You hit the big 4-0 and you’ve decided to change your career. Do something different. Maybe pursue a passion you’ve had burning in your belly all these years. You may have been laid off or furloughed, forcing you to sell that big house and fancy car. Maybe the kids are through college and you recently downsized your home and lifestyle. Either way, your “monthly nut” just got smaller and you figure it’s now or never. So what exactly will you be up against when you switch gears mid-stream, mid life?
First thing’s first. Assess your skills. Sit down with a pad and pencil and jot down the many skills you’ve amassed over the years. Chances are, you’ve picked up a number of general business and people skills thus far—listening, leading, organizing, planning—things that got you promoted and earned you attaboys from the boss. You can regard these as transferable to most any other career. Next to that list, make a list of the skills you use in your hobbies, things you do in your time off. These fall into the category of relaxing, enjoyable activities that really interest you. They could be writing, teaching, drawing, photography—whatever floats your boat. Now connect the work skills with the interest skills and come up with a new career that you’ll not only enjoy but can pursue to pay the bills. Keep in mind that a career change at 40 will cost you some income. You’ll be competing with people who’ve been doing it for up to two decades. So expect to start at near bottom.
To avoid starting at the very bottom, add some gravitas to your cv by doing some volunteer work in your new career--if you can afford to do so. This not only prepares you for turning your interests into a money earning career, but it lets you trial run your career shift to see if doing what you love in a work environment still ignites your passion. The added side benefit is that you’ll be “connecting” with people who can recommend you for a paid position.
You may find, as many have, that being good at something may not be good enough to do it competitively and get paid. In this case, take some classes to boost your skills and bring you up to competitive levels. If, for example, you enjoy teaching, you might want to go back to school to get your teaching credential or even a master's degree in education. You’ll enter your new career at a higher pay level and learn what it takes to be a professional instructor.
Finally, it wouldn’t hurt to see a career counselor for some advice. He or she can tell you what to expect in terms of getting in and moving up in your new career. A counselor can also help you re-orient your resume to showcase your people and business skills in the best light for a prospective employer.
Eager to change careers at 40? It can be done if you assess who you are and are honest about what really inspires you.
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