How To Change Careers After 40 Even If You Feel Imprisoned By Your Circumstances
Something happens to people at mid-life.
You wake up one day and suddenly the status quo is no longer interesting or even acceptable.
You begin to question the life you’ve been living, the work you’ve devoted yourself to for so many years.
You start asking yourself existential questions like, “Why am I doing all of this? What is my purpose here? Is this really all there is?”
Sometimes this happens as the result of children leaving home. Sometimes you are shaken up by a life crisis like a divorce, job loss, or death.
Or it simply could be the dawning realization you’ve come to the halfway point in your life, and you’re watching time slip away faster and faster.
It's the time you wonder if you can finally jump off one career track and onto another before there's no turning back.
A midlife career change is not impossible when you hit 40, and sometimes it's the necessary step to deal with the rumblings of dissatisfaction and restlessness you've been feeling.
But before you jump ship, you need to reflect on some important considerations.
Quick note: Finding your passion and purpose can make your work and life feel exciting. To learn more, check out this course that can help you discover what makes you come alive.
- Midlife Career Change Ideas
- How to make a career change at 40:
- Career Change at 40 without a Degree
- Best Career Change Jobs at 40
Midlife Career Change Ideas
Before you make a career shift at this crucial time of life, here are some ideas you need to carefully consider.
Is it really your career that's the problem?
Maybe you are feeling restless and unhappy for other reasons.
You might be depressed, dealing with a relationship issue, or dealing with a lot of stress.
Perhaps you're just in a slump with your job that will resolve in time, or you don't like where you are living.
Don't abandon your career until you feel certain that it is indeed the problem.
Are you clear on your transferrable strengths (and weaknesses)?
What strengths do you have that can apply to any new career you might pursue?
Strengths like leadership skills, communication skills, willingness to learn, creative thinking, sound judgment, and dependability will serve you well in any career.
Other hard skills like project management and technology skills are useful for most careers.
But you also need to be clear on where you need more training or education to improve the likelihood you can shift to a new career that may be entirely different from what you're doing now.
Are you up-to-speed on the latest job search trends?
If you're in your forties, it may have been a while since you've initiated a job search — much less an entire career change.
So much has changed in the last few years related to how employers find, screen, and interview candidates.
Many companies now use applicant tracking systems to scan applications for specific keywords before an actual human sees your resume and cover letter.
Having an updated, relevant LinkedIn profile and knowing online networking strategies are also essential to your success in changing careers.
Now let's go over how to begin the process of changing careers after 40.
How to make a career change at 40:
Ask the all-important question.
If you’re unhappy in your career, then you’ve likely toyed with the idea of starting over.
But maybe your fears of the unknown are holding you back. Maybe you feel your life circumstances keep you stuck.
That’s a perfectly natural and positive reaction.
Anyone who jumps headfirst into a new career without a bit of fear isn’t being smart.
The way to push past this fear, in the beginning, is to ask this all-important question: “Will I regret not going for it?”
Will you look back on your life in five, ten, or twenty years and think, “If only I’d taken the initiative to start over when I was (fill in the age)”?
You have plenty of time to start over now and build a new career.
Don’t live with regrets. You have to try in order to find out if you can succeed.
Midlife isn't old. It can be an amazing new beginning.
Determine your life priorities.
If your life was relegated to five main priorities, what would they be? Maybe they are:
1. Good relationships with family and friends;
2. Meaningful work that pays a livable income;
3. A comfortable, safe place to live in an interesting community;
4. Time and enough money for fun, some travel, and relaxation;
5. Living authentically and without pretense or the need to please others.
Some people prioritize these five things over expensive material things like cars, furnishings, jewelry, etc., but you may have different priorities.
Carefully consider how important it is to you to impress others, having a powerful prestigious job, or make a huge income at the expense of my inner peace or happiness.
Some priorities can cause stress and resentment down the road, but YOU must determine what is most important for you.
Starting over in the right career may involve some initial sacrifices, so decide what you can and can’t live with.
Have a sound financial plan.
Ask yourself someone important financial questions as you consider your next career decision.
- Do you have an emergency fund?
- Do you have a chunk of money put aside for retirement and savings?
- Do you have equity in your home?
- Could you afford to take a salary cut if necessary or take some time off to go back to school, build a business, or look for a new job?
- Would you be willing to downsize your home if necessary in order to have a new career?
- Do you still have college or other expenses for your kids?
- Is there a way for you to work part-time or take a side gig?
- Could your spouse go back to work?
All of these questions help you prepare for the financial realities of changing careers.
Once you are 40 or beyond, you’ve likely built a life that is financially and personally complicated.
It will cause short-term discomfort to arrange your life and finances to prepare for a career change if it means truly starting over like I did.
Even if you change careers to an industry where your skills and experience make the transition smooth and less risky, it’s always smart to be prepared financially and have a backup plan.
If you’ve prioritized meaningful, passionate work, and you don’t want to live with regret and “what ifs,” then the relatively short amount of time it takes to prepare your finances and save money will be well worth it in the long run.
It might take a few years to do this, but you’ll have a lifetime to enjoy a career you love.
Analyze your current career.
Spend some time thinking about the career you have now that you want to change.
Make a list of “things I hate about my career” and “things I love about my career.”
The hate list will be longer, but there must be a few things you want to carry over to a new career.
Be crystal clear on what you want to take with you and what you want to leave behind. This is valuable information as you work toward a new career.
And again, be sure it’s the career itself that’s causing the dissatisfaction — not the work environment, the people you work with, your particular job within the career, or the particular organization.
Taking a career assessment will help you clarify this if you haven’t done so already.
Entrepreneur or employee?
If you’re going to make a change, this is a good time to decide whether you want to work for yourself or for an organization.
If you know you’re more comfortable in a secure and predictable environment, then working for an organization is likely the best choice for you.
If you long to make your own decisions, have flexibility, don’t mind taking personal responsibility for your success, and are willing to live with a certain amount of uncertainty, then you might love being an entrepreneur.
Many entrepreneurs have the added benefit of working from home.
You can run an entire business from the comfort of your home office and never have to fight traffic or report to a boss.
Being an entrepreneur and working from home does require self-discipline and hard work.
You must be proactive about making personal and professional connections, but for many people, the benefits far outweigh any challenges.
Seek out your passion.
Before you launch into a new career, be sure it’s something you’re going to love to do day in and day out.
You don’t want to switch careers only to be in the same dead-end kind of job you have now.
Spend time learning about yourself, what skills you find deeply satisfying and fun, and what you’re naturally wired to enjoy.
Before you even think about the financial potential or what it might take to get a job in a particular field, find the thing you love.
The energy and enthusiasm of finding your passion will propel you to find a way to make it happen.
Check out this Life Passion Test to help you begin the process.
Career Change at 40 without a Degree
Don't have a college degree? Don't worry — no degree doesn't mean no job.
You can still transition to a new career and make a good income in a job you enjoy.
In fact, for many careers, you'll be a more desirable candidate because of your age and experience even without a degree.
Researchers at Glassdoor (a site where employees and former employees can review companies) have written that an increasing number of well-known, big companies like Google, Apple, Hilton, Whole Foods, and Bank of America are hiring people without college degrees.
They are hiring for a variety of job openings that once went to four-year grads only, such as consulting, branding and marketing, sales, and recruiting.
That doesn't mean you won't have a learning curve ahead of you.
Many jobs that don't require a college degree do require some kind of training or certification program.
But most of those programs are less than the four years required for a bachelor's degree.
If you are considering going back to school to get a college degree, it will likely serve you well when it comes to your income in your new career.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are the salary differences related to your level of education:
- Less than a high school degree, average annual salary of $25,636
- With a high school diploma, average annual salary of $35,256
- Some college credits but no degree, average annual salary of $38,376
- With an associate’s degree, average annual salary of $41,496
- With a bachelor’s degree, average annual salary of $59,124
- With a master's degree, average annual salary of $69,732
- With a doctorate, average annual salary of $84,396
- With a professional degree, average annual salary of $89,960
These are average salaries, so if going back to college isn't possible for you, you can still make more than the salaries outlined above — especially if you bring years of experience and hard work to the table.
Take a look at the list of careers below, many of which don't require a college degree. You may find a career that works perfectly with your goals.
Best Career Change Jobs at 40
If you're seriously considering changing careers, but you're not sure what kind of career you want to pursue, here are 10 ideas to think about.
Your years of experience in your current job give you a leg up as a consultant.
You can provide your expertise and guidance to other organizations and individuals to help them find solutions and solve problems.
2. Real Estate
This is a career that is easy to transition into and requires only four to six months to become licensed.
Of course, it will take more time to establish your career and make a good income, but because it's a commission-based job, your success is in your hands.
This is a career that may not have been around when you were first employed, but now it's one of the most sought-after professions.
It's also a lucrative career with an average salary of $116,000. If you enjoy technology and want an interesting and exciting career, this could be the one for you.
4. Executive or Personal Coach
Do you enjoy helping other people succeed in their own careers or in their personal lives?
If so, then consider becoming a coach. You can become certified as a coach in less than a year.
Projections for the growth in life coaching industry are an estimated 6.7% by 2022. Business and individuals are seeking trained coaches to help them achieve their goals.
If you're look for a career that is rewarding and meaningful, look no further than teaching.
As someone in midlife, you have a lot of experience and wisdom to bring to the table.
Second-career teachers can bring a diverse approach to teaching and learning.
After years in a career, you've likely done a lot of writing. Why not turn your writing skills into a career?
There are writing specialties for so many fields — from technical or medical writing to author ghost writing and blog writing.
7. Massage Therapist
If you've been stressed out by your current career, perhaps you'd like a career that's soothing to you and your clients.
You'd be providing a great service in an environment that is quiet and calm.
8. Financial Manager or Advisor
Are you experienced with finance and like helping others manage their money?
Your expertise is more important than your age in a financial career, so transitioning to a career in the financial arena shouldn't be too difficult.
9. Veterinary Technician
If you're tired of the rat race but love animals, consider working as a veterinary technician.
It takes about two years to become certified as a vet tech, and once on the job, you could be working in a private practice, a hospital, a research labs, or a zoo.
10. Personal Trainer
Is your current career so demanding that you never have time to exercise? Why not jump to career that's all about fitness?
As a personal trainer, you can make a good income while helping others become fit and healthy. And certification takes just a few months.
Your duties will include include drawing blood, placing catheters, assisting in surgery, managing anesthesia, and giving medications.
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Now that you know how to change careers after 40, what will you do?
Yes, it is intimidating to think about starting over with your career when you're over 40.
You may believe you're too old, it's too late, you have too many obligations, or your circumstances make it too difficult.
But try to challenge those limiting beliefs and put them to the test.
Many people in their 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's and beyond reinvent themselves and change professions successfully and with tremendous satisfaction and relief.
Don't relegate the second half of life to the boring status quo, living in fear and eventual regret.
Take a chance on yourself and follow your dream. You'll be surprised at what you can achieve.