15 Tips for a Successful Midlife Career Change

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Changing careers is never easy, but if you’re thinking of starting a new career at 40 or 50, things will be a bit more complicated. That’s not to say it’s not possible; it simply means that you need to plan more carefully. Mid-life career changes are very common as more than half of the workforce between the ages of 40 and 50 report feeling disengaged at work. So, whether you are considering changing careers at 40 or 50, know that you are not alone and that you can do it if you want to.

The tips below will help you transition into a new career smoothly.

1. Search career databases

If you are not sure what you’d like to do next, start by researching different possibilities. Online databases are great as they give you an insight into what industries are in demand at the moment. They also provide information on skills and requirements for each profession, which allows you to match your skill set against potential career paths.

Start by going through Prospects (UK) and/or O*Net (US).

2. Take an aptitude test

Aptitude tests are usually taken by students to help them decide what university course to take, but that does not mean you can’t use them as well. Tests are great tools because your experience in the workplace can help you make even more focused decisions. A word of caution, however: aptitude tests are highly generalised and, as such, can only provide you with guidelines – so don’t rely completely on your test results!

3. Take little steps

A career change can either mean a change of your professional title, industry or both. If changing both is your ultimate goal, then it would be wise to start with little steps since this will make things a lot easier for you. So, start by either changing your professional title and staying in the same industry, or changing industries but keeping the same or a similar title. This will help you do better in interviews and make employers more likely to trust you.

4. Understand your motives

It’s important to be in touch with yourself and know why you are interested in a midlife career change. For many people, this need to change is driven by an inclination to leave their mark on the world, but you might have different motives. Identify them as this is a necessary first step to start believing in yourself and to remain motivated through this journey.

Are you bored with your current job? What part of your work is the most boring and what is the most enjoyable? Is there something you’ve always dreamt of doing and would like to pursue? Understanding your motives will also make it easier for you to stand up to others (family, friends, etc) who might not be supportive of your decision.

5. Identify your priorities and needs

It’s also crucial to comprehend what you need to achieve with this change. Maybe you want to work in a field that’s always interested you but you were never given the chance. Maybe you need a career that allows you to be more creative or more flexible. Take into account what you have been missing and what are your new requirements as this will make it easier for you to find a direction.

6. Think of your past victories and failures

Although you may think that your age is an obstacle to achieving your goals, the truth is that the experience you have is valuable. Consider what the most important event in your career up to now has been and what it’s taught you. Then come up with ways you can leverage that information and add it to your CV.

7. Hire a career coach

Sometimes, all you really need is advice tailored to you, and this is exactly what a career coach does. They will listen to you, help you uncover hidden potential and steer you in the right direction. Remember that a career coach will never tell you what profession to pursue as this is too much responsibility for someone else to take, but they’ll be able to provide you with a few options that match your experience and skills. Ultimately, the decision to change careers at 40 or 50 will always lie with you.

8. Volunteer

Volunteering is a necessary step in all successful career changes. The benefits are many: it allows you to test the waters of a new career to decide if it fits you, gain work experience that can boost your CV, develop your skill set which can help you win points with potential employers and it also allows you to give back to the community.

9. Prepare for job interviews

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of getting a job is the interview. This is intensified when you are changing careers because employers will need more proof that you can be trusted. And there’s really only one way to achieve that: by preparing. So, learn how to promote your transferable skills as these are what convince an employer to hire you. Keep in mind that many hiring managers will be younger than you, which means that they’ll value innovative thinking as much as experience, so make sure you highlight those skills as well.

10. Embrace the challenge

Changing careers, especially at an older age, can be very intimidating and stressful. Not only because you are taking a huge leap but also because there are challenges at every step, from identifying what your next career should be to convincing someone to hire you. Embracing the challenge is crucial as it can help keep you motivated throughout the journey.

11. Be patient

An important part of the journey is to understand that you can’t change careers overnight and that there will be a significant time gap from the moment you decide to change careers to the time you are sitting in your new office.

12. Be realistic

What many individuals fail to understand is that changing careers doesn’t just mean a change of work responsibilities; it often means a change of lifestyle, as well. Most people have their lives figured out by the age of 40 or 50 and they have set aside time for friends and family and for their hobbies.

But changing careers will mean that you’ll need to start at the bottom of the food chain, which means working harder and longer. Understanding that this will be your reality for a few years is important as it will keep you from becoming disillusioned too quickly.

13. Have a safety net

Ideally, you should have a safety net when changing careers, especially if going back to school is necessary or if you’re planning on resigning from your current job during the job search. This will help you remain focused on your goal, while it can also be beneficial if you’re offered a position with a lower salary. Of course, having a safety net is not always possible, especially if you’re considering changing careers after being laid off.

14. Don’t prioritise money

Many professionals find themselves midcareer realising that they are not earning as much they want or had thought they would and for many this is their sole motivation for changing careers. But you shouldn’t adopt this line of thinking as it won’t work. To successfully change careers, you need to be passionate and driven about your target career, and this means that it can’t be about money.

15. Utilise your network

As you probably know, having a strong network can help increase your chances of getting a job. Not only because they can inform you about positions that are never advertised but also because they can put in a good word for you which can work wonders when you are changing careers. Networking can also be extremely beneficial if you are changing careers and starting your own business as you can get your first clients using your network.

A midlife career change is far more common than you might think. If you find yourself bored and disengaged in your current career, there’s really no reason to continue being miserable. Start by identifying what you’d like to do and then develop a plan that will let you put words into action.

What do you think is the most important tip for midlife career changers? Let me know in the comments section below.