Updated: Feb 1
It’s scary making a career change. The prospect of changing your career, especially with retirement on your horizon, can be daunting – but the idea of stagnating in a career you hate or staying in a situation of great uncertainty is often worse. The good news is – it’s entirely possible to make a career change at 40, 50, or any age! It’s time to consider a move that will better support your family, better use your skills, shore up professional uncertainty, or make you happier.
It's never too early to plan for your future. Fundamental reinvention takes time, careful planning, and the ability to adapt to unexpected twists and turns. Starting the process sooner rather than later avoids operating in crisis mode. The more space you allow for the process to unfold, the greater your opportunities for customizing a solid long-term solution. Let's consider why changing your career in midlife or later makes sense.
Honoring Your Personal and Professional Evolution
1. You have a better understanding of yourself, life, and the world since selecting your field.
It seems crazy that most of us pick our careers at 17-18 when we know so little about ourselves, and our parents, teachers, coaches, or clergy have extraordinary influence on our direction.
Now that you know yourself better, understand life a bit more, and have a perspective of the world that is shaped by experience – you are ready to determine how you want to apply your talents and the impact you desire to make in the world.
2. You have a better idea of what you want.
One of the most significant benefits of getting older is knowing who you are and what you want out of life. Life experience helps us determine what we want and what we don't want from life. This type of wisdom arrives around age 40 after most of us have reached several life milestones, such as building credibility as a professional, getting married, and starting a family. We can finally find a moment to pause and reflect. At 40+, you have a better chance of finding the role you want that will give you more career satisfaction so you can be confident in your choices, knowing they are right for you.
3. Your values have changed.
People's values tend to change over the course of a lifetime. Values that suited you in childhood change as you mature and learn to navigate the world. What made sense to you when you were single may no longer makes sense when you are married or have children. What made sense to you as a parent may no longer makes sense when you retire. Many themes remain the same over the years, but not all of them do.
People have an innate sense of values and personal preferences that tend to get buried under layers of social demands and expectations. Part of your journey involves gradually rediscovering these innate and highly personal desires, which get unconsciously hidden when they conflict with society's demands. For instance, you may desire to be a dancer, but you become a banker simply because this pleases your worried parents.
Your values are your best guide to living a better life. 40+ is the time of your life when you can lean into a wholly authentic version of yourself. Let changes in your values and priorities guide your exploration of career options that better align with who you are today.
4. You Can Better Utilize Your Experience
It may seem a disadvantage to change careers in your 40s, 50s, or 60s. But the reality is, the more life and career experience you have, the better off you are, period.
Undoubtedly, you've grown personally and professionally since your first job. You’ve learned to share freely in meetings, work constructively with difficult team members, maintain productivity with self-talk, and reinvent yourself repeatedly.
Your experience is a commodity. You've spent considerable time gaining critical industry skills and experience. You've also honed your soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, time management, and problem-solving. You've proven that you can learn new things and adapt. So, moving to a new career, you can focus on what you don't know while transferring what you do know and letting your specific skills bring a fresh perspective to a new career.
5. You can make better use of your talents.
Imagine how great it would feel to spotlight your best abilities and favorite projects day in and day out. There’s no point in having a professional superpower that mainly goes untapped in your current position. Choosing a new career that focuses on your strengths and passions and working out how to use your skills in a new context is immensely satisfying.
6. You are returning from time away from the workplace.
If you are returning from a sabbatical, paternity/maternity leave, or some other kind of career break, returning to your old job or even your old professional may feel like traveling back in time. Depending on the length, reason, and circumstances surrounding your break, you may have changed as a person, so why not honor that evolution and change your career upon your return?
Making a Fresh Start
7. Combatting Career Complacency
A desire for job security often drives career complacency and immobility. Some aspects of your career have become increasingly valuable to you, whether it's your salary, a set schedule, or work-from-home flexibility. If you stay in a role out of habit or complacency, be assured it will eventually show up in your performance.
8. Recovering from a perceived failure
Let’s face it; we’ve all failed – often quite spectacularly. We all fall, but we don’t have to stay down. Focusing on failure makes us dangerously susceptible to burnout. If you choose to, you have the power to make a new start in a space that inspires you to do your best work.
Needing a New Challenge.
9. Reengaging intellectually and emotionally
Intellectual and emotional health, happiness, and life satisfaction grow when faced with new challenges you are excited to solve. Listen to your gut when it tells you you need to step into something new.
The benefit of stepping into the unknown, although scary, is that it engages you mentally and develops your problem-solving skills. Any new pursuit is scary, but don’t let that keep you stuck.
10. Benefitting from a change of scenery
If your days melt together and your professional life seems monotonous, a change of scenery or routine can improve your mood. Something as simple as introducing variety in our daily routines can increase our sense of well-being. Researchers have found that having new and diverse experiences daily is linked to positive emotions and enhances happiness. A career change can give you the uplifting environment you seek. Many people rediscovered their lost energy and excellence with a career and work environment change.
11. Reminding yourself why you are great
A career change might be the ticket when you require a push to try new things. Venturing outside your comfort zone encourages you to gain new knowledge and skills to spice things up. Throwing yourself into a new career is exciting. You're never too old or young to inject some much-needed excitement into your career.
12. You're coasting — and it's becoming a problem.
The calm after the storm or period of peace after a period of great effort can cause some professionals to use that moment to coast. I have seen many working professionals find their comfort zone and stay in it. However, the longer professionals coast, the more they have to lose.
Coasting keeps you playing small and eliminates the possibility of fulfilling your potential. The longer you stay put, the more energy is required to restart and gain momentum in pursuit of self-growth.
Settling into a space that is void of challenges and stimulation truncates your learning and desire to aim for more. Get re-inspired now by changing careers to avoid career obsolescence later.
13. Staying competitive and relevant.
Changing your career and working with a new team or manager can mean taking on more diverse responsibilities, expanding your existing skillset, and learning from other professionals. This keeps you engaged and improves your future marketability in the ever-more-competitive job market.
14. Your skills and passions are no longer critical to your employer.
Sometimes it’s not you that has changed, but the organization, your boss, or the industry. Are your skills being underutilized at work? Evaluate the following factors to determine if it may be time to explore alternate careers.
>>> You experience significant periods of boredom, decreased motivation, and/or increased procrastination.
>>> You feel underappreciated for your results and have continuing feelings of reduced confidence.
15. Transition out of a closing business or role
Some career transitions are born out of necessity. If your role has been made redundant or is on the verge of redundancy (within the next 1-10 years), switching to a career with plenty of future demand can mitigate the uncertainty and provide the security you seek.
16. Increasing your compensation.
If you stay with one company, your salary increases will probably average about 3-5% yearly. Moving companies or changing careers puts you in a stronger position to command a larger increase if the organization wants to attract you there.
“Workers who switched jobs during the Great Resignation — what some economists are calling the increased rate of Americans changing jobs — are earning more than their peers who stayed put, Insider's Aki Ito reported in May. According to the compensation data provider LaborIQ, salaries for new hires are about 7% higher on average than the median pay for people who already have similar roles.” Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/why-change-jobs-2019-5
Additionally, changing your career to a better-paying industry or profession could significantly increase income.
Enjoying Greater Life Satisfaction
17. Your passion lies elsewhere.
When we're young, we tend to target jobs that give us security and some financial freedom. As we get older, our desire for job satisfaction grows, and we prioritize it higher.
There is immense joy and satisfaction in realizing a long-term dream or following your passions. We're often under pressure to make practical or realistic career decisions, but ultimately you are the only one who can determine what job is right for you.
People who are passionate about their career path are more productive and happier in all facets of life and have greater life satisfaction.
18. Your mental health will thank you.
Working a job, you don't like is stressful. It takes a toll on your personal life and can lead to burnout, anxiety, or depression. In addition to seeking mental health support, a new career could help energize you again.
Regaining Control of Your Career
19. Aligning your professional energy with shifting responsibilities
Young workers are focused on establishing themselves and building their professional credibility. As you get older, there is less desire to completely immerse yourself in work. Responsibilities shift from building your professional reputation to caring for your family/elderly parents and contributing to the world. Changing careers can often provide more flexibility to manage those shifted responsibilities.
20. Optimizing your work-life balance.
Sometimes our job prevents us from spending enough time on other aspects of our lives. Juggling the needs of many people (spouses, children, parents, etc) can cause your work-life balance to suffer. Identifying your priorities and considering a career change allows for greater work flexibility may be the solution you are seeing. There's more to life than work. Changing careers enables you to adjust to evolving work/life needs.
21. Assuming creative control of your career to battle professional unhappiness
Employers focus on developing workers for specific positions by laying out a defined career ladder. While employer career planning does have its advantages, such as preventing critical vacancies and preparing employees for promotions, you might run into trouble if the plan is rigid, has been set by organizational precedent, or discounts your personal goals.
Your career plan, created by your employer, is weighed in your employer's favor, so your career goals and interests don't necessarily come first. Employers often design your career plans based on company needs. Do you have flexibility in determining how you prefer to reach your evolving career goals? If not, take the reins and become the architect of your career.
Increasing Your Happiness and Contentment
22. Increasing satisfaction in your personal life.
A recent psychological study indicated that job satisfaction was the second most important predictor of overall life satisfaction because work inevitably seeps into your personal life. You can combat dissatisfaction in your life with a career change that gives you something new to focus your energies on and provides hope for an improved future.
23. Doing what you love
Discovering and following your passion is often touted as the key to being happy with your job. There is a unique sense of satisfaction that comes with doing your favorite projects every day.
When you are fascinated with what you do, you will be eager to continue educating yourself and improving your associated skills to reach higher levels of competence to deliver better performances.
Enhancing Your Professional Connectedness
24. Broadening your professional network.
One of the realities of growing your career is that it is often whom you know, not what you know. A change of career brings new experiences and is a surefire way of broadening your professional network, enabling you to leverage these new contacts to grow and thrive professionally.
Expanding Your Options & Increasing Your Flexibility
25. Aligning your employment type with your goals
A midlife career change can be daunting but doable. Your options open up a world of possibilities. Determining the best type of career pivot must take into account your background, interests, and goals. Here are several employment types you can consider as you prepare to take the next step.
Independent consulting or coaching. If you've worked in a field for years, but your current job isn't doing it for you, becoming a consultant or coach in your industry could be the perfect fit. Consulting work can be very lucrative and offers a lot of flexibility.
Start a business. Why not start a business of your own? If you’ve been thinking about entrepreneurship as the next phase in your professional life, now might be the time.
Go back to school for a postgraduate degree. Getting your Master’s or Ph.D. could open new doors for you later in life.
Explore a completely different field. Even if you are contemplating career change at 40+ with no degree, you may have enough life experience and knowledge to compensate. And, with so many online, self-paced learning options, there's no excuse not to try a class or two.
Rekindle an old passion. Did you give up a career dream to pursue something more practical when you were younger? At this stage, you may have the confidence and stability to take a step that felt too risky when you were younger.
Fixing Something That Is Broken
26. Reducing stress
Why do you want to leave your current job in the first place? Does it cause anxiety or dread? Does your current job lack strong peer relationships and/or collaboration? Is your boss toxic? Do you feel like your potential or contribution at your current job is going unnoticed or that you’re undervalued? Has your job changed significantly since you took the role – perhaps it has become more focused on technology than people. If something is broken, your love for the position may dwindle along with your spirit.
Some stress in your career is inevitable, but too much for too long can cause severe and long-lasting damage. Monitoring when your stressors are becoming too much can be challenging, but in doing so, you will know when it’s time to engineer a career change that provides a more tolerable stress level.
27. Getting out of a rut
Many people don’t even realize it's happening until suddenly; they are stuck in a rut. If your job is stale, it is time to shake things up and try something new. There is no such thing as standing still in today's world. If you are not growing, you are essentially moving backward because the world moves so fast because today’s rate of change is unprecedented. Don’t get left behind.
With a career change, you’ll learn new things and find yourself developing and changing in ways you might not have in a long time. You might be surprised at how capable you are, and it's incredible what an injection of creative thought can do for your aspirations.
28. Breaking through a ceiling
You could be well paid in your current job, but you may have reached a ceiling, and there is no more room for growth. A new career will create opportunities for advancement.
When you have expertise across a range of disciplines and a diverse skill set at your disposal, you are more adaptable and bring more to the table in executing your responsibilities.
Finding Inner Peace
29. You deserve to be happy.
Happiness at work correlates to life satisfaction. Having a healthy work-life balance, feeling valued at work, and doing something that you love all contribute positively to overall mental health. At mid-life, you have paid your career dues and deserve a professionally, financially, and emotionally fulfilling life. Give yourself the gift of happiness today by figuring out your next career move. Tomorrow is never promised.
30. Unleashing your passion
No matter how well-paid or secure your job is, you may sometimes think it's a shame you're not doing something you're passionate about. There's no reason why you still can't make a career out of your passions. Career exploration is about identifying a career that will pay the bills and light you up.
You get one trip around the sun. Isn't it worth the risk to reach for long-term happiness? It's time to act on the fact that deep down, you know you could be more fulfilled if you engage in more meaningful work that honors your personal and spiritual values.
Is It Time for Something New?
The answer to this question is a resounding yes! You can absolutely pursue a career change at 40+. If you have a career goal that, for some reason, you’ve never taken the time to go after before, it’s never too late to start walking that path now.
No matter how you define success, a career change is a chance to reconfigure things how you want. Whether you want a better work-life balance, higher compensation potential, or to be your own boss, changing careers is the avenue to make that happen.
The sky's the limit! Never stop trying to improve and grow in your career. Don’t sell yourself short and circumvent the process of reaching your potential. If you have not done something professionally that scared you in the last six months, you have stopped growing, and it is time for a change.
I work with seasoned professionals to provide the tools, insights, and strategies that enable them to gain clarity, ignite new career aspirations, challenge the fears behind inaction, and rebuild confidence to live a balanced, rich, and full life.
In the video training above, I walk you through how to determine what career you should change or pivot to in order to find professional, financial, emotional, and intellectual fulfillment AND what you need to do to ensure a seamless transition. Join me as I share my best advice for answering the question, “What’s next for me professionally? And how do I get there? - Julie