Artwork by: Alexandra Shevchenko
Making a career change at 40 is a huge life event that no one should take lightly. When deciding if you should take that leap of faith and switch career paths at 40, it should be done through proper planning, research, and the knowledge of what to expect from your new career. Let’s look at what it takes to make a career change at 40.
Are you feeling stuck in your current role? Do you dread going to work? Perhaps you lack purpose in your career. The truth is that most people begin to think about making a career change at 40, but the reasoning behind the desire for change will be different for everyone.
At the age of 40, many are comfortable with who they are, what they want, what they are willing to accept, and most importantly, what they are not willing to accept in life and a career. At this stage of life, a person may be more balanced in their family life with financial stability, making a career change at 40 the right time to pursue a career that makes them happy.
Making a successful career change at 40 can lead to a life of real purpose and internal joy with proper planning and keen self-awareness.
To that end, this article will cover:
Making a life-change decision
Handling “The Midlife Career Crisis”
Reinventing yourself with the CHANGE process
The best careers for age 40+
Starting a new career/job with little experience
Going back to school at 40 including trades and at-home certifications
At some point, you may ask yourself that age-old question, “What should I do with my life?” Over time your value system changes and the things that were important to you at age 20 and 30 are no longer a priority. What drove you early in your career now takes a back seat to a new urge of wanting to know and live out your purpose with a new career at 40.
As you evolve, you want more out of your life and career. This is better known as a mid-life career crisis. While the question of what I should do with my life is universal, the answer is unique for everyone. The quick and easy answer is to follow your passion. Take note of what you love, what motivates you, and what will make you jump out of bed every morning and be ready to seize the day.
Surely you have heard of a midlife crisis. A midlife crisis typically starts to form around the age of 40. A midlife crisis, while rare, does happen and may cause an individual to begin questioning themselves, their value, and purpose in life.
While similar, a midlife career crisis is when a person begins to question themselves, their value, and their purpose centered around their career choices. Just like a midlife crisis, a midlife career crisis seems to begin around the age of 40.
Here are some symptoms that may help you know if you are going through a midlife career crisis.
Low level of motivation at work
Feeling sick at the thought of your job
Indifferent or low confidence related to performance
Lack of joy accompanied by a bad attitude
For most people, the most pressing issue that prevents someone from reinventing themselves and making a career change at 40 is fear and the potential of failing late in life. This phobia is known as Atychiphopia, which is the fear of failure. A symptom of Atychiphopia is feeling anxious about being judged.
Yet reinventing yourself at 40, if done correctly, does not need to make you feel anxious or live in fear of being judged around your need to follow your passion. When you think of making a career change at 40, remember CHANGE.
Continue to work. – If you are currently employed, do not quit your job. Remain employed until you are fully ready to make a change.
Have a mind shift. – If you are going to have a whole new career at 40, then you will need a whole new way of thinking. Work on overcoming your fear of change while accepting and believing that you can make a successful career change at 40.
Analysis& Research. – Before making any major decisions, identify what you are passionate about and what it will take to transition into a new career such as going back to school, getting an industry-standard certification, or obtaining a professional license.
Network. – Identify those in your professional and personal network that are already working in your desired field and begin to connect with them. Remember, let go of the fear and let others know your plan. You may be surprised at how many people will be willing to help you.
Gameplan your transition. – You must create a specific plan with measurable milestones that are achievable with a specified timetable.
Experiment. – Seek out a mentor or perhaps volunteer in your desired role to get hands-on experience before making the change.
Get more insight in our blog on how to reinvent yourself for a new job.
Following the CHANGE guide above will help you get started with planning and executing a midlife career change, but what you choose to do is up to you, the individual. No one can tell you what to choose. That is the point of making a midlife career change, to identify and follow your passion.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), here are just a few of the fastest-growing occupations projected through 2031. See the entire list here.
Home health and personal care aides
Fast food and counter workers
General and operations manager
Waiters and waitresses
Stockers and order fillers
Market research analysts and market specialists
Medical and health services managers
First-line supervisors of food preparation and serving workers
Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers
A well-thought-out plan will allow you to make a successful career change. Check out
Career.io to learn more about setting goals and following your chosen career path.
When changing careers at 40, it will not be easy, but it is possible and well worth it to follow your passion. Starting a new career is like when you started your first career journey. It was a learning experience, and over time you became very good at what you do. Starting a new career at 40 is no different except that you are in a better position now than when you first entered the workforce.
Remember, with age comes wisdom, experience, and transferable skills. Although you may not have as much required experience as you would like, it is not a showstopper. You can still start a new job with no experience by doing the following.
You may have a burning desire to transition your career to a different industry and role but doing so without proper research may sabotage your decision. It is vital that you learn as much as possible about your desired industry or role by speaking with someone who is already in your field of interest.
Other ways to gain intel are by reading industry-related books, articles, and blogs on the subject matter. Google can be a great resource to use in your research for your desired role. Several platforms have podcasts produced by industry experts that will provide you with the information you seek.
Because you are making a career change at 40, you have been around the block a few times. You have amassed skills that most who are entering the workforce have not yet developed. Hiring organizations are looking for those skills.
Here are just a few transferable skills that you bring to the table at 40:
Critical and Analytical Thinking
The one surefire way to overcome not having experience when starting a new job is to get the experience.
Take classes related to your desired field of work. Whether that means getting a degree or simply taking online classes on Udemy, Lynda.com, or Coursera, this is a great first step in getting knowledge of your chosen field.
Volunteering is another excellent way to get experience in your chosen field. Many organizations such as nonprofits are looking for talented people to volunteer and help drive the mission of the organization.
As you begin to apply to different positions, you must set reasonable expectations. As the new kid on the block, chances are you may not make the same salary you did in your previous career. Also, do not be surprised if you are offered an entry-level position. But remember why you are changing careers at 40, as this is your passion and what you want to do moving forward.
When faced with this question, the short answer is: It depends. If going back to school at 40 will help you make a more smooth and successful career change at 40 then yes it can be worth it.
Research shows that those with a four-year degree earn more money than people with or without a high school diploma, as well as those with a GED (General Education Development). Those with a graduate degree or higher have an even greater earner potential. Individuals with a four-year degree also have more options when it comes to career choices and advancement.
But there are some factors to consider before going back to school at 40.
Will you attend a brick-and-mortar school or attend an online school?
How will you finance your education – pay for it yourself or seek a loan?
Just how will you manage your studies with the rest of your responsibilities, such as family and work?
Learning a trade can be fun and exciting when changing careers at 40. While you may need to go back to school, it is much different than going back to college. Learning a trade means acquiring certain hands-on skills which you can learn by attending a vocational school or an apprenticeship program offering hands-on experience. Many programs are paid, so you earn while you learn.
Learning a trade at 40 will put you in high demand, as skilled trade workers can be highly sought after. Having a trade puts you in a particular group of working professionals that can fix specific everyday problems and make the need for skilled labor necessary.
Here are just a few trades you can learn at 40.
Software Developer/Web Developer
Tractor-Trailer Truck Driver
When deciding to make a career change at 40, you should think about obtaining industry-standard certifications to help boost your ability to enter a new field. Certifications give you credibility as a highly knowledgeable professional with a particular set of skills. Certifications will help you stand out in an already tight job market from other candidates who do not have certifications.
Depending on your career track, you can find organizations that will provide training classes and award certificates once you complete the course. Some will administer an exam, and once you pass you will earn your certification. As you look to transition into your new career, you may find certifications are required for the job. Certifications can be beneficial for someone who does not have demonstrated work experience when applying to a new role.
Certifications are a great alternative to going back to school for a four-year degree. It’s easier now than ever before to get a certification online. This will help you save both time and money.
There are several platforms where you can earn a certification online at home, and below are just a few.
Most colleges and universities offer online certification programs. Check their websites.
There is no exact science to making a career change at 40. Change affects everyone differently, but with proper planning and execution, making a career change at 40 can lead to a life of real purpose and internal joy.
Here is a summary of how to make a successful career change at 40:
Discover how to reinvent yourself using the CHANGE method.
Research and identify the best career track for you.
Begin to gain the necessary experience required for your desired field.
Learn how to leverage your transferable skills.
Consider going back to school for a degree or certificate or to learn a trade.
Earnest is a Career Coach (CPCC) and Resume Writer with expertise in providing professionals with the tools to effectively navigate the job search and prepare for a successful career. He has extensive experience leading HR and recruiting efforts. Earnest specializes in training, coaching, and mentoring career seekers on how to gain and maintain a successful career filled with purpose and passion, and he believes true career success comes from being holistically balanced.