1. Career Advice
  2. Career Change
  3. This is how you can make a successful midlife career change
This is how you can make a successful midlife career change

This is how you can make a successful midlife career change

Artwork by: Martoz

  • What is a midlife career crisis?
  • Identify if it’s the job, the company, or the industry
  • How can I change my career in midlife?
  • What are core values?
  • Is it worth changing careers in midlife?
  • What is a good career change for someone in midlife?
  • Consider the pros and cons of a career change in midlife
  • Budgetary considerations
  • Take a career path quiz
  • Reach out to your support system
  • Join a Networking Group
  • Update your resume and cover letter template
  • Make that turning point in your life
  • Key takeaways

Making a successful midlife career change is possible as long as you have thought it through, evaluating the pros and cons. Create a plan, and be sure to follow your heart while being mindful of the future career that aligns best with your new goals in midlife.

There can be many reasons for changing a career in mid-life, which is around ages 40-60.

By now, you have spent several decades in your work life and may be experiencing burnout. It’s not uncommon. Health can become a pressing issue as we age. But you may also feel your values have shifted. Whatever the reasons may be, we’ll look at how you can make a successful midlife career change. 

Specifically, this article will cover:

  • What can you do to make that career change?

  • Take a career path quiz.

  • Reach out to your support system.

  • Join a networking group.

  • Update your resume and cover letter template.

  • Make that turning point in your life.

What is a midlife career crisis?

A midlife career crisis takes the shape of being weighed down by feelings of depression, anxiety, worry, and a decrease in energy and motivation. It leads to a general sense of malaise. You may brush these feelings aside, attributing them to other factors in your life, such as relationships, family, bills, and overall stress, so it’s worth doing a “gut check.” Considering that we spend one-third of our lives working, this kind of crisis can take a considerable toll on us emotionally, forcing us to rethink our careers. 

When you feel unhappy, overworked, overstressed, underpaid, and undervalued at work, you may wonder if this is the right job for you or the right company fit. Having doubts about it is normal. We all go through feelings of despair at times in our lives. But does it mean you should suddenly quit your job and change your course in midlife? Question it, but don’t quit without a plan. Take some time for self-assessment and research your options. 

Statistical Insight

From 2019-2021, “About half (49.5%) of US Workers who changed employers also moved to a different occupation or industry.”

Source: Pew Research Center

Identify if it’s the job, the company, or the industry

If you feel you have nothing left to give because the work culture doesn’t promote healthy dialogue, then maybe that’s a good reason to start looking for a new career. Perhaps the company mission doesn’t align with your changing values anymore. What thrilled you at age 30 doesn’t thrill you in midlife. You may have reached some milestones in your career already and now realize it’s not where you want to be. Let’s go ahead and look at the ways in which you can change your career in midlife–because it can be done successfully.

How can I change my career in midlife?

Chances are, the jobs you took right out of graduating college were not necessarily your ideal jobs, but you took them for the salary, the prestige, or because you really needed a job! In other words, you may not even be in a job that uses the educational knowledge you acquired in school. You may be in an adjunct field to what your major was at your university. And now you’ve gone as far as you can go. It’s time to rediscover your passion and devise a plan to recapture the joy in life from working at a job and company that aligns with your core values.

What are core values?

Your core values are characteristic traits of what you believe make a good person. And while the word “good” is subjective, the general idea is that core values guide your life through decision-making. 

How much emphasis you put on your core values is key to understanding how to make a career change. The benefits of identifying your core values now in midlife will show how you have changed from when you first started out in a career.

Core values can help you to:

  • Align with your purpose

  • Boost your confidence

  • Make better-informed decisions

  • Guide your behavior through internal mechanisms of self-awareness

  • Choose a career or make a big change in midlife

Is it worth changing careers in midlife?

Once you are in a good, solid career, it's been said that you should stay in it until retirement, but you wonder whether you can wait another 20 to 25 years for that. Don’t simply wait for retirement in an unhappy state of mind from an unfulfilling career. If you’re feeling the pull to get out of one career to start one you really desire, then go for it. 

Look for jobs in the career field of your dreams and see if you already have matching or transferable skill sets. Most likely, you do have a good set of soft skills and hard skills. You must determine which skills you possess which are valuable to any organization. 

Soft Skills

Hard Skills

People skills; empathy, compassion, understanding, communication, adaptability, problem-solving, leadership, time management, and critical thinking

Writing, reading, math, computer programs, industry-specific software knowledge, foreign language, typing speed

You’ll also need to discover which skills you may be lacking. If you lack certain skills, consider taking online courses to round out your abilities. 

Getting certified is another good option to consider, especially when wanting to change your career direction from one industry to another. Going back to school full-time is yet another possibility, perhaps to get a Master’s Degree. 

And even though ageism can exist in the workplace, 40-60 is not considered too old to change careers. It’s a matter of having focus and motivation to make the change.

What is a good career change for someone in midlife?

By the time someone is in the midlife age range, they have built up a comfortable lifestyle and have mortgages, car payments, children, and other financial commitments. Many in this situation feel that if it weren’t for money obligations getting in the way, they would make a career change. 

A good career change to consider in midlife is generally one you plan to remain in until your retirement. So, think about what you want to do for the next few decades of your life.That’s one way of looking at it. And whether you are 40, 50, or even pushing 60, you need to consider what it is you are missing out on in your career and make an actionable plan to follow.

Consider the pros and cons of a career change in midlife



Your happiness, enjoyment, fulfillment

You might have to accept a lower salary.

Fresh start makes you feel alive (again)

You may need to upgrade your skills and/or return to school.

You have valuable experience to bring to another company

People may doubt your competency thinking you might be outdated (ageism).

It’s never too late, “hope springs eternal,” remain optimistic, you can do it!

People may think you’re overqualified and wonder why you want a new job.

Budgetary considerations

As mentioned, you might have to take a pay cut when changing careers. It might be temporary as you start out. Or, if you decide to freelance, your income could be sporadic until you build up a book of business. It’s always been a general rule of thumb to have three to six months of salary saved up as a cushion to keep you afloat through the change. If you think you’ll need training, you’ll have to factor in educational costs. 

At the same time, consider where you can cut expenses before you make the change. This transition shouldn’t have to break the bank; you want to keep it as seamless as possible in terms of not disrupting your finances too much. You’ll adjust your new salary to a new budget in the long run. You should also consider rolling over a 401k into a separate IRA or into your new employer's 401k. Don’t cash it out, as the IRS will penalize you 10%.

Take a career path quiz

It’s one thing to be absolutely certain you want to make a career change, but have you researched all your options as to what your future career should look like? If not, consider taking a career path quiz. It can help you sort out the natural progression from one industry to another. It will also pad your perspective with fresh insight into what motivates you to do a job. 

A career path quiz is a relatively simple way to formulate some objectives and set your course confidently toward doing what you love.

Reach out to your support system

Talking to others, whether friends, family, or co-workers, can be a helpful way to gather your momentum forward to make a career change. If they truly understand you as a person and have your best interests at heart, they’ll support your efforts. 

However, it’s also possible some might not support your desire to make a mid-life career change, so seek out impartial third parties for assistance. Find a career coach, read a book on the topic, or continue to scour the internet for helpful advice that can lead you to find in-person support if you feel it is necessary.

You should be in a good place in your head when making a career change.

Join a Networking Group

There are various groups you can find online to start networking with others in the field or career you would like to transition to. Start by associating with people on LinkedIn, then move on to other places where you can learn about what it’s like to change careers midlife. Find others who can relate and are open to talking about it. There are even in-person events you can join through MeetUp. Be sure to join industry-specific groups to help you network your way to meeting new people; you may even find a new job!

Update your resume and cover letter template

This task is certainly central to how you advertise your career interests online. Updating your LinkedIn profile is a start, but you should also start figuring out how to update your resume and cover letter. 

There are many services that can do this for you online. Career.io offers a whole resource section with tips and helpful information on how to update your resume and cover letter.

Make that turning point in your life

The bottom line is that you are not alone in wanting to make a midlife career change. People have done it before you. Seek out those people if possible to learn how they survived. It’s normal to want to make changes necessary for your well-being. 

So don’t stay stuck in a career for the wrong reasons. You have this one life to find your true happiness, and it’s worth it to try for your best life possible. And remember, success is what you make it!

Key takeaways

  1. You can make a successful midlife career change from ages 40-60.

  2. Know what’s holding you back and how you can propel yourself forward.

  3. Take the right action by setting up a plan to follow.

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