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How to Make a Career Change at Any Age

Unlike changing jobs in the same field, a career adjustment can be a long and arduous process full of new learning and training.

And while changing career fields can seem like a daunting task with a lot of unknowns, if you properly prepare yourself to make the transition, you’re sure to make a successful career change at any age.

Find the WHY

You won’t succeed in a career change if you simply migrate mindlessly to another company. There are probably a multitude of reasons you have thought of to justify a career shift, so before you take the leap, ask yourself what is driving this desire for change. Be it a series of horrible bosses, two-timing colleagues or a toxic work environment, these are important to take into consideration to determine how they have affected your career experience negatively.

Were you a nosy neighbor? Did you give your manager attitude? Write down you answer on paper to see if there are any underlying repeating patterns that could be changed.

Ask yourself open-ended questions that help you get to the root of your need for change like:

  • Why do I want to do this now?
  • Why am I unhappy?
  • Why is a career change important to me?
  • Why do I want to invest my time differently?
  • Why do I think this career shift will make my life better?

Search for a career, not a salary

Evidence suggests that getting paid more money does not necessarily bring more happiness. The research found that a traditional middle-class income — around $75,000 a year — was the relative cutoff for a salary that affected overall contentment. Any money that was made beyond that showed no correlation with happiness and didn’t increase overall job satisfaction.

You should take into consideration the salary range when choosing a new career, but you should not base your decision solely on it. If you take a high-paying job in an industry that doesn’t match your passions, you’ll end up right back where you are now — unhappy and potentially burned out. A healthy work-life balance is essential for preventing burnout, so take into account a career’s room for growth for you both personally and professionally to stay content in the long run.

Test it out

It is important to know what you are getting yourself into, so focus on learning opportunities you can engage with in your free time. It can be as simple as joining an online group that encompasses your passions, joining a club or attending events related to the field. Testing out a new career option a little at a time can make a manageable less-stressful endeavour, while also revealing if it is something you would enjoy doing several days a week.

Set up informational interviews with a professional who is willing to share the ins and outs of their profession with you. You may even find an opportunity to shadow someone or volunteer yourself, depending on your area of interest.

Another great way to test out an industry of interest, which typically requires some former experience or education, is an internship. Many companies offer paid and unpaid internships, so do your research. It is a great way to not only gain hands-on experience to determine if it’s something that is aligned with what you want, it will also get your foot in the door.


The biggest secret to having happy career is to focus on the future and not the past. So make it a point to continually be expanding your circle of professional contacts at all times. Seek out experts in the field and build relationships with them. You never know, they may be able to mentor you, as you learn all there is to know about your new career. This is vital for you in the long run because it allows you to reach across industries for advice.

If you find an employee in your new career field who is willing to have an informational interview with you, take it. Ask where they see the industry going or how it has changed since they’ve started. If you target companies that you’d like to work at, you will learn the ins and outs of the company from an employee and have a higher chance of getting an internal referral.

Plan your transition

Research shows that it is easier to get hired while you are still employed, so maintain a good relationship with your current company while you make this change. Research the job market in the field you want to pursue next. Look at the different positions within the career field to see what suits you and your skillset the best. The Bureau of Labor Statistics offers an occupational handbook that shows growth projections.

Adjust your resume to the new industry you’d like to pursue. Read about what strengths and qualifications are required for your new career. There may be some skills that are transferable to your new career choice, so focusing on a functional resume may be a great way to pinpoint what you do have to offer.

A successful career change is thoughtful and methodical. By focusing on the things you can control, you are bound to come out on the other end happier.

Thinking of hiring a career coach to help you make a successful career transition? Browse our directory of career coaches and get a FREE consultation or request a personalized coach recommendation!

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About the Author Brooke Faulkner

Brooke Faulkner is a writer and mom in the Pacific Northwest. She's already managed a few career changes of her own, and loves to help others make their own just as smooth as hers. You can find more of her writing on Twitter.

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