. Change is daunting, and you will have to be brave to see the transition through. You might have friends and family questioning your decision, and there may be serious financial and healthcare complications. However, a career change after 40 is absolutely possible, and you should not spend your remaining working life in misery doing a job that you hate.

Once you understand the “Why” of your decision, then you can start to consider the “How.”

Finding the “How”

The biggest hurdle in taking the first step is to let go of your fear. You will no doubt worry about meeting your financial responsibilities. After all, you might be close to, or at the peak of, your career and with a comfortable income. How can you maintain your current lifestyle when you return to the entry-level again? You might be afraid of failure and what others think. First, you need to develop a thick skin and some determination.

Second, think of all the potential roadblocks you might face and plan how to overcome them. For example, if you are worried about financial obligations, perhaps you can stay in your current job part-time while you attend classes to gain skills in your new vocation? Is there a way to cut costs temporarily while you transition to a new career?

If you are afraid of failure, talk to others who have also changed careers and ask them to mentor you. Depending on what you intend to do, talking to a career advisor would be wise. A career advisor can assess your current qualification and skills and tell you the quickest way to get where you want to go. 

You might think you have a path to your chosen career under control, but what if there is a quicker, alternative route? The more research you do at this stage, the more confident you will feel.

Lastly, you need a support system. Talk to family and friends about your plans because they will most likely impact them. Just be ready for some negative reactions. Some people may feel envious of your decision because they are not following their own passions for whatever reason. Obviously, these people are not going to be part of your support system.

Finding the Way

Do your research to find out what you need regarding qualifications, new skills, and experience for your new career. Seek career advice from a human resources professional. A career coach will first assess the skills and experience that you currently have to see if they can help you transition more easily and quickly.

However, there may be alternative routes to your career goals, and others who have already trodden a similar path will give you first-hand insights. Also, find out what the employment market is like for your career choice and what type of income you can expect in your new field. Where would you work? What hours? How would your new job fit into your current lifestyle?.

The Transition

It’s best to delay leaving your current job for as long as possible so that you can maintain your current lifestyle. While you are still working in one industry, explore ways to gain experience or qualifications in your target industry. Can you work part-time and take classes in the evening and when you are not working? Can you do volunteer work and gain experience that way? If you are moving into tech, code in your free time, enter programming competitions, and build a portfolio.

There are many sectors where you can earn a living without taking on a full-time job. Freelancing is an option for tech workers or content developers. Some experts, like CPAs or financial consultants, can set up their own businesses or a partnership. Becoming an entrepreneur is a risky path but one that many succeed in.

As well as providing some income, transitioning slowly from your current role will help you to really be sure that you are making the right move. Any experience that you gain will round out your resume and set you up for a better job.

The Job Search

You’ll need a job search strategy as you seek your dream job. That strategy should include reaching out to people and applying for positions. If you are starting your own business, you will need to devote time to networking and product marketing.

This job search strategy guide from Placement contains some useful advice for your job search. One of the first things to do is to create a new resume.

Creating a New Resume

You will need a new resume for your new career. But don’t discount what you have already accomplished in your current position. Even if your past role was in a completely different sector or industry, you will have past experiences and skills that are applicable in your new industry. 

Soft skills, like leadership, people management, time management, and good communication skills, are universal and valuable in any context. Think of how you can apply what you already know to your new role.

Look at the job description you are targeting and see if you have transferable skills that apply to your new career, and include those on your resume.

This article shows you how to format your resume and what sections to include. For someone who is changing careers, the resume summary is the most important section. It appears at the top of the resume and is your opportunity to wow the reader with your passion and suitability for the job. 

A functional or combination resume that places your skills before your work history is often the best choice for someone changing careers. Find out how to write a resume summary and create a functional resume for a career change here. [insert article on resume summary for career change].

Ageism is a problem when you are over 40. This is particularly the case in the tech industry, where being current on the newest technology trends is crucial. Thus, when creating your resume, don’t go back more than 10 years for your work history and avoid giving the dates you graduated.

If you have skills or experience that date back further than 10 years, include them in the skills section. Don’t include technical skills that are now defunct or outdated. If you are entering a new sector, you need to show the hiring manager that you are on top of industry trends.

The Crucial Cover Letter

Your cover letter is your secret weapon for a career move. A great cover letter can make you stand out from your competition. Your story can draw attention to your uniqueness and explain why you are passionate about your new vocation.

This article shows you how to format a cover letter, and this article shows you how to write a cover letter. You will have to tailor your resume and cover letter for each job and job title that you apply to.

Key Points

Here are the key takeaways from this article about starting a new career in your 40s.

  • Think long and hard about why you want to switch careers. Are you contemplating a career change for the right reasons, and have you exhausted all avenues in your current career?

  • Talk any decision over with your family and consider how it will impact everyone around you.

  • Build a support network.

  • Conquer your fears and commit to the right career for you

  • Do your research about the job market for your chosen career.

  • Consult with a career professional and with others already in the industry you intend to enter.

  • Plan how to build your knowledge.

  • Try to accumulate finances before you leave your current job in anticipation of a pay cut.

  • Prepare your job search by finding your transitional skills and building a strong resume and cover letter.

A successful career change midlife is totally doable if you are committed. People change as they mature as do their needs and lifestyles, so follow this guide and find your way to a more fulfilling career and a happier place in your work and personal life.

Caroline Banton
Expert on career acceleration and business topics with vast experience writing for globally-recognized publications

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