10 Steps for Changing Careers After 40

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When writing this blog about career changes, I was hesitant to put an age on it. After all, 40 isn't old and it doesn't mean that your career options are more limited. The thing is that when you change careers in your twenties and thirties, it's often done before you've climbed very far up the ladder. In your forties, however, making a career change can be a bit more risky.

If you're thinking about changing careers, here are 10 steps to help you along the way:


  1. Decide if you really need a career change - If you aren't happy in your current job, maybe there are ways to make things more exciting or more satisfying. Maybe there are some changes you can make that will help. If you're serious about the change, you can discuss options with your boss and find a way to make things better. However, in some situations, a change is necessary. It's important to know the difference.
  2. Write out your goals - Before you start looking, it helps to write out what your goals are. Are you trying to be happier? What professional goals do you hope to accomplish. From there, you will have a better idea about where to begin. This process doesn't have to take long, just writing a "mission statement" that lays out what you are looking for will give you clarity and will also give you something to refer back to when considering new options.
  3. Assess your career accomplishments - Make a list of the things you've accomplished so far in your life, not just in your career. These accomplishments can give you some ideas about what sort of change you need.
  4. Make a list of your skills and talents - Next, write down all of your skills and talents. Don't worry about sounding silly here, it's just for your own reference. Also, don't overlook skills that you have but that don't relate to your current job. Sometimes we have skills that can help us find the right job, but we overlook them because they aren't related to the job we currently have.
  5. Think about the things you enjoy - Write down your hobbies and also think about times in the past when you have been asked to work on projects that you really enjoy. These will also give you a clearer idea of what sort of jobs would be most fulfilling for you.
  6. Do some research - Once you have a clear idea of what you want, do some research and find out about jobs that would meet your criteria. Find out what experience and training you would need to qualify for them and what the average salary is.
  7. Narrow your focus - Now that you have done the research, you can narrow down your list to just a couple of careers that you are interested in. From there, you can focus on just those jobs.
  8. Learn new skills - Since you have a list of jobs you are interested in, start forming a plan to learn the skills you need to qualify for them. You might be able to take a class or two or invest a year or two into getting a different degree.
  9. Network, network, network - Never underestimate the power of networking. Get to know others who are working in your desired fields and ask them questions about how to break into it. They will probably be able to give you more information than you ever thought to ask. Not only that, but they will be the people who can give you information about job leads and even open a few doors for you.
  10. Get support and work through obstacles - Once you have a plan in place, get support from those closest to you and work through the obstacles to achieve your goal. Two of the biggest obstacles will be the fear of change and the fear of the unknown. These fears can hold us back and keep us from actually doing what's best for us. On your path, you will face challenges that will make you want to give up. That's where a good support system really helps and will keep you going.



Have you recently made a career change or have been considering one? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.


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  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    Thanks so much for all of the comments.Joyce - 45 isn't over the hill. If you still aren't having any luck finding a job, why not try updating your resume, networking and creating a marketing strategy? Maybe it won't make a difference, but it's worth a try! Congrats on your amazing GPA! Good luck with getting your degree!
  • Judy M
    Judy M
    Well, the idea I embrace is working in settings that showcase my skills instead of trying to fit myself into a slot just because it's available. I learned that lesson twice in my career and I believe I've got it now.
  • Mark C
    Mark C
    It's even harder when you are over 50 and when your layed off.
  • Vladimir P
    Vladimir P
    You are right but when you are after 40 your thinking little bit different than at 20 or 30 years
  • Saad S
    Saad S
    This article is wonderful.
  • Susan G
    Susan G
    My career for 25+ years was working in various positions of real estate financing.  Two years ago forced to quit a temp job due to my medical insurance.  After a time lapse I was no longer able to work in that industry any longer. Good, ready to change careers with many skills transferable. Unknown it would be this hard! 2 years since that temp job and unable to find a career counselor. Received cards & emails, but no responses?! Any suggestions?
  • Debra S
    Debra S
    Could you provide a blog on 10 Steps for Changing Careers After 50, or would the steps be the same? I know several people who would appreciate your advice on this matter; myself included.
  • Mary Ann F
    Mary Ann F
    This was a great piece to read! I am 54 yrs old and haverecently lost my position in the career of sales. I had been with my former company for 13 years and due to down sizing I was dismissed. I am now looking at changing my career to the first pick of my career selection. That would be the health field,as I have interest in finishing my degree in Nursing. It is a little scary at my age and surely to be rocky,however I will make it!
  • Michelle k
    Michelle k
    It's great
    Iam 42yrs now & i have done my EMBA with dual specialisation in Hospital Management & Quality Management after my long 20yrs of MBBS General Practice , I'd like to pursue my carrier in Administration or Management .. I don't know how to start off , can anyone guide me please .. Do I have to do some special training or just join any job offer directly? As I already have 20yrs of rich experience in Healthcare Industry..
  •  Joyce B
    Joyce B
    I have attempted to change careers more than once due to physical injuries. By the time I managed to get the education needed for new career and body healed up, things changed like the positions that were available. Most employers seem to think that I am only good for factory line processor work because that is where I got most of my original work experience.I have come across many employers that they only want experienced and fast workers, and that they are unwilling to take on a somewhat slower inexperienced worker like myself. I have even run into employers who discriminate on age, weight, gender, physical ability, and clothing styles. Frankly there are jobs out there, but I have to have job at a desk now due to physical limitations. I am trying one last gig for a job or career before totally giving up. I am going to an online school to get a Bachelors Degree in Information Technology Software Engineering and going into debt in the process. I am 25% finished and have 3.59 GPA. So far am doing well in the classes, now I need a hands-on on the job training to go with the courses. Does anybody have any good suggestions? By the way I'm now 45 years old.
  • Stacy E
    Stacy E
    Excellent ideas and things to ponder over
  • Carrol A
    Carrol A
    Where I live the program for older workers expected you to sit in a class all week.  I only work part-time but have to pay the bills so how could I sit in class with no financial help. I am the working poor and have gone on several what I thought successful interviews and sent out several resumes and it has always been who I know in the end that I find work.  I think it is age prejudice or credit report.
  • Sheila F
    Sheila F
    I will give it a try!I'm 56 and I need a job change to get benefits! I have been in my present job for 6.5 years and I have to work 27.5 hours with no benefits. I have been promised several times that I would be hired full time with benefits but that has yet to happen. Now things have changed and I need to find another job because if I stay here I will never have benefits and my husband will be retiring in a year and he will be on medicare and I will be without benefits. I have my associates degree. I am a Registered Veterinary Technician and a Emergency Medical Technician. .
  • Tara B
    Tara B
    I moved to Texas approximately 17 months ago in search of better opportunities after acquiring my Master"s in Criminal Justice but that has not happen yet. I've been on a few interviews that I thought were great but I didn't get the job. I was a certified police officer in MS. My ideal career change is stepping out of the uniform. I also have a concentration in Leadership & Executive management. My ideal career change is to work in my concentration field. I'm frustrated and tired but I'm not giving up yet. By the way I'm 44 now
  • Errol C
    Errol C
    great suggestions
  • Oliver
    OK I am the Outdoor Recreation Director for a Resort Spa. My 4-year degree is in History. I've only hired one emyoplee in the past two years who had an Outdoor Rec/Forestry degree. Most of my guides were hired because of experience, not degrees. I have lots of friends with Outdoor Rec degrees, Parks Management degrees, Tourism degrees, etc. etc. For the most part, very few of them have a year-round gig. Many still work seasonal jobs year after year. In my opinion, a degree in Outdoor Recreation Management is almost worthless. You pay a lot for the degree and you usually get out of college still working an hourly wage seasonal gig with no bennies and no way to pay back the loans. Get a job with a guide service, outfitter, or something similar first. Then build your experience. Pick up certifications as you go. As you gain experience and certifications your value goes up. You can work as a seasonal guide or a park in the summer and then switch gears and teach skiing or mountaineering in the winter (or guide in the opposite hemisphere!) By the time you are 22 you have worked 4 years, picked up a bunch of certs (sometimes paid for by your employer) and you have no college loan to pay off. Park Rangers and Outdoor non-profit organizations usually like their people to have degrees. So do Park biologists, foresters, etc. etc. If you just want to lead trips, start by getting a seasonal job with an outfitter and go from there.

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