Have you been working in the same field or industry for the last twenty years, and inside, you have the feeling you want to try something new? You are not alone, there is something special about you in your 40’s and 50’s, and it’s calling out to tell you “try a new work experience, take a new challenge.”
What Is A Midlife Career Change?
A midlife career change is essentially when someone between the age of 35 or 40 through to 50 years old decides to make a job change outside of their current career path. This means creating a change that sharply contrasts with your current role or industry.
Midlife Career Change Examples:
|Current Career||Career Change|
|International Sales Rep||Travel Writer|
|Software Developer||Launching A Software Development Company|
|High School Head Teacher||Charity Manager & Fund Raiser|
|Technical Support Consultant||Freelance Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Consultant|
|Global IT Director / Leader||Financial Markets Analyst / Digital Business Entrepreneur|
These are great examples, why, because I personally know people who made these exact career changes. What is interesting here is that most of those who made the midlife career changes listed above chose a new career where either their skills or experiences were directly or loosely transferable.
My friend, the international sales rep, used to travel the globe selling warehousing automation solutions; now, he runs a blog writing about his travel experiences; he loves it although he took a significant pay cut for the move.
A software developer I know from my previous career is making a success of his small software development company. Another ex-colleague moved into the business or website optimization (SEO) utilizing his technical IT skills.
An old childhood friend of mine has taken an opportunity to run a charity and raise funds to help children in need, and she is truly happy.
Can You Change Your Career at 40?
Yes, you can absolutely change your career at 40 or even 50 years old. Considering a career change when you are over 40 can seem a daunting task, especially when you have been entrenched in work, family, and life for 20 years. But everything is possible when you want it enough.
I worked for 26 years in the Information Technology Business and worked my way up from IT support to global IT leader and organizational strategist. My career change was perhaps even more contrasting to that of the people I know because it was eight years in the making and took a lot of planning and hard work.
In this article and the related articles on career change planning, I share the process, preparation, and work that goes into making a midlife career change in your 40’s.
How To Plan for a Midlife Career Change?
There are many reasons why people decide to make a midlife career change, but whatever your reason, you need to be ready for the change, and that does not mean it will be quick or easy. Get ready for what you need to know in the build-up to your career change. We have created the Dapper Model to help you build your career change roadmap.
Make the Decision to Change Career – Commit
No decision to create a change was ever successful without a solid commitment to the process. This means making a commitment to yourself that things really need to change. You may be the cool, calculating type that has been subconsciously planning the move for a while, or you may have been forced into a situation where you simply feel the need to try something new. Either way, you need to commit to the process. Establish your reasons for the change, envision what a change would mean, and commit real-time to further investigation.
Be Mentally Ready For A Career Change
Believe it or not, you are already mentally prepared for a change. You have a career behind you, and in comparison to someone in their 20’s with a few years of experience, over the last 20 years, you have honed your skills in:
- Calmness & Patience – especially if you have had children
- A Balance of Personality – you know who you are
- Business Experience – you have probably seen a lot, probably more than you wanted to
- Communication Skills – you can talk to anyone openly and honestly without fear
Your Experience + Your Knowledge = A New World of Opportunities
If you are looking for inspiration or are concerned your yearning for change is a mid-life crisis, read this article “Does A Midlife Career Change Mean A Midlife Crisis?
Assess Your Financial Situation
Being in your midlife or 40’s / 50’s means you hopefully have some financial cushion. Whether that cushion is one year of salary or equity in your home, you need to objectively quantify your level of inbuild financial security.
- How long can you survive in your new career of choice with your current financial cushion? Do you have enough money to cover your outgoings for a few years after the change, even if the change does not work out as planned? Do you still have a contingency fund?
- If your new career still pays well you might not need such a large financial cushion
- If starting your own business, you may need some money for investment in the business.
- Can you write off any career transition costs against taxes while you are still in your current position
- Can you maintain your current lifestyle (holidays, golf club membership) when you make the change?
- Are you willing to cut your expenses during the transition?
Put together a complete financial picture in an excel spreadsheet, having this clarity will enable you to make better future decisions and give you that all-important peace of mind.
Understand Your Financial Obligations
If you decided not to have children, then you have the advantage of very few financial obligations. For those of use propagating our genes in the human race, the burdens are substantial. Make sure to consider the following obligations:
- Children’s College Fees
- Dental / Orthodontist Fees
- Mortgage Repayments
- Children’s Marriages
- Retirement Funds
- Medical Costs
This is not to scare you; this is just to enable you to create a clear big picture scenario.
Assess Who Depends On You & Your Income
Letting your dependents down is something no self-respecting parent wants to do. But your dependents may be more than your children; it could be a sick sister, elderly parents. This should not hold you back, but it is something you seriously need to consider.
If you have a loving and trusted partner, then you will have someone who can help you share the burden of your obligations through your transition.
Understand What Transferable Skills You Have?
Believe it or not, after 20 or 30 years of working in your career, you are overflowing with transferable skills. Understand what your transferable skills will enable you to make better decisions on what type of job not only aligned with your life’s passions but also with your skills.
Transferable Skills Self Assessment Table
|Analytical & Logical Thinking||✓||✓||✓|
|Oral Communication and Presentations|
Create Your Formal Roadmap For Change
Now that you have examined the fundamentals of your plan for a career change, you can actually start to map out your actions.
Denial – This is the state of inertia, you do not believe you need a career change, you brush your frustrations and powerlessness aside and keep churning away at your current career, even though inside you know it is time for a change.
Acceptance – Things have gotten to a point at work where you realize you have to change; things simply cannot go on like this. You only have one life, and that life needs a refresh.
Planning – The key stage of self-analysis and soul searching, you commit to reflecting upon your passions, principles and what makes you happy in work and in life
Preparation – You now know in what general direction you want to head, you have a goal, and now you need to prepare for change. Skills, experience, and knowledge may need reworking to be ready for the career move.
Execution – You are ready to execute your plan, the job search begins, you reach out to your network, you build new networks you apply for new jobs.
Realignment – You have landed the job, you have started the business, you have a stream of freelance work that enables you to transition from old work-life to new work life.
Ultimately, you will not change or plan for change unless you have the motivation, check out our 12 Powerful Career Change Tips article. Finally, here are two books I recommend for inspiration and practical advice.
Switchers by Dr. Dawn Graham
How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success
A highly rated book that asks you to consider if you are ready to switch your career.
If the answer is yes, then Dr. Graham outlines and in-depth plan and road map to help you gather your thoughts, understand your values, and ultimately execute the change.
If you are seeking to change your career, this is a leading resource that is well worth reading.
What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles
A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers Paperback
Known as the world’s most popular job-hunting guide, “What Color Is Your Parachute” is a practical guide to helping you make a job transition.
The emphasis is on discovering your true core values and what motivates and drives you.
Using Bolles’ Flower Excercise, you should discover your key passions and transferable skills. This should enable you to define and execute a clear plan to a fulfilling career and a happier you.