How to Change Careers After Forty

Updated on January 23, 2018
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Among his varied other writing interests, Richard Parr aspires to creating interesting and inspiring stories about life.


This article addresses key considerations when changing career over forty by someone who has. If a career change is something you're considering, then this article was written to help you understand, prepare for, and choose your options.

Do You Long for Change?

For graduates the transition from study-life to work-life is generally an eagerly anticipated one, their efforts finally promising a return on investment. Such a change is refreshing, rewarding and maturing.

Advance ten, twenty, thirty or more years down life’s road and those same people may now be a touch jaded. The humdrum of life has worn them down. They've mastered their chosen profession to the point of boredom, or regret having ever begun. For whatever reason, thoughts of 'If only I'd...', or, 'I wish I could...' have become a dominating thread in their thinking. However, few of these will take their discontent and desire for change and convert it into an action of renewal.

If that's you, then this article is aimed to challenge that apathy and get you walking forward again.

Are You Ready?

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Life Is About Change

To a great degree, life is about change. Our bodies change as we age, Our IQ changes as we mature and experience life, our habits, ambitions, loves, likes, dislikes, family, relations, colleagues, homes, countries, they all change. Everything. changes. And you can't stop that. You can only aim to channel the flow, or go with it.

Though I'd hesitate to say all change is good, there should never be a stage in our lives where we say, it’s too late for change.

In regards to our work (something that for many of us takes up more than one third of our lives) a good change may be just what's required to refresh, renew, and bring you back to a vibrant level of healthy attitude and joy of life.

But, you say, that’s hard ...isn't it?

Possibly. But is it harder than where you currently find yourself?

I am well aware that by this stage of life (and I'm not talking to anyone under forty here) the pep of youth may have become a growing pop of joints, the information-absorbent sponge of an adolescent mind now feels more like pumice, and the ‘take on the world I'm gonna live forever’ attitude has mellowed somewhat; more like, 'I need to lay down, my back hurts.'

Don't Be Afraid of Change

Agreed, it won't necessarily be as easy as when you were young, but you'll find it won't be as hard as your fears are telling you. And guess what, the rewards at your age are even better.

Why? Because by this stage of life, we oldies have a few advantages. For one, we've learnt a few things about ourselves. We know what we're good at, what fulfils us and what pushes the right buttons. Therefore decisions for change we make now are more likely to be right ones.

However, there are a few guidelines to changing career that will help streamline the process and reduce the chance of derailing the train.

What has been your experience in changing career?

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A Few Guidelines to Changing Careers

Review Your Reasons: Why Do You Want a Change?

So, you’re frustrated and not where you want to be. Why? What is it that is irking you most, and where do you want to really be? Is it financial freedom you want, or more time to pursue a passion, maybe deep down you want to be closer to those you love, or achieve a lifestyle different then what you now live?

OR, is it less about achieving than it is about escaping? Do you dislike your boss? Had enough of doing the same-old, same-old? Can’t cope with things? Hate the noisy city?

The list you create in this exercise will help you clarify things, but also crystallise your motivations and allow you to better see their merit and whether an alternate to changing careers is warranted.

Profile Yourself: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Sit down and think about you, ask those who know you best to assist if it helps, or complete a Personality Assessment. One easy to read and very helpful aid is Paul D. Tiegers book Do What You Are. This book contains all you need to assess your personality and preferences, as well as detailed information as to what changes will best fit you,and which changes will only frustrate. Well worth the investment.

Do What You Are. discover the perfect career for you through the secrets of Personality Type Paul D. Tieger, Barbara Barron, Kelly Tieger.
Do What You Are. discover the perfect career for you through the secrets of Personality Type Paul D. Tieger, Barbara Barron, Kelly Tieger.

Career changes can become a muddled mistake because people fail in this area. It is too easy to be distracted by a great paying job, or a considerate employer, or ideal location, while ignoring the fact it is little different than your last job and has nothing to do with what fits you. A bit like moving from London to Seattle because it’s a beautiful city, when the original goal was to move to a dry climate.

The goal is to determine what makes you tick , then list it and stick to it throughout your decision making.

Research Your Options

This step, based on the previous two, will help you determine whether your options are many or few, expensive or cheap, requiring training, equipment, licensing etc

This step will also assist in time frames and help you understand and plot the rungs that need to be climbed to reach your destination.

Can you see the climber?
Can you see the climber? | Source

For example: Maybe computers have always fascinated you and you spend delighted hours every night tinkering with a home network to rival NASA’s. You want earnestly to work with computers. However you have no qualifications. What options do you have? They might include:

  • Get a relevant IT certification (requiring time and money);
  • Find an entry level IT position that doesn’t require qualification (low income to start with);
  • Start your own business based on what you currently know (lots to think about here);
  • Find something that mixes what you are qualified in with a love of IT.

Talk to Many, Listen to a Few

This may sound strange advice, but experience reveals that most people have an opinion about most things, but few know what they’re talking about. Therefore be open to everyone, you never know from where the pearl of wisdom may come, but pay closest heed to those that know their stuff; in this context they are those who have changed careers successfully.

And, of course, be ready for the nay-Sayers. Those that will intentionally, or otherwise, attempt to crush your dreams with negativity. Some don’t like the thought of others succeeding, others just have a habit of raising all the worst-case scenarios, and some just live on a pessimistic boat. Listen patiently, filter thoroughly, and ensure you get a balance with those who are positive and encouraging.


Get Prepared in Mind and Body

It is a common human experience that our mind and bodies adapt to what they’re used to. This is good in that we have no problem with the routine demands of ‘normal’ activity. However, try going beyond the norm and you’ll soon experience the protest. This becomes even truer as we age.

Therefore change often requires preparation, so that we don’t end up with either hernia’s or mental exhaustion.

Determine how different (from a mind and body perspective) what you do now is to what you want to do. For example, if you have been a sit down all day office worker with dreams of working on a farm, I would recommend preparing your body for the transition well in advance.

Alternately, if you’ve been a manual labourer with ambitions of becoming an accountant (Hmmm), maybe prepare yourself mentally by doing online numerical quizzes every evening.

It may not seem such an important step, but when the day finally comes preparation in this area may keep you from falling in a heap (physically or mentally).

List the Pros and Cons

There is the adage that you do what you love and money will follow. But when?!

As part of a positive step forward, you will need to list the true expenses. What will this cost you?

If you’re already in your late fifties, is a five year course in psychiatry really going to reap the right rewards? Is that two-hundred thousand dollar business loan really a wise investment or just a desperate act? Do I really want to move one thousand kilometers away from my family just so I can breathe country air?

Sometimes we can get what we want in one area, only to realise it cost too much in another. Count the cost.

Personally, this writer has changed career direction seven times in their life. Not every change was due to discontent or desperation, but each was a decision to move forward. Experience has taught me that it can be done, at any age.

In Summary

1. Review Your Reasons - Why do you Want to Change?

2. Profile Yourself - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

3. Research your options - Understand what's required.

4. Talk to many, Listen to few. And trust even fewer.

5. Prepared yourself in Mind and Body.

6. Count the Cost - List the Pros and Cons.

The Video Below Details the Results of the Longest Ever Study on Human Happiness

What do you think is the key to The Good Life? (Watch video to find out)

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What Makes a Good Life?

© 2010 Richard Parr


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    • prasetio30 profile image


      10 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Thank you very much for showing me the original idea.

    • UlrikeGrace profile image


      10 years ago from Canada

      parrster...bravo...I love this and as a person who in their early 50's decided to change career this is a most informative hub. I wish I would have had access to something like this a couple of years ago...but find this helpful even today as I keep defining and redefining what this change is in my life. thank you so very much. This has been well spoken and excellently laid out.

      I have rated you up, bookmarked this and stumbled this hub.

      Blessings to you parrster I so appreciate you and your diversity.



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