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Reinvent your path: navigating career change at 40 with confidence

Reinvent your path: navigating career change at 40 with confidence

  • Should you make a career change at 40?
  • Benefits of a career change at 40 
  • Challenges of a career change at 40
  • How to plan a career change at 40
  • 1. Analyze your talents and strengths 
  • 2. Don’t forget your transferable skills
  • 3. Research and network
  • 4. Grab some experience 
  • 5. Fill any skill gaps
  • 6. Establish SMART goals 
  • 5 Best jobs for a career change at 40
  • Consulting jobs
  • Nonprofit jobs 
  • Healthcare jobs
  • Technology jobs
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Key takeaways

Time for a career change at 40? The opportunity to reinvent your path and launch into a new and exciting phase of your professional life is one not to be missed. Here’s how to navigate a career change at 40 with confidence.

Making a career change in your 40s is a chance for a new beginning. When you consider that Christian Dior launched his world-renowned fashion house aged 41 and Julia Child got her first cookbook published at 49, you’re in good company. But, it can be daunting to leave the safety net of a secure career and pivot in a new direction.

A career change at 40 can help you escape a toxic work environment, pursue a passion career you once shelved, or give more meaning and purpose to your professional life. So, how do you leave the self-doubt behind and navigate this change with confidence? 

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • Should you make a career change at 40?

  • How to plan a career change at 40

  • 5 best jobs for a career change at 40

Statistical Insight

Most older workers who seek career changes are successful

According to a survey by the American Institute for Economic Research, most older workers seeking a career change were successful, especially when they use their skills from their old careers. A whopping 82 percent reported a successful transition to a new career after age 45.

Should you make a career change at 40?

Arguably the best time in life to pursue a career change is at 40. At this stage in your life, you’ve got a solid bank of skills, experience, and achievements from your current or previous careers to bring to the table. Additionally, you’ve got a growth mindset; a passion to learn and grow as you target your new career direction.

However, you’ll probably have other lifestyle considerations to factor into when making such a big decision. Family responsibilities, financial commitments, and a leap into the unknown could leave you feeling uncertain. 

Benefits of a career change at 40 

When considering a career switch up, assess the advantages and potential challenges you may face. Here’s some benefits to consider: 

  • Increased job satisfaction. Many people decide to change careers after 40 due to unhappiness in their current occupation. A career pivot can be the change you need to attain fulfillment in your working life.

  • Improved work/life balance. If you’ve been working in a fast-paced, demanding career, you may be looking for fewer hours and less stress. Achieving work/life balance via a new career can lead to a happy, healthy, and productive life.

  • Higher salary. While money isn’t everything, it’s certainly a nice bonus. Targeting a higher-paid industry could boost your salary in the next phase of your career. 

  • New opportunities. If you’re in a career rut or feel like you’ve been treading water in your current job, you’ll be ready for some new, exciting challenges. A fresh start in a new career can be extremely exciting and offer great opportunities.

Challenges of a career change at 40

While you weighing up the advantages a career pivot can offer, it’s also worth looking on the flip side at the challenges you may face:

  • Financial obligations. It’s a good idea to analyze your financial situation before pursuing a career change. If you decide to return to full-time education or start a new business then your disposable income is going to take a hit.

  • Age discrimination. While the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects employees 40 years of age and older from discrimination in employment, ageism can still be an issue. According to a recent AARP survey, two in five (41 percent) of older workers had experienced some type of ageism in the past three years.  

  • Zero experience. If you’ve decided to complete a full 360 degree career change, then a lack of experience could make it a lot trickier to secure a job.

How to plan a career change at 40

Hitting your forties is a great time for self-reflection and taking stock in terms of future career plans. If you’ve decided that it is time to make a career change, having a plan of getting where you want to be is vital. 

1. Analyze your talents and strengths 

Sharpening your focus on what is important to you and what you are good at will enable you to pivot your career change in the right direction. One approach that can help you make informed decisions about your future career is by analyzing your values, interests, personality, and skills (also known as VIPS). While these elements can change over time, they can still help connect you to the right career. 

Here’s some questions to consider:

  • What qualities would you like to have as part of your work? 

  • How do your values connect with the career options you’re considering?

  • What are your nonnegotiables?

  • What are your interests? How do these connect to your career?

  • What elements of your current job do you enjoy/dislike?

  • Do you prefer to work autonomously or in a team-focused environment?

  • How do you make decisions?

  • What talents, strengths, or abilities have you acquired in your career to date?

Expert Tip

Access online tools to support your VIPS analysis and career planning activities

The Myers Briggs career test is a helpful tool you can use to analyze your personality traits. Career.io’s Career Pathways tool allows you to explore potential career interests, identify required skills, bridge skill gaps, and stay updated on job demand and competitive salaries. The U.S. Department of Labor also offers career exploration tools via the O*NET database.

Completing some self-reflection and accessing career exploration tools will help you examine your life and career to date, and link this to potential future career paths. However, it’s a good idea to get some additional support during this process. Career coaches, mentors, and trusted family and friends can all offer you different perspectives and help you connect the dots.

2. Don’t forget your transferable skills

Research findings confirm that individuals seeking a career change over 40 are more successful if they leverage the skills gained in previous careers. While some skills will be industry-specific, there will be a lot that overlap with your target career. Soft skills such as communication, leadership, adaptability, and problem-solving are all valuable transferable skills. Refer to this in your resume and job applications by providing specific examples of your skills in action.  

3. Research and network

After completing some self-reflection, you’ll probably have one or more career paths that you want to explore further. Research will help you figure out which avenues to follow, and those you may prefer to rule out. It’s also a good way to boost your network of contacts. Try including these approaches:

  • Research online and read relevant publications. Learn as much as you can about your prospective career. Sources such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook, relevant articles, and trade publications will provide you with a wealth of information.  

  • Talk to industry professionals. Organizing a meet-up with trusted sources who work in the profession can give you a great insight into the occupation and industry. You could also request an informational interview with a target role or company.

  • Attend industry events. Attending conferences, seminars, and industry events in your field allows you to learn more and build connections in your professional network.

4. Grab some experience 

Completing some freelance jobs, volunteer work, part-time jobs, or job shadowing are all great ways to gain practical experience and get a taste of what your new career will be like in reality. Seek out these opportunities via your network, local and online searches, social media, or by sending a speculative email to a target company. 

5. Fill any skill gaps

Enrolling on educational courses, professional certifications or a degree will show your commitment to your chosen career path as well as enhance your skill set. Check out courses in your local area or reputable certifications that you can complete online, then make sure you include this information on your resume as current studies or with an expected completion date.

6. Establish SMART goals 

One way to harness your ambition and stay on track to achieve your career goals is by setting SMART goals. The SMART framework involves setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. By breaking down your career change goals into simpler, actionable tasks over a three, six, and 12-month period, you can track and monitor your progress. This will avoid you getting overwhelmed or discouraged. 

  • Maintain an awareness of changing trends in the labor market. This will help you make the best career change at 40 and achieve your goals. Check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics occupational handbook for more information.
  • Fall into the trap of self doubt. Imposter syndrome can make you feel like a fraud. Identify what is holding you back and develop solutions to address these feelings head on or seek support from a career coach or mentor.

5 Best jobs for a career change at 40

If you're navigating a career change at 40, the world is your oyster in terms of which path you ultimately follow. This will very much depend on the findings from your self evaluation as well as what you want for the future. 

To give you some inspiration, here’s a few roles that could be a great fit:

Consulting jobs

If you’re a seasoned professional, then sharing your expertise via a consultancy role could offer the perfect career change. Organizations are always on the lookout for professionals who can apply their experience to optimize operations, drive positive change, and business growth.

Suggested roles include business management consultant and financial analyst.

Nonprofit jobs 

Looking to give back in the next phase of your career? Working within the nonprofit sector will allow you to apply your transferable skills and experience to make a difference in many people’s lives. 

Suggested roles include project manager and nonprofit development manager.

Healthcare jobs

If you want to join a fast-growing industry, then targeting a career in the healthcare sector after 40 is a great option. According to the BLS, about 1.8 million job openings are projected each year, and this is not expected to slow down in the near future. Not limited to patient-centered roles, there are lots of opportunities in healthcare administration for candidates with an associates degree or higher and a relevant professional certification. Example roles are health information technician and medical administrator.

Technology jobs

Tech is one of the fastest-growing sectors out there, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projecting above average growth for job openings in the next ten years. A career in IT is ever-changing, where innovation and creativity are valued, career advancement opportunities are plentiful, and generous salaries and benefits are often offered. Positions include web/digital designer and SEO Specialist.


Starting your own business is an exciting prospect, offering the opportunity for independence, creativity, and great financial rewards. Getting started on your entrepreneurial journey can be as simple as having a great idea that fills an unmet need. You can also complete entrepreneurial studies, where college or certification courses can provide a strong foundation for your new career.

Some support groups for budding entrepreneurs to help you get started include Entrepreneurs’ Organization, CHIEF (women in business), and SCORE.

If you’re looking to make a career change at 40, check out Career.io’s Career Pathways tool to navigate this process with confidence.

Key takeaways

  1. Reinventing your career path at 40 is a major life decision, but it can be one of the most rewarding, exciting, and fulfilling decisions you will ever make.

  2. Ensuring you do the groundwork in terms of self-reflection, research, networking, and securing hands-on experience will help you make informed career choices.

  3. Establish SMART goals to stay motivated and achieve your career goals. This can include any skill gaps you need to fill over the short- and long-term.

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