How to make a career change at 40

Published Jan. 25, 2021

Making a midlife career change can be exciting yet terrifying, but nothing’s worse than feeling stuck in the wrong career. At 40, you are probably nearly two decades into your career field.

How to make a career change at 40

Assuming you continued to work in the very occupation you started, you should hold a great deal of experience by this time and might not want to change as a result. But the days of a ‘job for life’ or a single career path are well and truly over. We used to think of careers as linear journeys. Today, things are a little different as more and more people are developing broader skills to prepare themselves for an ever-diversifying world of work. There are so many different career options to chose from.

Because careers are full of twists and turns and ups and downs, there are countless opportunities available to us, not all of which follow a straight line. And when you can’t see the next meaningful step, you start to question everything. Am I good at my job? Am I making progress? Am I happy? These insecurities can particularly sting midway through professional life. Maybe you have achieved a few promotions and reached the top of your industry’s “jungle gym.”

The downside is, you’re no longer happy. You’ve either run out of challenges and are coasting through each day. Or your priorities, values, or needs have shifted, so your job no longer serves you or your purpose. The dissonance between the job you have at 40 and the job you want at 40 can leave you hungry for change — so why not go for it?

Although it’s not an easy decision, we have seen people successfully and happily go through a mid-life career change with mentorship and career coaching help. At MentorCruise, a mentorship platform, mid-life career mentors can help you identify potential new positions while modeling how to go about the switch.

If you’re 40 and want to begin a new career, seeking midlife career change ideas, or how to go about the best midlife career changes, this article is for you. You’ll learn the following;

  • What to know before making a career change.
  • Why now is the right time to make the decision.
  • The pros and cons of making a career change at 40.
  • How to make a career change.
  • Tips for making a career change at 40.
  • Top careers worth going for at 40.

What to know before making a career change.

Before you follow suit, you need to make sure you know what you’re up against.

The pros of a career change at 40

Deciding whether to stick or twist can be incredibly daunting — especially if the status quo tells you the former. But if the latter results in a happier, more fulfilled you, then it’s definitely worth taking the plunge.

The right career change can positively impact your whole life. Not only will your mental wellbeing benefit from a renewed sense of purpose, but your social life will flourish as you attain a more positive outlook on day-to-day life.

Plus, by the age of 40, you probably have a clearer idea of what you really want from life. Maybe you rushed into your fast-paced career and have realized it doesn’t allow enough time to spend with your loved one. Perhaps you want a more challenging job that utilizes your strengths and pushes your skillset.

If, like many, you plan to retire at 65, you still have over two decades of work ahead of you. While it may take a couple of years to prepare for a new job, the next 25 (or more, depending on financial needs) years will be so much more rewarding if they’re spent doing something you enjoy.

The cons of a career change at 40

As that old saying goes, the grass isn’t always greener — especially when it comes to finances.

Seeking pastures new at the age of 40 is potentially dicier than it would have been 10 years ago. At 40, you are now more likely to have added responsibilities: you may have a mortgage to pay or children who need your support.

Annual expenses are higher for 45-54 year-olds than they are for 25-34 year-olds. Approximately 22% of salary is spent on housing, while 31.5% is spent on gas and insurance, food, vehicles, and household expenses. If you’ve been in a steady, well-paid job for years now, then a career change represents somewhat of financial risk. Chances are, if you’re looking to enter a totally new role or sector, then you’ll need to take a step back in both seniority and pay grade.

So why would you want to earn less, when your outgoings are more?

Unfortunately, a career change always brings this element of uncertainty. You may not want to or be able to progress further in your current career, but equally, there’s no telling what sacrifices you’ll have to make in your new position.

Don’t be deterred by these potential drawbacks. Making a career change right now, for all its risks, has the potential to change your life for the better — providing you do your research. We’ve put together the following tips to assist you.

Tips for making a career change at 40

Assess yourself

Finding a job you love, in an ideal sector, is no mean feat. You need to start narrowing down your options pretty quickly.

Ask yourself the following questions.

Do you feel fulfilled in your current role?:

Before you make any decisions, it’s worth considering what you’d miss from your current job. If you dislike your boss but fundamentally enjoy the role and its purpose, it might be worth talking to the management to iron out any issues. If, however, you’ve lost your passion, or the company isn’t the right fit anymore, this is the moment to rethink your career.

What do you like and dislike about your job?

If you could cherry-pick certain aspects of your job, what would they be, and how could you integrate them into a new career?

For instance, if you’re a project manager who loves the workflow but yearns for a more exciting environment, it might be worth taking your skills into a new sector. Technology companies, SaaS, and digital services are always on the lookout for PMs or product managers with your level of experience.

Sometimes working out what you don’t like is the best way to identify the next steps. It can help to refocus and put things into perspective, meaning you could potentially pivot, rather than taking a totally radical career move.

Be practical

Once you’ve got those answers, it’s time to get the ball rolling. A career change at 40 has something a career change at 30 or 35 simply can’t compete with: years of proven experience. And while you may wonder how decades of analyzing databases will help you break into the world of movie-making, we’ve got two words: transferable skills.

In any role, there are a set of hard and soft skills required to get the job done, whether that’s using spreadsheets or managing a team. As an experienced worker, you can leverage the skills you’ve already honed to get your new career off to a flying start.

So, be practical. Choose a career where your existing skills can come to the fore. This will make your transition quicker and more comfortable.

Do your research

The last thing you want to do is jump at the first opportunity, in fear another one will never arise. As with any job hunt, you need to know that the role is right for you — and that the company has staying power.

You can avoid knee-jerk reactions by really understanding the sector you’re applying to. We’re talking office locations, economic outlook, median earnings, job duties, everything. There is a bunch of information for this on Google, LinkedIn, and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

It’s a good rule to make a tangible list of pros and cons to each job. Great pay but too far from home? Ideal location but too much responsibility? This will allow you to visualize your next move and ensure you aren’t just changing careers for change’s sake.

How to make a career change at 40

Try not to be daunted by the challenges involved in making a midlife career change. If you want to make this change, choose to find a way that fits your current life situation. It may take a little longer than it would have if you were ten years younger, but it can be worth it if you do it right.

No, you don’t need to go back to school and do another four-year degree to change careers. As a career changer, make sure to take advantage of your current skills to get to the new field that you want.

Your first step in the career planning process is to carry out a self-assessment. This will enable you to learn about your personality type, interests, aptitudes, and work-related values.

At age 40, you’ll discover that what you find may be pretty different from what you would have seen if you did this assessment when you were younger. So, if you recall taking a “career test” back in college, don’t bother looking at your results. Do it again. Once you complete this step, you may find a list of suitable options.

Your self-assessment may show that a career is an excellent match for you based on your qualities, but at 40, you have many other things to consider. For instance, your financial obligations might not permit you to invest a lot of money in training and education. With a household to care for, spending a lot of time studying may not be something you can or want to do at this moment.

If you want to move into a new career pretty fast, decide upon the one that doesn’t need a lot of extra preparation or education. Talk with a career coach if you feel like you need some professional help to get a more precise answer on the career that you want to embark upon.

Leveraging your past experiences

A great thing about your many years of work is the fact that you’ve accumulated a lot of experience. You may wonder the good your experience will do if you change to a new career.

Use your transferable skills. These are skills and talents you have gathered from doing one kind of work that you can apply in another. For some careers, it’s possible to substitute your transferable skills for formal training.

When deciding between a career that demands further education and one for which you can apply your transferable skills, choose the latter. It will help your transition become easier at a stage when you may need to restrict your expenditure of time, money, or energy. This does not mean that you shouldn’t pick an occupation that will require formal preparations, but it’s nice to have options.

Gather job information

To add to the facts regarding educational requirements, research on job duties, the outlook for your preferred position, and median earnings. Look at the salaries in the fields you’re considering and the professional experiences required for the roles.

Most managerial positions in whatever profession prioritize excellent communication skills above technical know-know. Look into job duties to choose the ones you prefer. If there are any tasks you don’t or can’t see yourself doing, remove them from your list’s occupation.

Secure that the job’s salary will meet your expenses, let you commit to savings, and enable you to do things you enjoy doing. You might also want to examine a wide range of career options, not just one. Optionality may help you discover a career that fits your personality.

Make a midlife career change with Mentorcruise.

Making a career change is not an easy decision, particularly when considering the change at age 40 or older. Like so many others considering midlife career changes, you may have to deal with the fear of failure, among several other challenges that try to prevent you from taking what may seem like too big a risk.

Whatever the case, remember, you’re not the only person to change your career at 40! Countless others have gone before you, and many others will follow behind. You may even find a personal mentor who’s succeeded in the same journey you’re starting.

MentorCruise offers a selection of expert career mentors who use tailored, consistent, 1-2-1 interaction to encourage your personal and professional growth.

Step up your career change game plan, prepare for interviews, find that dream job and embrace new-found confidence, as your personal mentor will listen to your doubts, provide solutions and kick-start your new career — even at 40! Sound good? Find your mentor now!