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Checklist for a Career Change after 40

Career Change after 40

Some say, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

Wonder why! The Mythbusters guys did train two 7 year old Alaskan Malamutes to sit, kneel and do calculus after just four days of training!

In other words, dogs can be trained. Age no bar.

And while it is a scientifically proven fact that people are not dogs, it is safe to assume that that old saying has clearly never met emotions such as motivation, passion, and determination!

Age is a concept. It is true that age can bring with it a litany of complaints with your body, but it certainly can’t stop your zealous mind from making big decisions, like say the resolve to change your career at 43, if you want to.

You could scour the pages of history looking for late bloomers and you will find many. But let’s get real. Inspiration is one thing and the practical know hows on how to make the bold decision of a career change, quite another. In this article, we will talk about the checklists for getting yourself geared up for that change you have been dreaming about, maybe even since the day you signed your first appointment letter, fresh out of school!

Let’s first explore why? Why would you want to change your career after all this while? Is it possible that your once chosen, or merely then available, profession has been making you feel dead inside? Perhaps you don’t feel appreciated with the kind of work you do and have a vision of doing something more meaningful. Could be that you are unhappy with the money you are making now and hope that your new career is going to change that. Or it is even probable that it is not money that you are after but rather an inspiration.

All good reasons for you sit up and notice that it is entirely up to you to change a career that is there, simply ‘coz it is familiar, for the one which is unfamiliar but has the potential to make you happy.

Let’s prepare your career change kit for a second chance at happiness.

How to manage a career change after 40

What are the ways you can set yourself up for a midlife career change?


Identify your calling

First of all, forget how old you are. All you need to remind yourself is that you have made up your mind to change your career. But there is a caveat in this process. While you may be quite sure that your current job is draining the joy of life off you, your true calling might still be beyond your comprehension.

How do you figure out what your new career would be? Well, start with asking yourself what kind of jobs align with your interests. Of course, that would mean that you know what your interests are. Wet your feet, in volunteer or part time jobs, to narrow your field to the one where you can, and want to, give your sincerest best.

And when you have identified your future career, spend your time learning about it. Recognizing what you want to do may only be the first step towards your transition, but it is most definitely the largest one.

You don’t have to go back to school

Many people are under the impression that a formal training is absolutely essential for getting a job. Like business graduates getting into a marketing position, an engineering graduate in a technical position, and so on.

While it is true that you would rather have a well qualified doctor look at that rash you’ve been hiding, it is not necessarily so for a lot of job positions in the real world. Your training and experience from your years of working are not necessarily going to be a complete waste, while changing your career. Look for your skills that could come in handy, aka transferrable skills.

Remember all the long hours you spent at meetings, organizing group and problem solving discussions, making presentations? Well, now that you are switching to a teaching position, you may just be able to use some of your prior training. Albeit with kids, instead of those incorrigible coworkers.

One of the things you can do is to search the job requirements of your desired position and look for common skills. Once you identify them, just use your shrewd, accrued over the years of job experience, to present your resume such that those skills come across as your biggest strengths.

Here are some numbers for reassurance. The American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), in a survey showed that a large percentage, 82% to be precise, had a successful late career transition, after 45. The surveyed, had used their skills from their old careers transferred into their new.

Of course there are some which need you to head to the library and brush up your studying habit. But do realize that you will be competing for a position that probably has existing competition from aspirants already in that niche. So while your transferrable skills and your self studying attempts can take you some distance, there are some other tricks that you will need to make the cut.

Let’s read on.

Maybe you just need a role change

Are you seeking a career or a role change? There is a big difference in the way you can handle these two situations. A career change will require you to uproot yourself from your familiar career path and hoist onto another you have never travelled before. While a role change will simply require you to change lanes.

Without getting all cryptic about it, let us just jump to an instance. If you are a medical researcher, no longer finding yourself connected with the motions of pitching proposals for grants, keeping up with latest findings and working years on end in looking for a breakthrough, you are probably ready for a move.

But if you want to move to teaching, it will be far simpler to implement rather than say if you wanted to move to finance and banking.

A fashion house buyer may have acquired enough tricks of the trade to take their love of designing into action. Though a buyer’s job is vastly different from a designer’s, the network of people and the familiarity with the industry may render this move quite possible and in fact highly probable.

Increase your network

Your age is an advantage. Your life of 40 some years must have garnered you a large enough social network, some of whom may be employed in your desired field of career. Well, get in touch and don’t be ashamed to ask for tips or help. Offer to volunteer with them at their job, if the nature of the workplace allows for it. Find a way to join them, observing their day to day activities, again if the workplace doesn’t frown upon it.

In other words look for ways to familiarize yourself with your future job. If you are able to cultivate your network the right way, it may even let your future employers get to know you better than that resume, the one without any apparent relevant experience. Your in-person keenness and enthusiasm will go a long way to show how much you care, way more than any embellishments on your resume.

Get a career coach

It is the age of the internet and there are a lot of avenues to look for experts who can guide you towards finding an in in your new career. But there is a catch. You need to be able to find the right kind of coach who fits your needs. Googling coaches will leave you with too many and asking friends around may leave you with very few. The best approach would be to filter through the noise and find a few who,

  • have expertize in the very field you are looking to move to with years of experience and a list of satisfied clients.
  • seem to have enough online/offline credibility. Like if they have been mentioned, or quoted, in other websites or discussed favorably in discussion groups. What kind of network connections do they have?
  • don’t seem to be working an angle of leeching money off you upfront.

For starters, here’s a career coaching option to check out to see if it matches your requirements.

Let go of the shame

Yes, this is a real thing. Besides hopping over the practical hurdles like identifying your interests, educating yourself with the trade, getting to know the right network and yaadi-yaada, you may also have to overcome the hump of possibly letting people down (Read Shame and Fear of a Career Change).

People are generally wired to think of a career as a means to an end, and that if you have managed to make it in one then there should be no reason to change. A mere unhappiness meter is not reason enough to put your life’s jamaa poonji at risk. Well, that kind of a thought process is risky if you continue to put your mental health in jeopardy, each day, by not exploring the possibilities that satisfy your true calling.

Stress is a real thing too and is one of the root causes of a multitude of diseases (Read How Stress Kills).

By not appreciating the dangers of a stressful and unhappy career, you are essentially playing with fire. So, let go of the shame and ignore the disappointed looks.

People who really care will support you, maybe even guide you, through the transition. While difficult, and riddled with potential failure, your decision will be driven from a desire to make your life better. But just in case you are worried about failure, take the necessary steps to play it safe.

Live wisely and save

It is impossible to predict the future, horoscopes notwithstanding. If you are planning on a career move, make sure you have sufficient financial back up just in case your plans go deep south. It is more so to keep you and your dependents well cushioned against unfortunate events.

Save, no matter what. Set money aside for your kids and definitely buy a medical insurance to cover unforeseen costs. Plan your investments. It certainly helps if your spouse has a job and can support you, if needed. Discuss it with your family and don’t take a leap without a plan.

Have faith

And finally, trust your passion to drive you to find a way. Yes you will be competing with veterans. Yes you are risking your immediate future. Yes there are concerns, well beyond your own self, to worry about.

On the flip side, however, you will be bringing in the experience and perspective of an outsider to an organization which maybe starving for a fresh outlook.

Your immediate future will be at risk only for the promise of long lasting happiness. That goes a long way in spilling over to your personal life as well. Thus making the transition a positive one for your family and loved ones too.

And while you are at it, follow these links to some more information and inspiration for you change.

It doesn’t happen over a day, a week or even months. People take years to prepare themselves for a leap, putting in their time and effort to make sure that the chances of failure are minimized. The good news is that there are way more resources available, now, more than our past generations have experienced.

Resources such as online courses which let you get trained at your own pace. Career coaches who can act as agents of your change. Financing plans, even government supported ones, for those who want to venture into entrepreneurship.

And finally the internet as a source of information as well as a marketing tool to make your plans bear fruit. You can think of your 40 some age as a number to plug in more skills, more experience and more wisdom of the world. Or, you can sit and wonder what could have been…

Like the Piano Man said, You can get what you want or you can just get old!
Sources: 1,2,3,4,5,6 | Image for representation only: credit

Watch this video to learn how you can become an entrepreneur at a young age

Rakhi Acharyya
About Rakhi Acharyya
Rakhi is a freelance writer, a Physics PhD from Michigan State University, an ex-teacher and a former employee of Corporate America. Follow her on Twitter.

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