Making a Career Change at 40

Gone are the days when people got a job and stayed with that company until retirement. In the 1950s and 60s, it was important to secure a good job and hold onto it. Changing career was even frowned upon and typically signalled that the person was fired or the business failed (why else would they leave their job right?).

Nowadays it’s common to change careers multiple times, with the average person changing jobs between 10 to 15 times in their lifetime. What’s more, more and more adults are heading back to school at a later age in order to facilitate a career change later in life. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of college and graduate students over 25 is expected to rise to 43% by 2020, with 19% of them over the age of 35.

It’s never too late to make a career change

The fact is, it’s never too late to go back to school. And it’s never too late to make a career change – whether your 30, 40, 50-years-old or even after you’ve retired and decide to return to the workforce.

A New Careers for Older Workers study, conducted by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), found that 82% of participants who made a career change after age 45 were successful in their transition. Not only were respondents happier in their new positions, many reported earning more.

Here are some examples of people who accomplished major things over the age of 50:

  • Col. Sanders was 65 before he created Kentucky Fried Chicken.
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder was 65 before she wrote her first novel that created the TV show Little House on the Prairie.
  • Ronald Reagan was 55 before he held his first public office.

You see, age is nothing but a number. But, it isn’t a person’s age that will hold them back from returning to school or making a transition – usually it’s fear.

What holds people back from making a career change at 40

Making any life-altering decision can evoke feelings of anxiety, doubt and fear and deciding to make a career change is no different. It’s natural for us as humans to fear change to some degree. However, we also know that change is inevitable and achieving success in any aspect of your life often requires us to step out of our comfort zones.

So, why do so many people let this fear hold them back from making positive changes in their professional life? And how do you overcome these feelings and move forward?

It’s the uncertainty of what will happen in the future that prevents many people from taking the leap. The fear of the unknown, the possible financial instability, the judgment from friends and family, the loss of your safety net, the fear of disappointment and regret – these feelings are enough to hinder anyone’s future, if they listen and buy into them. However, if you own your own fears and take time to understand them, you can gain the courage to move forward.

Once you accept those fears for what they are, the next step is preparation. In the wise words of Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

How to make a successful career change at 40 (or any age)

Just like any major change, being prepared is the key to reducing the aforementioned fears. If you want to change to a new industry, you want to get as much information as possible about the field through research, networking and informational interviews. The more you know about the job itself and what is required of you to get a job in that industry, the better. You may need to take some training courses at night school or get certified in certain skills before you can even begin your job search process, so knowing this in advance can save you a lot of time.

Once you gather all of the necessary information, it’s time to look at your possible career options and figure out which ones are plausible. Be realistic about how much schooling you can do to make the career change, whether or not you are willing and able to relocate and how much time and effort you are willing to put in to make it happen. You may also decide to enlist the help of a professional career coach to help keep you focused on your goals and motivated to move forward.

Now that you are fully equipped with all of the information you need to make a career change, you have to take action! You’ll want to update your resume, write out a couple different cover letters and formulate a plan for your job search. Set timelines to accomplish your goals because a plan without a timeline is just a wish.

And make sure that you keep your information organized when you begin your job search. Often career seekers choose quantity over quality and apply for anything and everything. Then, when they start getting calls and emails for job interviews, they have to search out the information for that company and the job posting. Avoid this by being particular when applying for jobs, researching the company and taking notes on it and logging details in a notebook – such as the date you applied, the source of the job post, what you sent them (resume, cover letter, portfolio) and a date you plan to follow up.

Thinking of hiring a career coach to help you make a career change at 40? Browse our directory of career coaches and get a FREE consultation or request a personalized coach recommendation!