We understand. It’s time for a career change.

Whether you’re leaving a toxic boss, falling out of love with your industry, or wanting more control over your prospects, you’re not alone. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 4 million Americans quit their job every month from July 2021 through January 2022.

This high turnover rate has been attributed to toxic corporate cultures, reorganizations, and job insecurity are the leading causes of employee turnover.

Even if you have a great reason for changing jobs, that doesn’t mean it’s not scary. Changing careers can be intimidating at any age. You might leave behind a professional network, social connections, and your reputation and skillset.

This is all magnified when you’re in your 40s, having worked hard to establish yourself somewhere and with more financial wellness and family responsibilities to consider.

You might be weighing the pros and cons of leaving, thinking about how you’ll support your family, or feel that you’ve wasted time on a career you don’t like. It can be overwhelming.

You also don’t want to get swept up in the hype of job switching just because every other headline is talking about it. “The great regret” describes the problem of believing the “grass is always greener” and it’s important to be more realistic about what you can expect from a job or employer.

The first step is to take a deep breath. Now, let’s review some things that can help you make decisions on your journey.

Is it possible to make a career change at 40?

You’ve probably grown a lot since your first job — personally and professionally. You learned how to speak up in meetings, work constructively with difficult team members, keep productive with self-talk, and reinvent yourself time and time again.

With all of this under your belt, it makes sense that you might consider a career change. You have different needs now than before and different interests. You also know more about the possibilities. Your job might no longer be the right fit.

Yes, it is possible to start a new career at 40 — or 50, or 60, for that matter. It might take some extra effort, but it’s never too late to set new personal goals and professional goals and live a  life that feels meaningful.

 

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4 advantages of a midlife career change

In many ways, you’re better off switching careers now than later. You might actually find it easier to change jobs now than when you were younger. Here’s what you have going for you.

1. You’re already a pro

You’ve likely been in the workforce for at least 20 years, or longer if you include that summer job from high school. You’ve learned a lot since then, and chances are many of your skills will be transferable to a new career. Lean on your years of experience.

2. You still have plenty of time

Assuming you plan to retire at 67 years old (the full retirement age for those born after 1959), you still have plenty of time to save money and develop yourself in a new career. You may have even more time: According to a recent analysis of U.S. workers, 55% plan to continue to work in retirement age. Changing careers might also come with a pay raise and a 401(k) employer match program.

3. Your mental health will thank you

Working a job you don’t like is stressful, can lead to burnout, and often takes a toll on your personal life. Long-term, this can lead to lethargy, anxiety, or depression. In addition to seeking mental health support, if your symptoms are severe, a new career could help you feel energized again.

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4. You can live a life that brings more satisfaction

No matter how you define success, this is a chance to reconfigure things how you want. Whether you want a better work-life balancea higher salary, or a leadership position, changing careers could be what you need. You spend 1/3 of your life working, so prioritize your well-being and give yourself a second chance to do something truly fulfilling.

4 challenges to a midlife career change

For all of its potential, adjusting your career path at 40 does have some drawbacks.

1. You have more responsibilities now

By now, you might own a house, have kids, or be a caregiver to an elderly parent. If you need to go back to school to prepare for a career transition, this might eat into your other responsibilities or savings.

2. You have more expenses

You might have to take a pay cut or transition to an entry-level job, so keep this in mind: the cost of living for a 40-year-old is higher than when you were younger.

If you’re going to take a career break while looking for a new job, make sure you’re prepared. Gone are the days when you could handle a week straight of 99-cent noodles.

You’ll need a plan to cover the mortgage, healthcare, and other bills and expenses. At the same time, you won’t necessarily have to take an entry-level position if you can tell a good story about the relevance of your skills and experiences.

3. It’s not just about you

In your 20s, it may have been easy to hop from job to job without a second thought. But now, you may have to lean on your spouse or partner as you make the switch. You should consult them before making any big decisions.

These considerations might make you more risk-averse. They hold many people back from taking the plunge. Just remember: not doing anything and feeling that your work and values are misaligned or that you’re wasting your life is a risk with real costs as well.

4. Self-doubt

Self-doubt is a form of self-sabotage. When we feel incapable of doing something, we don’t try as hard — sometimes, we don’t try at all.

It’s important to let go of the fears that hold you back, like imposter syndrome or being too old for a position. A successful career isn’t about longevity in a single position or field.

Rather than falling into the craters of self-doubt, think about all the professional goals you’ve already accomplished. How many skills and experiences have you developed over the course of your career? Your age isn’t a negative attribute — it’s a value you bring as a candidate, even when pivoting industries.

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What to consider when changing careers at 40

While you can make a career switch to just about any industry, some roles are harder to attain later in life. For instance, becoming an astronaut or a professional athlete are probably off the table.

Joking aside, if you aren’t already in the field, careers that require a significant accumulation of specialized knowledge and practice hours will be harder to build a new career in. Transferable skills will only take you so far in open-heart surgery. So will jobs that have a very structured, formal career path.

With the right combination of confidence and humility, a learning mindset, and imagination, these formal careers can be ripe for fresh outsider perspectives. You may need to think more creatively about less technical roles or be prepared for a few years of education and a low-paid apprenticeship.

How to change careers at 40

Here’s some advice on how to change your career at any stage and make the transition as smooth as possible.

1. Information is power

A successful job search is about tapping into the assets surrounding you. It’s no wonder 31% of job seekers find job opportunities through networking. You’ve spent years developing a professional community — it’s time to use it.

Update your LinkedIn profile, reach out to people on the platform, network with colleagues, and seek out recruiters and friends in your newly chosen industry. Post to ask your entire network about job opportunities and let people know you’re on the hunt.

Make sure you know what you’re getting into. Research your dream job, investigate companies on Glassdoor, and list the skills you need to be successful in that role. This process will also help you think of questions to ask prospective hiring managers.

2. Be clear on why you’re looking for a change

Take a moment to reflect on why you want to leave. Write down all your reasons for leaving. Figure out why you really want to change careers at 40. Then reframe by focusing on the positive — what are all the things you hope to get in a new career? You don’t want to make a decision based on running away or escaping a situation.

This reflection will help you determine whether you want a career change or just a new company, role, or workplace. Either way, only you can decide if it’s worth it for you to quit. Consider if you can improve things at your current job. If you choose to leave, you’ll have a list of things to avoid in your career search.

3.  Experiment

Look for ways to dip your toes in the water. Get curious and lean into learning through doing. There might be part-time opportunities to explore different work environments or develop your skills. Try to shadow someone in the field, volunteer, or start a side hustle before committing to it full-time. These things can give you a realistic flavor of what’s to come.

4. Identify your transferable skills

Some of your skills might be specific to your current career, like your intimate knowledge of corporate processes, proprietary software, or anything else niche. Still, there’s sure to be some overlap between your current role and your dream career.

Learn what employees in the roles you’re looking for have. If you’re trying to change careers but you have no degree or higher education, that’s okay — you have plenty of real-world knowledge and experience that fresh graduates don’t.

Look for skills that can apply to other fields. Here are some things you can include in a resume or cover letter, no matter the job:

Make sure to have examples for each. This will put you on the right track to nail your job interview.

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5. Assess your current situation

Before making a significant change, it’s essential to assess your current situation thoroughly. This means considering your financial stability, personal obligations, and how a career change might impact these aspects of your life. Review your savings and monthly expenses, and contemplate the financial implications of possibly having a period without income during the transition. Also, gauge the support of your family, as their understanding and encouragement can be crucial during this period.

6. Build out a supportive network

While your professional network is vital for job opportunities, a supportive network can provide the emotional and psychological backing you need during this time. This could include family, friends, mentors, or even a career transition coach. These individuals can offer advice, share their own experiences, provide you with perspectives you might not have considered, and give you the motivation to continue on your journey. Don’t hesitate to lean on them when you need to; remember, everyone needs a helping hand now and then.

7. Keep developing your skills

Commit yourself to the learning necessary to make this career change to make yourself feel more capable. Don’t wait to land a new job to start upskilling yourself.

Focus on one or two areas that might be big gaps for you. Go for a working understanding of new skills or knowledge rather than trying to develop deep expertise in a technical area.

Best careers to start at 40

According to a 2022 Gallup study, the average retirement age for American workers is expected to rise to 66. At 40, you still have more than half your professional life ahead. Building a new career path that taps into your passions will give you the sense of purpose and belonging needed to thrive well into your retirement.

If you aren’t ready to dive into the deep end, find what you love by trying the following:

  • Volunteering: If you’re passionate about helping people, volunteer at your local soup kitchen, hospital, or animal shelter. Try different volunteer positions within your chosen institution to see what suits you best.
  • Coding challenges: Technological careers are endless, so finding out whether you enjoy computer skills like coding or design might lead you to a lucrative career.
  • Craft courses: If you already practice a creative craft or want to tap into your artistic side, join a course to perfect the basics. Photography, painting, sewing, ceramics, or writing can help you test whether you’d like to start your own business or jump into a creative career like marketing, art direction, or graphic design.

Best paying jobs for a career change at 40

Likewise, think outside the box in a new career field. Do you want to stay in the same industry with an updated role? Start from scratch? Or transfer your current skills to a new field?

Here are some of the best career changes to consider for your switch:

1. Nursing

2022 median pay:$81,220 per year

If you enjoy caring for people, a career in nursing is a fulfilling choice — and nurses are in high demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse practitioners will be the fastest-growing occupation through 2031.

Becoming a nurse practitioner can take up to eight years, but there are other options to keep you working in the field while you study. An associate’s degree in nursing takes two years, and from there you can work while studying and narrowing down your patient focus.

2. Web or digital design development

2022 median pay: $80,730 per year

Tech is a smart industry to break into — most jobs are flexible and pay well — and some careers only require short certification programs and internships to start.

Web development, for example, is expected to grow 23% throughout the decade, and increasingly more employers are employing self-starters and certificate-holders over those with a bachelor’s degree.

Digital development design is also an option that typically only requires certification. Whichever you choose, you can either work freelance or land a job in industries like publishing, advertising, and information technology.

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3. Freelancer or consultant

Many career changers find success as entrepreneurs. Here you can use many of your current skills, with the added responsibilities of running your own business. You have to be sure that your skills are in demand and have a list of potential clients.

Do some homework on the types of pain points potential customers might have that you could solve. And be prepared to constantly add new skills and expand your understanding of the related issues around your area of expertise.

4. Translator

2022 median pay: $53,640 per year

If you’re fluent in a second language, translation is a diverse field that exercises your written and spoken communication skills. Translators can focus on providing services in several fields, from medicine and law to entertainment and publishing.

To start, brush up on some technical knowledge. And although certification isn’t required, consider seeking certification with an organization like the American Translators Association.

5. Real estate agent

2022 median pay: $52,030 per year

As a real estate agent, you will guide clients through the process of buying, selling, and renting properties. This role requires excellent interpersonal skills and a knack for sales and negotiation. While a high school diploma is the minimum requirement, many agents have a bachelor’s degree. Also, you must pass a licensing exam specific to where you plan to work.

6. Personal trainer

2022 median pay: $45,380 per year

Turning your passion for fitness into a career can be an incredibly rewarding journey. To get started, you’ll need to obtain a fitness certification from a recognized organization. The specific certification you should pursue will depend on your interests and career goals. For example, you might choose to become a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) through organizations like the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), or the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA).

7. Event planner

2022 median pay: $52,560 per year

Event planners coordinate and manage all aspects of events, from weddings to corporate functions. This career requires strong organization and problem-solving skills. Most event planners have a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, but it’s not always required. Gaining experience through internships or by planning your own events can be beneficial.

8. Occupational therapist assistant

2022 median pay: $63,450 per year

Support patients in therapeutic activities. Occupational therapist assistants play a pivotal role in the healthcare field, providing support to patients in their therapeutic activities. They work under the supervision of occupational therapists and help patients regain or develop skills necessary for daily living and working.

To become an occupational therapy assistant, you need to graduate from an accredited program and pass a national examination to obtain certification. This career is fulfilling for those who have a desire to positively impact others’ lives. An associate degree and certification are required, rewarding for those who want to make a difference in others’ lives.

9. Paralegal

2022 median pay: $59,200 per year

Paralegals assist lawyers by conducting legal research, preparing documents, maintaining files, and performing administrative tasks. They play a crucial role in the legal process, offering valuable support to attorneys. While a bachelor’s degree is often preferred, some paralegals may start their careers with an associate degree or a certificate in paralegal studies. Strong research and writing skills are essential in this field. Paralegal certification, while not always required, can enhance job prospects Certification and education in paralegal studies are important, perfect for detail-oriented individuals interested in law.

10. Healthcare administrator

2022 median pay: $104,830 per year

Oversee the operations of healthcare facilities. A degree in healthcare administration and relevant certifications can pave the way, suited for those passionate about healthcare but who prefer the administrative side. ​​

Healthcare administrators are responsible for planning, directing, and coordinating health services. They might manage an entire facility or specialize in managing a specific department. A bachelor’s degree is usually required. However, a master’s degree in health administration, public health, or a related field can enhance job prospects.

11. Human resources manager

2022 median pay: $130,000 per year

Human resources managers plan, direct, and coordinate the administrative functions of an organization. They oversee the recruiting, interviewing, and hiring of new staff. A bachelor’s degree in human resources, business, or a related field is typically required, with most positions also requiring previous experience in the field. Certification, while not necessary, can enhance career advancement opportunities.

Need a hand navigating your career change?

Making a career change at 40 doesn’t have to be scary. Many people will help you make this life transition. You’ll be gathering information from prospective colleagues, leaning on your mentors for advice, and depending on your friends and family for moral support. You can even read career books about career changes. investing in a career coach can provide tailored guidance, help you identify your strengths and interests, and equip you with effective strategies to navigate your career transition successfully.

Remember that it’s never too late to change careers and pursue something you’re passionate about or to seek new challenges. Embrace the journey as a chance for personal growth and development, and you might find that this career shift at 40 is one of the most rewarding decisions you’ve ever made.