Top Tips for Career Changes for 40-Somethings

Time To Read 3 MIN READ

Date: June 3, 2016

Top Tips for Career Changes for 40-Somethings

"Hold on to what you've got." As employment advice, this is as much a relic of years past as dial telephones. It used to be that you decided on a career as a young adult, and then stuck to it valiantly no matter what. These days, young people change jobs several times in the first decade of their working lives. And mid-life workers, longing for meaningful work, often make the leap to a new career they feel passionate about.

Leave to Follow Your Passion

Something about reaching middle age makes you look at your job in a different way. Yes, it pays enough money; yes, it's stable. But the thrill, if there ever was one, is gone. The best reason to change careers in midlife and after is to follow your passion. Go after your dream job; aim to make a difference. Your enthusiasm will likely go far toward getting you over any obstacles that stand in your way.

Don't Leave Because You're Peeved

Your workday experience can turn sour because of a difficult boss or coworkers you don't get along with, but these are not reasons to bag it all and head in another direction. You have other, less dramatic, alternatives, like asking for an inter-office transfer or taking the problem to the human resources department. 

Running away from something you don't like doesn't give you the same momentum as heading toward something you love. A major career move in midlife should not be a spur-of-the-moment, "I'm outta here" decision.

Planning Well Invites Success

San Francisco career counselor and coach Tom Ballantyne sees many mature workers who want to head off for new horizons, but the ones most likely to make a real success of it are those who plan ahead. 

"First of all," Ballantyne suggests, "take a good look at yourself — are you ready to leap into the unknown at this point in your life? It will take courage, a tough skin and a plan." The clients who successfully change careers midstream first figure out what they love to do, and then research how to make it a career.

Use All Your Contacts

Ballantyne suggests that you rely on contacts to help you get started. The good news is: Everyone you've ever met is a contact. He recommends:

  • Making a list of those who could help you from family members to neighbors to former professors.
  • Expanding your network as much as possible.
  • Lining up informational interviews with people who are doing what you want to do.
  • Finding out if there are certifications that will give you the credentials to enter your new field.
  • Checking university extensions and community colleges for programs that can provide the needed credentials or certificates.

Use the Skills and Experience from Your Past Work

Switching careers in your 40s or beyond means that you have decades of experience to take with you. As you plan how to reinvent yourself, draw up a thorough list of your relevant skills, expertise and experiences. Those are important parts of your old life that will be available to you in your new career. 

Although your past work record is in a different field than the one you're aiming for, it still shows an impressive history of commitment and success. Take time to organize your life/work experiences in such a way that all of your strengths and attributes fit naturally into your new career field.