How to Change Careers Later In Life

Jacqui Coombe

Change is a big deal and when it comes to changing your career later in life it can all seem a bit daunting. The good news is, the changing nature of work means that a career change is more feasible than ever.

In the past, skills and professions were learned for life. These days, education and training is an ongoing part of a more dynamic working style. There are new learning opportunities and new career possibilities opening up every day and it’s widely accepted that if your career no longer suits your needs, it’s okay to change it. In fact, finding something that’s right for you is encouraged. Work is not just about paying bills, it’s part of what makes for a happy life. A happy worker makes a productive and successful employee.

5 reasons to change your career later in life

1. You need a new challenge

Even if you feel happy with your job, company, and work colleagues, it’s possible that life feels a little too routine. If you like the idea of pushing yourself and rising to a new challenge, a career change might be just what you need. Venturing beyond the ordinary can help to spice life up.

2. Your lifestyle has changed

Life moves in different directions and if you’d like more time to spend with family, commit to a new hobby, or spend more time traveling, a career change could be your ticket to more flexibility and freedom. The opposite could be true as well - you could now find yourself with more time on your hands to commit to the career of your dreams.

3. Your values no longer align

A job is not too different from a relationship and just like any relationship, you can grow in different ways. You might once have been passionate about your company’s mission but that may no longer be the case. You can try focusing on the common ground you do have, or you could look for a career that’s more in line with your own philosophy on life.

4. There’s no room to move

Sometimes, no matter how hard you work or how loyal you are to a company, there’s nowhere for you to advance professionally. This is often true of smaller companies that have limited leadership roles. It may be that you love the industry you’re in but you entered a profession with not much room to move. Opening yourself to a new career could add some extra rungs on the industry ladder.

5. You want more money

Money should by no means be the only factor you consider when seeking a new career but it is a driving factor for many. Switching careers later in life could be a way to earn a higher salary and set yourself up for comfortable retirement.

7 ways to change your career later in life

1. Believe it’s possible

Your brain is far more malleable than you may give it credit for. Even as an adult approaching the end of your working life, you can change the way you think and perform. At the root of these changes is mindset.

Changing your mindset from a ‘fixed’ mindset to a ‘growth’ mindset might be all it takes to believe a career change is possible. A growth mindset allows you to see that learning is a life-long journey and that you can cheer yourself towards the finish line.

2. Build a network

A benefit to being further along in your career than someone fresh out of university is that you associate yourself with others further along in their career. They might not be working in your target industry, but they’ll likely know others that are working where you want to be. These people could be in senior roles and just the people you need to connect with.

Telling others about your desire to change your career might not sound like something you want to broadcast, but building your network up early can put you ahead of the competition. Saying your goals out loud can also help you stay accountable for what you want to achieve.

3. Recognise what you’ve already accomplished

Changing your career doesn’t mean you have to start back at zero. You can take what you’ve already achieved and build upon this to translate your skills into a new form of success. To identify what you’ve achieved, make a three-columned list. In one column, make a list of what you’re currently good at. In the second column, make a list of required skills in your ideal career. In the third, list the connections between columns one and two. You might only have a few connections to make but this will give you a good idea of what you can highlight on your resume. This process will also help you to identify the areas where you may be lacking expertise so you can make a plan for gaining new knowledge.

4. Get qualified

It’s not always necessary to get new qualifications but doing some extra study or professional development can give your resume a boost and teach you new things. Getting qualified allows you to lead with your story instead of your history, highlighting where you want to go. Your story shows you are intrepid, curious, and passionate enough to take risks and learn some new skills. Your bucket load of experience supports you to take this new knowledge and craft it in a fresh and exciting new way. What employer can say no to that?

5. Consider all options

When changing career, don’t limit your thinking to only full-time employment. There are many other viable career options, from part-time work to consultancy and self-employment. Combining the options available to you can be a great way to get started and can provide you with the flexibility you need to reach your financial goals.

6. Tailor your resume

Employers are looking for candidates that make an instant impact and the fact you have experience, even if it’s not in the same field, allows you to highlight professional projects you’ve been part of. Be specific, tailoring your resume to show what you did, what the end result was, and why it’s relevant to your new field.

7. Brush up on your interview skills

It’s probably been a while since your last interview so brush up on your interview skills with a few practice runs. Memorize your resume, practice eye contact, do your research, and plan questions to ask the interviewer. Don’t bad-mouth your current career - instead, take the angle that you’ve learned a lot and that you’re ready for a new challenge.

Not sure what new career you want?

If you know you want a new career but you’re not sure what career you want, the best place to start is by assessing yourself. Make note of your own interests, followed by your personal skills. Brainstorm what industries and professions align with these interests and skills. If you don’t have enough transferable skills, find ways to learn more - an online course could be all you need to transition into something you think you’ll love.

Consider your career goals too. Is greater fulfillment what’s driving you to change? Is it more money? Is it flexibility or stability? Getting to the root of why you’re seeking something different will help you to ensure this is a successful career change. If you’re still struggling to figure it out, consider consulting a career coach.

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Jacqui Coombe has been a prolific reader since childhood, and now channels her love of the written word into writing content on a range of topics from business, marketing and finance to travel and lifestyle.

Santa Monica, CA

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