By Charlie Fletcher
The commonly depicted mainstream career arc is to go to school, get a degree, land a job in your chosen field, and stick with it until retirement. And while this may work for some people, for many others, it leaves little room for a change of mind or of circumstances — both of which can change dramatically as people progress through life. What happens if you’d like a midlife change of career?
You’re free to live your life in whatever way you want. Only you can truly know what it is that you want, and only you can make that happen. So whether your life situation has changed, you’re burnt out by your current career, or you are seeking more passion and purpose in your life, a career change might be just what you need.
Though a midlife career change is nothing to be scared of, it’s important to go into the process knowing what you are getting yourself into and how it may impact your future. If you want to change careers, then you can (and likely should) — but it’s important to be smart about it to ensure you can avoid as many bumps in the road as possible.
Here are some tips to help you with a midlife change of career:
1. Be Realistic About Expectations
While there are many benefits to changing careers when you’re older, such as the fact that you are wiser and have a lot more experience now, there are also some challenges that you will face. It’s essential to be realistic about those challenges rather than ignoring them.
If you want to avoid any major setbacks in your career change, you need to know what obstacles you might face so you can better prepare for them and more easily overcome them. And one of the biggest challenges you might face is the fact that the world has likely changed a lot since you first started your career, and you might not be able to jump into a new career at the level you were before.
This isn’t to say that you will necessarily have to start over at square one or be unable to make the changes you desire. However, it is important to understand just how competitive the professional workforce is so you’re prepared to jump back into it in full force.
2. Choose the Job You Want, Not The Job You Think You Should Get
If you’re making the big decision to switch careers, make sure you’re doing it because it’s what you want for yourself. Changing careers later in the game will bring about some challenges, so make sure you’re choosing a career path that you’re truly passionate about and excited to get into.
Whether that’s learning new skills so you can find a remote job or becoming an entrepreneur because you want to be your own boss — it doesn’t matter what you choose. Just make sure you’re making this choice because it’s what will make you happy and suits your personal interests and goals.
3. Consider Professional Growth
If you’re switching careers later in life, it’s also a good idea to consider job growth. You don’t want to put all your efforts into changing to a career that is stagnant and doesn’t have good prospects.
When considering what job you want to make the switch to, do a little research to see what the projections are for job growth in that field. A good place to start is the list of fastest-growing occupations provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Starting your own business can also set you up for a successful future career that is more in line with your wants and needs — especially if you’re looking for freedom and flexibility in this new phase of your career. And you can certainly experience job growth a lot easier when you’re in charge. Be deliberate about how you set up your business, create a solid plan to launch and expand your products and services, and get yourself on a path to long-term growth.
4. Tap Into Your Network
One of the great things about making a career change at 40 or beyond is that by this point, you likely have a much wider network of connections than you did when you first started working. You have a vast professional community of connections now, so use that to your advantage when looking for a new career.
Network with your colleagues and reach out to people you’ve connected with on LinkedIn to see if anyone knows of any job opportunities. Let people know that you are looking to make a career shift and that you are on the hunt for a new job. Ask for the advice and perspective of people you trust, particularly if they also decided to shift fields later on in their careers.
5. Identify and Highlight Your Transferable Skills
When you do start applying to new jobs, make sure you highlight those skills you’ve already gained that are transferable to this new field. Depending on the field you’re switching to, you might not have as many hard skills for your new role. However, your transferable soft skills can be just as important, if not more so, so don’t be afraid to highlight what you’ve got.
Some examples of skills that transfer well include:
- Being a creative, out-of-the-box thinker
- Being adaptable
- Having high emotional intelligence and empathy
- Being a good team worker and collaborator
- Time management
Be sure to consider what other skills might be relevant to the roles you’re seeking so you can highlight them on your applications and in interviews once you reach that point of the process.
6. Teach Yourself Some New Tricks
If you’re interested in a career change to a field where you don’t have all the required skills, don’t assume that means you can’t land a job. You just need to figure out what skills you need and what you need to do to learn them. Further, you are never too old to learn something new, and employers like people who are willing to continue learning and developing their skills.
You might be able to learn new skills simply by taking some basic online courses. However, some careers will require you to go to school for a degree. For instance, if you’re switching careers to become a nurse so you can do something that allows you to help others, you may need to do a bit more research on the education you need to do so. But luckily, there are many ways to earn degrees today, including both online and in hybrid learning settings, if you don’t have the time to go to college in person full-time.
Changing your career after 40 might be scary, and it will come with its challenges, but it’s not impossible. If you are truly passionate about something else and want to start fresh in midlife, taking some time to prepare for this change will set you up for success and help you land the career you really want.
Charlie Fletcher is a freelance writer from the lovely “city of trees”- Boise, Idaho. Her love of writing pairs with her passion for social activism and search for the truth. When not writing she is a part time wedding planner and spending time with her nephews.
Last Updated on June 4, 2023 by Editorial Staff