Is it time to change careers

4 Steps to Make a Midlife Career Change

You can change careers after 40 and keep everything you’ve worked so hard for. You’re not starting over. A midlife career change simply means you are realigning your career path to fit the person you’ve grown into.

This midlife career change guide will help ease the process as you transition careers. Here’s how to go from “it pays the bills” to “I love my job.” 

Reasons For a Midlife Career Change

Switching careers may not be something you want to do, but a byproduct of the changing workforce. If you are motivated to change your career this post details 5 signs you need a career change. Hint: The overwhelming reason is people want to find a career that makes them happy. Other reasons are more situational such as:

  • Company layoffs or reorganization
  • Job relocation 
  • Terrible boss or co-workers
  • No opportunities for advancement
  • Long or frustrating commute
  • Extenuating family circumstances
  • Industry decline
  • Overall job satisfaction
  • Burnout
  • Loss of physical ability to do career
  • Work life balance is non-existent

Step 1: Get Mentally Ready to Make a Career Change 

Thinking about your career change is the first step. Woman thinking.

You may not have been lucky enough to choose the right career 20 years ago. Or maybe the work you once loved has become a soul-crushing exercise in tedium. The first step of starting a new is to get your mind ready for it. This is going to be a new and exciting chapter, not an admission of defeat. It’s important to do this step before you begin job hunting.

Being a middle-aged career changer will have its challenges. You’ll break your routines, shed other peoples’ expectations of you and venture into the unknown. But more terrifying than transitioning to something new, is retiring 20-30 years from now so you can finally get a job you want. 

That’s a long time to wait for something better. You can find work you love now. So get excited about your new career. 

Think about this: Walt Disney was fired as a newspaper editor because he lacked imagination. Julia Child, who worked for the CIA, didn’t start cooking until she was in her mid-30s. 

Start thinking about what you want to do. My 4-part How to Find Your Purpose Without Losing Your Mind series could help you:

Step 2: Reduce the Risk By Evaluating Your Strengths

Unless you hit the mega millions or your spouse happily pays all of the bills, you have your current career because you need the income.

It’s important that your career change after 40 be financially sound — meaning that it will keep you on track to retire comfortably in 20 years and pay today’s mortgage.

This is not the time to take risks. You don’t want to end up unemployed. Don’t quit your $75,000 a year job to work at a minimum wage job.

Being at a mid-career level, you have something to lose. You have to be mindful about your next career move. You are not a 19-years-old job seeker with mom and dad as a safety net. You are the safety net. 

Mindful midlife career changes come from solid planning. Planning begins with a list.

The first step in making a career change was getting your mind on board, now you need to make a list of your strengths. I wrote an extensive guide on developing your strengths and this post about identifying your strengths. 

This list should reflect who you are. Don’t let your ego get in the way as you do this step. You’ve worked long enough to know that you hate deadlines and you excel in detail work.

As you make your list, think about what your bosses, co-workers and friends have said about your work. It shouldn’t be hard for you to put at least eight strengths on your list.

These strengths are the pillars of your upcoming career change. Ultimately, this list will help you choose a job that values and showcases your strengths.

Making Your List

On a piece of paper or in a word document, list your strengths on one side of the paper.

Then on the other side list the skills you use to demonstrate the strength. i.e. creative thinking (strength) develop marketing campaign concepts (skill). Check out this article on how to identify your strengths.

Now make a list of all of the activities that you enjoy. Do not look at the earning potential of these items, they don’t have any right now. Just list them.

  • I really enjoy … My best career would …
  • Then ask yourself how you can add these activities into your current career. Would any of them be a part of your dream job?
  • Now list the things you hate about your current job or career. 

If you don’t have any idea of what your second career could be, I would recommend finding a job in the medical or technological fields.

The career opportunities in STEM-related jobs are something to consider. If possible find someone who could mentor you about the best strategies to get hired. It could mean going back to school or learning new skills.

These are the fastest-growing occupations from 2018 to 2028 with an average median pay of over $60,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

OccupationGrowth Median Yearly Pay (2018)
Physician assistants31%$108,610
Software developers, applications26%$103,620
Information security analysts32% $98,350
Nurse practitioners28%$107,030
Operations research analysts26%$83,390
Occupational therapy assistants33%$60,220
Genetic counselors27%$80,370

Step 3: Tap into Your Network

Having lunch with friends is a great way to network.
Networking can be sharing a meal.

If you’re at least 40, you’ve met a lot of people over the years. This is one of the many advantages you have over the 20-something crowd.

Tap into your social and professional networks to find out more about the work you want to pursue. There are four good ways to get your networks working for you. 

Use LinkedIn

If you’re looking for a career, one of the best places to start is LinkedIn. You need a LinkedIn profile. If you don’t know how to write a profile, The Soul-based Job Search can help you with that.

LinkedIn lets you network anytime. You can start by following companies you would like to work for. You can also see who has similar jobs that you want and see how their work experience compares.

Go to Lunch

This is an underrated but effective networking strategy. It’s a casual conversation that’s less about shop and more about making connections to places you want to go.

Look at your friends, family, co-workers and see if they might know someone who is in the career you

want to have. Invite them to lunch. If time is an issue, meet them for coffee.

Get Referrals 

Make a list of 100 people you know — immediate family, friends, co-workers, friends of friends, former coworkers, the mailman, your kid’s teachers, etc.

Ask them if they know someone you could talk to about getting into the career you want. If you feel weird about asking, say you are asking for a friend. 

Talk About Your Career Change

The old saying, loose lips sinks ships, does not apply when you are looking to change careers.

By now you realize time is not your friend. To make things happen, you have to make your career change a topic of every conversation. Even if you think the person you are talking to couldn’t help, they might surprise you.

Step 4: Look at All of Your Midlife Career Change Options

It may be time to think about being your own boss. If you’re the boss, your age doesn’t matter.

There are oodles of side hustles and business opportunities available. Many of them can start out part-time work and evolve into a full-time business. From blogging, to e-commerce or having a consulting business, the possibilities are there for you to explore. 

Money and Finances

You have bills. You also have responsibilities outside of yourself such as kids or aging parents or both. Your income has to meet all of your obligations and your retirement goals.

Before you launch into a career change, you should look at your finances and get those in order.

If you take a new job in a new field, it could take a while to get a promotion or a raise. Do you need to downsize your lifestyle? Do you have enough savings (don’t touch your retirement) to make the leap to a new career?

What about your retirement savings? What happens to the company contribution if you change careers?

You may have sick leave and time off accrual rates that are 4-5 weeks a year at your current job. Are you willing to start from zero? A side gig could give you a smoother transition to being your own boss.

Take a Cautious Approach

If you want to try on a career without a huge upheaval, try volunteering for an organization in your desired job.

For example, if I were going to run a cat sanctuary I would volunteer at one or at an aminal shelter.

If you don’t want to go through a career change alone, you might want to consider hiring a career coach.

They specialize in career development and will help you see the new career path ahead. They can also provide a strategy on how to use your transferable skills to get into a completely different career field.

A midlife career change doesn’t have to be a crisis. Just take a methodical approach. Hone in on what you want, not what others have come to expect of you. Good luck and go get the career you deserve.

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