Updated: Oct 18
I recently saw this quote and reflected on how true it is for making a career change later in life.
Changing careers can induce fear at any age, but the older we get, the more daunting it can be.
Will I have to start at square one?
Am I too old to work in XYZ field now?
Will they pay me what I’m worth?
Will I be able to learn new skills?
You feel deep in your gut that something is off. You may be craving a new challenge, want to do something more meaningful or feel like your path has been determined by everyone else around you. But you also may be able to come up with every reason in the book why you shouldn’t make the leap.
Don’t let preconceived ideas or fears around age put you off. It is possible to switch roles or even careers at any age.
There may be some tradeoffs or even temporary sacrifices, but getting on a new, more aligned path is worth it. Think about how many more years you are going to work. Do you really want to slug it out feeling like you do now?
The key is that you aren’t starting from scratch…you know more than you think. There are likely many transferrable skills and experiences you can bring to a new role.
You do, however, need to be strategic about how you approach it, and it may take some work.
Here are some key things to think about.
Identify what you want to do
You may already have a clear picture of what you want to do next. You may have always dreamed of being an artist/teacher/writer, but something or someone influenced you to take a different path?
Unfortunately for many of us, we aren’t clear on our next move could be. We need to get into detective mode and start figuring out clues.
Here are a couple of exercises to get you started:
Revisit peak experiences in your past – you can even go back to childhood.
What were you doing?
Who were you working with (or were you working alone)?
What role did you play?
What skills did you use – e.g., analysis, organizing, research, creating, working with your hands?
Notice as much as you can because these reveal your preferences.
What tasks would you like to be doing in your next role and how much time would you like allocate to them?
At this stage, don’t worry about whether these scenarios are realistic or not. Dream of the possibilities! Group the tasks by activity and identify patterns.
Things that come easily and naturally to you might also reveal skills and expertise you could mine for your next career.
Once you do these exercises, you can research what kinds of roles allow you to leverage your skills, interests and passions.
Craft your story
Now that you have an idea of what you want to do, rewrite your career story to amplify the transferability of your existing skills and reframe your experience in such a way that it applies just as well to your target role.
Build and leverage your network
As a more tenured worker, you have likely built a network of contacts that can be helpful when looking for new jobs. Don’t limit your networking to business contacts. Meet up with the people I call your “friendlies” to start. These are people that you know well that may have some friends or family they could connect you with. Start sharing your story, refine your message and be open to learning and feedback.
Networking is a vital part of the job search. According to HubSpot, 85% of jobs are filled through networking. In fact, according to CNBC, 70% of jobs are never published publicly.
Fill in any gaps
You may need to add some news skills or education to bridge gaps that you have to be qualified for the role you are interested in. There are countless ways to build new skills that make it accessible to many people. You can decide how much training or schooling you are interested and willing to do to make a transition.
Maintain a positive mindset
I can't emphasize this one enough. It can be a humbling experience going through any job search. Maintaining a positive mindset can help to overcome fear and uncertainty. Focus on your strengths and achievements. It can also be helpful to find a community of other people going through a similar journey.
Changing your career at 40 doesn’t need to be daunting
The process can be rewarding and fulfilling experience that’ll set you on a career track far more aligned with your passions.
I went through this process myself when I changed careers after age 40. At first, I was terrified!
I spent time better understanding what experiences brought me the most satisfaction and joy and took lots of assessments to try and find the “right” answers. The truth is, there may not be one “right” answer. There were multiple opportunities I was interested in pursuing. I researched and networked my butt off and learned more about some of the potential options. I ruled some of them out for different reasons (e.g., I wasn’t interested in getting another 4-year degree). At the end of the day, I finally listened to my gut and start taking some steps which led me to getting certified as a professional coach.
I am proof that the process is WORTH IT! I absolutely love what I do and know I am now on a new great path.
The process isn't easy. A career coach can be helpful to guide you through this journey.
Schedule a free discovery call with me to see if coaching is the right for you.