By: Beau Peters
Everyone experiences different motivations that help drive them through the work day. For some, they just want a job that will pay them a decent wage so they can spend their free time enjoying their financial comfort.
For others, they are much more driven to have a purpose to their career — without a purpose, they simply feel weighed down by their job. While for others, the motivation is simply to work and better themselves; no amount of money or sense of purpose will motivate them more than personal education and growth.
No matter what your motivation is, you may be sensing that a time has come to switch things up. Maybe you’re looking for more money and financial stability, or maybe you want a stronger sense of purpose or more opportunities for growth. Whatever the reason, making a career change at any age can be a difficult task, but it seems that the older you get, the harder that task will become.
Is it possible to make a career change when you’re over 40? What if you’ve only worked within one field for the past couple of decades and you want to make a dramatic shift? It is, in fact, never too late nor too early to make a change that betters your life. Even if you’re close to retirement age, it can still be worthwhile to pivot your career. Here’s some advice on how to orchestrate a mid-life career change.
Starting Your Change
When making a career change at any age, you need a plan of action before you can just quit your job and hit the pavement. Start by asking yourself some questions to better define what exactly it is that you want out of a career:
- What is motivating you to make this change? Are you simply running away from your current job because it’s too stressful, or are you running towards a new job that better fits your motivations?
- How dramatic of a career change will you be making, and what steps do you need to take in order to get into your new field? What skills do you already have that might translate into this new field? For some, you may only be making a slight adjustment into a similar field, while for others you may need to start from scratch and go back to university. Make a list of what skills you have now and what steps you will need to take in order to switch to your dream job.
- Have you spoken with people in your chosen field to see how they enjoy their job? What experience or advice do they have to offer, and what connections do you have within the industry already? Networking is always an important part of changing careers.
Once you’ve gained a better idea of what you want — illustrating your connections, experience, and motivations — you can start refining your goals to better prepare for the switch. You will then need to take some concrete steps in order to get you headed towards your new career trajectory.
Make sure you have a financial cushion to help you through this transition, or keep the job you have now until you can secure a new job so that you’re not left without a source of income. Keeping your current job is most likely the best option for financial security if you head back to university.
Going Back to University Later in Life
Speaking of university, what level of education do you have now, and what level of education will you need in this new field? Or what level of education should you aim for if you want to remain competitive?
As educational standards have risen in the past few decades, a four-year degree doesn’t necessarily hold the same prestige as it did just 20 years ago. Now, more people than ever before have some form of higher education, and so to stay competitive it may be worthwhile to go back to university for an advanced degree such as a master’s or PhD.
Unfortunately, if it’s been a while since you’ve been to university, the transition back can be a bit jarring — especially if you have to take additional placement exams such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT), or the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Luckily, some schools will waive the GMAT or GRE exams if you have five or more years of professional experience. This can make it a bit easier to return to school to advance your education, so keep this in mind if returning to university is in your future!
Preparing for Professional Adjustments
Once you’ve detailed your plan and made some concrete goals, you can start acting on them in order to get closer to your new career. However, as someone in their mid-life, you may have some unique adjustments on your plate since you already have so much experience in the professional world under your belt.
Unlike your past job, once you get into your new field, you may be back to square one. Although many of your soft skills will be honed and perfected at this age, your knowledge of the field will still be young. You may experience more rejections, especially when you first start looking for a new job. Additionally, you may find yourself with managers that are much younger than you, or you may be faced with a unique work culture that is catered to a much younger audience — complete with remote work, four day weeks, and a lot more autonomy and communication between employees and managers or administrators.
Another odd adjustment that you may have to make is creating (and maintaining) an online presence. Whereas 10 or more years ago, social media was seen more as a waste of time or as a way for younger people to stay connected socially, it has actually become an integral part of the hiring process.
LinkedIn, in particular, has left its impact on the hiring world in a unique way. Besides offering up a digital copy of your resume and experience, it also allows users the opportunity to share blog posts and advice with other professionals in the industry. Creating a professional blog online also has a plethora of benefits, from helping you perfect your writing, to helping your personal brand reach a wider audience. This new form of digital networking via professional blogs and LinkedIn is almost as valuable as face-to-face connections you’ve made in your career, so making your online professional presence known to potential future employers could help you take your first few steps into a new industry or career.
And finally, although you may be switching up your career path, you’ll want to ensure you’re not missing out on a comfortable retirement. Although you’ll still have access to your state pension, your personal pension scheme (PPS) or plan (PPP) provided by your old employer will need to be transferred to your new employer. If you’re working for a U.S.-based company, the same process will need to be done for your individual retirement account (IRA) or 401k. It’s also important to be aware of the laws surrounding your PPS/P or IRA — such as that the contribution limits have increased for IRAs and a 2015 adjustment provided “pension freedom” for PPS/Ps for those over the age of 55.
As you start down this road to a new career during your mid-life, you may be faced with many different hurdles and challenges ahead. However, don’t let these challenges discourage you, as you’re working towards a future that is more positive, more motivated, and potentially more secure than your last career. It is never too early, nor too late, to make a lasting change in your life, so be sure to make this change worth it.
About the author
Beau Peters is a creative professional with a lifetime of experience in service and care. As a manager, he’s learned a slew of tricks of the trade that he enjoys sharing with others who have the same passion and dedication that he brings to his work.