Career change at 40
Career change at 40. Is it impossible?
If you’re 40 (or so) you might think it’s too late for you start a new career path that’s more fulfilling. It’s hard to step out of your comfort zone.
You may be worried about so many things that could happen if you start over: having to start with an entry-level position, making a mistake and choosing the wrong career, what your family members and friends will say, and more.
At the same time, you’ve got too much career ahead of you to keep doing what you’re doing if you really hate it.
So, it’s easy to imagine why so many people feel stuck when thinking about a midlife career change.
But you can make a career transition. In this post, I’m going to show you the best way, and my best tips, to get started on entering a different field.
Five steps to making a career change at 40
There are five steps to making a career change. They are simple to lay out, but not so easy to do. Each of them have several parts, some more complex than others. But by laying them out neatly here, you can see what you’re dealing with, and be ready to take on that next challenge and have a successful career change.
How to make a career change at 40 – or any age
The First Step: Make sure you really want to change your career, not just your job.
Many times, people come to me feeling burned out and feeling ready for a different career. They’re looking for something new.
They want better work-life balance, or their boss seems to be straight from hell. Other times, the things they are doing day-to-day are so routine that they are completely bored.
But after some coaching work, what we discover, or re-discover, actually, is a love for their career – just not their current position. If you’re doing something you once loved, you may be in the right field but the wrong job. You may be ready to leave behind some portions of your work, but grow into new areas.
Take time to decide, or get some help from a career coach before making a huge leap.
Step Two: Decide what career is right for you
I know, easier said than done.
But if after completing step one, you do decide you’re in the wrong career, you’ll need to decide where the right place is.
I realize that saying simply “decide on the right career” or “figure out your dream job,” is a bit like saying “go and find your soul mate.”
But you can do it with the help of my groups or coaching, or through thinking about it, talking it through or soul searching and coming to that career choice on your own.
It’s a process that I’ve lead many people through, and I have every confidence you can get on the right track for you.
The Best Careers To Start at 40+
There aren’t necessarily best careers to start at 40, but there are considerations that you have to make because you are a bit older.
For example, do you want to start a college degree, a master’s degree or some other training program to be considered for a new role? If you do that, what’s the ROI – what you can expect as an average salary from different jobs that are out there.
Getting more information is always important when making difficult decisions, and there are many different ways to do that.
Among them, are informational interviews to begin learning more about the industry or roles you’re looking to work in. Talking to a business owner at a company that looks interesting to you, investing in professional development courses, researching online on the many career websites, including the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, (for those in the United States) which can give you a wealth of information about jobs, wages, and economic outlook of industries, among many other things is a great place to start in finding the best job for you.
Step Three: Take a look at your finances.
Which brings me to finances. This is one of the most feared key steps, and what many see as the biggest challenge. For career changers, thinking about job search automatically sets off a tornado of fear: mortgage payments, kids that are in high school and headed to college, all the things they need to afford in their personal life. . . it’s enough to make them give up and stay stuck in their current role.
Don’t give up! I promise, you won’t be settling for an entry-level job.
You have things at 40 that you didn’t have at 20. Things that potential employers will pay for. This skill set includes (and of course isn’t limited to): communication skills, leadership skills, problem solving, organizational skills and other soft skills, not to mention all of the hard skills that are specific to your industry but can be transferred to a new one.
Own the skills and experience that pay
Make sure these are all described or alluded to on your LinkedIn profile and other social media. Human resources at a new company will see that you are the right choice because of work experience you already have (transferable skills) even if you require some additional training courses.
I hear you objecting. Thinking that it’s going to be really, really hard to make a career switch. Please, don’t think that the best thing you can get is a couple of part-time jobs strewn together when you’ve held senior positions in the past.
My point is this: Don’t shut down possibilities of different career options before you even give them a chance because of worries about finances. You can make the money you want to make by choosing a new industry that is high demand, and taking on a new challenge that aligns with your goals, your passions, and your willingness to put in hard work.
Look closely at finances
So do a financial deep dive. Get the help of a financial advisor or do it on your own. Just be sure you know what you can afford to live on comfortably. (My goal is to help you reach your career goals and financial goals, not just help you eek by, because who wants to trade your job stress for financial stress? Most of my clients don’t take a pay cut at all, and many make more than their original 6-figure salaries!)
Step Four: Refine your plan
Given what you want to do for a career, what you can afford, what your current skills and experience allow for you to do, and the professional network you have, what makes sense?
There are a lot of variables here, including if you want to go back to school (again, anything from online courses to a Master’s degree,) what you ultimately want your professional life to look like day-to-day, what you feel passionate and excited about, and more.
You will also have to make an assessment about what getting on that new path looks like: becoming a doctor might take more time than starting a career in project management, if you’re in real estate, you might have already have some experience with digital marketing and so on. So figure out what it will look like to achieve your goal, see how much free time you have, and focus on time management accordingly. When you are looking to find the right path, it takes time and energy, and that can be hard to find when you are already working – especially in a job that isn’t the best place for you.
Step Five: Start Job Searching!
Now you are a job seeker! So, how are you going to do it? What are the next steps?
Yes, you will need a cover letter, a resume with up-to-date contact information, and a clear vision of what the job is. . .
But hold up! First things first!
Job search has changed, and there is a steep learning curve these days.
You can learn the new skills you need to job search here.
Are you making a career change for the right reasons?
First off, a bit more on Step One, understanding whether you’re switching careers simply because your current job isn’t working.
Is there something out there you’d really love to do, and you’re ready to give it a try? Or do you actually still like your current career, but have found yourself in a particular company you don’t care for?
If after some soul searching you realize it’s the latter, skip the career change, and simply focus on getting a new job.
Not feeling valued at work is among the top 5 reasons that people leave their jobs, so if that’s the case for you, that might be solved by simply finding a company or a manager that does a better job taking care of talent or perhaps getting a better support team.
Yet deciphering between being sick of your job and being tired of your career can be difficult, especially when your current situation can color everything. So how do you decide?
- What are the pros and cons of staying in my career and leaving it?
- Are there things left to do in my career that I would find interesting?
- Is there anything about my career that is still fun, or could be under the right circumstances?
- If you got your a job at the most incredible company in the world, would you want it?
Those questions should help you decide if it’s time for a career change or not. If it is, keep reading.
Career change at 40 – does my age really matter?
Assuming you’ve made a thoughtful choice about your move, your major concern is probably that your relative age and inexperience in your new career are a double-whammy.
The truth is, only your inexperience really matters, and luckily that’s the one you can do something about.
People your same age with experience can find jobs.
The higher level jobs, the ones that require a great deal of experience, are going to pay more and be harder to land. And of course you can’t get years of experience without years.
So it follows that people filling these jobs will be older.The complete newbies are landing entry-level jobs. You might not want an entry level job because you need a bigger paycheck or because you’re not interested in starting over at the bottom.
So it makes sense that the jobs you’re targeting will need you to have some experience to be considered competitive.
Pay attention to transferable skills
Once you discover what you want to do next in your career, you may discover that you have skills that lend themselves nicely to your new career and you can create a career story that talks about how your skills as an Human Resources professional make you a perfect candidate to be a corporate trainer, for example.
Or, you may realize that your passions are totally different from what you’ve been doing: you are a teacher and you really want to be a fighter pilot.
Whatever you discover, you’ll have more information about how much experience you’ll need to gain before you’ll be ready to make the switch.
There are lots of reasons why you can make a career change at 40, but what are the top tips for doing it? What do you really need to know?
Here are my top 5 tips to make your career change at 40 (or at any age) more successful.
1. Emphasize your life experience:
Even though you may be lacking industry experience, you still have a lot of time under your belt with building your work ethic, building your network, working with people, and more.
Don’t let the fact that you’re a seasoned professional get flushed just because your career focus is shifting.
Especially in the age of information overload, where any answer is at your fingertips, and the right answer changes constantly, smart companies know that the right person for the job isn’t the person who has the most knowledge, but the person who has the ability to learn fast and be a creative problem solver.
If that’s you, don’t let that fact get ignored.
Also, you have skills and talents that can be transferred from your current industry to your new one. Identify those transferable skills and write them down with the help of a killer resume writer. You’ll make a compelling case for why you’re the right person for the job and why the company should train you instead of hiring someone who isn’t right even though they’ve done the job before.
2. Entrepreneurship doesn’t care how old you are:
Whether you’re 20 or 40, if you’re thinking about starting your own thing, it doesn’t matter how old you are.
Being an entrepreneur is, in some ways, easier than ever. Technology is inexpensive, information is at your fingertips, and if you have a good idea you can have unlimited income potential.
If you’re starting your own business, you may want to run it as a side gig to get it up and running and make sure the income is stable before quitting your job.
Test the waters before you jump in with both feet. If you love it, the sky is the limit with your own business!
3. Get that experience!
Whether you have to take a night class or online course, volunteer, or work a part-time gig somewhere for a while, if you’re serious about landing a position in a new field, you may need some experience.
Hustle will get you there. It might seem hard to find time to get experience if you’re working full time, but if you’re serious about career change, it’s invaluable.
The time you put into getting the experience you need to land a job you want is also much less painful than landing a job and realizing you actually don’t like it. So do yourself the favor of making sure you like what’s next for you, as well as putting relevant experience on your resume.
4. Focus on strength:
I’m assuming you’re making a change because your new career will give you more happiness and satisfaction, but also because it focuses more on your core strengths.
Doing the things that come to you naturally and easily to you should be a selling point.
You can take a test like The StrengthsFinder to understand your strengths better. You can also do a more formal survey of the people around you, like a 360 assessment, or an informal survey, where you ask your friends and colleagues for honest feedback.
But there’s a difference between focusing on what you’re good at and focusing on what you want to be doing.
Be sure that what you choose do falls into both categories – or into your zone of genius.
Things within your zone of genius will come with greater ease because there’s no resistance in your ability to learn it and your interest around it.
When you do something that you’re good but you don’t like – a situation you might be in right now, it can feel deadly. And something you’re interested in but not good at? Well, you might not be employed long.
Instead, by working within your zone, your new boss has just hired a “natural.”
5. Talk to People:
A huge benefit you may have over younger people entering a field is that you likely have the connections to help you find and land that next gig.
When you’re introduced to a potential employer through a mutual contact, you’ve gotten an implicit endorsement from someone who your future boss trusts. So use your networks to connect with the people you need to reach.
It is estimated that 70% of jobs are not advertised. That means if you want to find a great job, you need to rely on friends – or make new, strategic friends – to help you find those jobs. Once you have other people on the lookout for you and you are crystal clear about the type of work you are looking for, finding your ideal job is much less difficult.
The alternative is scouring the classifieds and online ads which can feel overwhelming. That’s not to say you should give that up entirely, but the majority of jobs are landed through connections, so use yours.
Don’t forget the power of the informational interview. If you want to make a new connection or pick someone’s brain about their job or their company, don’t be afraid to ask them. They may say no, but they may say yes. You can gather valuable intelligence about careers and companies that could save you time, money and heartache.
You Can Make A Career Change At 40 and Beyond
So, what do you think? Are there additional barriers to making a career change at 40 or later? Or does it feel possible? What else do you need to know?? I’d love to hear from you!