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A Guide to Making a Career Change at 40

01/01/01

new career at 40, chapter one

The thought of changing careers at any time of life can be daunting to say the least. However, the older you get, the more difficult it may seem. Perhaps you’ve got financial commitments like a mortgage or monthly bills, or you’ve got personal responsibilities such as caring for your children or elderly relatives. If you missed out on higher education earlier on in life, you may feel limited by your education or training, or lacking the confidence to go for the career you really want.

However, if you’ve hit forty and found yourself stuck in a job or career that’s not making you happy there are many opportunities to make a significant and lasting change. In this article we want to run through everything you need to know about changing careers at forty, address your fears, questions and concerns and give you clear, concrete steps you can start today to get your foot on the ladder of your new career.

By the end, you’ll have answers to some of your most pressing questions and have a plan of action to follow to launch a career you’ll really love.

In this article:

Why change careers?

We all have different reasons for making major life changes, and changing careers is no different. Perhaps dissatisfaction in your current role is pushing you towards something new, or maybe a change in circumstances is prompting you to find something that suits your new routine or responsibilities better.

Below are some of the most common reasons why people choose to change careers. It’s worth making a note of the ones that apply to you when considering which career you might want to go into.

Why change change careers at 40

More money

Earning more money is a major driver for those looking to establish a new career. You may have reached the height of your earning potential in your current job, or you are working more hours than you can manage just to make ends meet. A different career can offer a higher average monthly or hourly rate that might not be possible in your current role, and offer you more opportunities for promotion, bonuses or overtime than you currently don’t have access to.

Better work-life balance

As we get older we look for different things in our working lives, beyond just career growth or even our pay packet. If we have children, or other caring responsibilities, we might want to work fewer hours, or have more flexibility in our working lives. We might want more time to pursue our passions or perhaps travel. The company where we work or the career we have will often determine the possibility of working part-time, working from home or allowing a better work-life balance, which is why many people choose to change careers a little later in life.

Pursue lifelong interests

Many of us have interests outside of our working lives. Sometimes it can take the confidence and experience that comes with age to consider pursuing these passions as a paid career. When you consider that you might be working well into your late sixties, that’s a long time to not be doing a job you really enjoy. That’s why now might be the time to consider a job that really motivates you for the rest of your working life.

Reduce stress

Unfortunately, stress often plays a part in our working lives. But it doesn’t have to. If you’re considering changing your career to try to reduce your stress, make a list of what you find stressful in your current job. It’s worth knowing exactly what it is that you want to avoid in the future–whether that’s working with the public, meeting strict deadlines or juggling lots of tasks–before you make a jump into a new career.

Develop new skills

You may feel that you’ve done everything you can do in your current role, industry, or career and you’re excited by the thought of learning something completely new. Developing new skills through retraining and joining a different industry may be just the challenge you’ve been missing in your working life up to this point.

Common fears for 40+ career changers

It’s natural to have some fears when you’re considering a new career, especially if you’ve been in the same role, company or industry for a long time. You may even have been out of the job market altogether. Whether you’ve had time off to raise a family, or you’ve been in the same career since you left school, it’s common to feel like it’s too late to make a major career change, and that sticking with the status quo is the safer option.

While making a career change will take determination, at forty it is definitely not too late. We’ve taken a look at some of the most common fears below, and how you can counter those fears in order to feel confident about making this important life change.

You can change careers at 40

What if I’m not good at this?

If you’ve been in the same job or career for a long time, it can be hard to imagine doing anything else. However, a short course which teaches you practical skills in a new industry can be a great way to boost your confidence and equip you with the hands-on experience you need to excel in a new career or role. You’ll also have experts in the industry who you can ask for advice on applying for jobs in your new field and how to get your foot on the ladder of a new career.

What if I don’t make enough money?

When starting out in a completely new career it’s common to have to start a few rungs down the ladder from where you might be used to. Depending on your previous income, this might mean adjusting to a lower salary while you build up experience and knowledge in your field. However, this isn’t always the case. It may be that with the right training and transferable skills from a previous job, your salary is the same or even higher than your previous position.

Before making a decision about which role or industry to go for it’s important to calculate exactly how much you’ll need to live on and measure that against starter salaries in your new field. With significant work and life experience behind you, you may find that, combined with the right training, you are able to move quickly through the ranks to a mid-career salary in a short space of time.

What if I don’t fit in?

A new career choice can often mean working with those at different stages in their careers to you. It can also mean working with those of different backgrounds, cultures and ages to your previous job. While it’s always daunting being the new person, and even more so when you’re starting from scratch again, try to see this is an opportunity to gain new experiences, build new relationships and learn from the expertise of others. You’ll likely find that most people are very welcoming to new people and impressed at your decision to change careers a bit later in life!

What if I’m too old?

Older people with significant life experience are often highly valued by companies. You’ll be bringing with you skills which younger staff may not have had the chance to build, expertise from your previous career and maturity. In addition, at forty you’ve still got many years of your career left to make a significant and lasting impact in your new role.

Is 40 too late to change careers

At forty it’s definitely not too late to change careers. You’re in the prime of your life with experience, skills and knowledge that many different industries value highly. In addition, by retraining and skilling up in your new industry you’re demonstrating your commitment to your decision to change careers, which also looks great in the eyes of potential employers and recruiters.

Combining your life experience with relevant skills training and a firm commitment to your new career makes you an excellent option for many employers, irrespective of the career you choose to pursue.

How to decide on a new career

We’ve rounded up some of the questions you might want to consider before researching the types of roles or careers you would like to retrain in.

Women in various careers

How much money do you need to make?

It’s worth keeping a note of your expenses for a couple of months so that you have an idea of exactly how much money you need to make to stay solvent while you’re starting out. Be honest with yourself and make sure to include any extras like holidays or birthdays, as well as regular expenses like mortgage repayments, childcare, bills and insurance.

When you have an idea of how much you’ll need to earn each month, you can keep it in mind when deciding on your career choice to ensure that the job you want will pay you enough when you’re still a junior to afford the lifestyle you want.  Websites like Glassdoor, Payscale and Salary.com provide average salaries for junior, mid-career and senior level positions so you’ll know what your maximum earnings are likely to be after a few years too.

Do you want to stay in the same industry?

Do you want a new role in the same industry, a similar role to your current one in a different industry, or a different role in a totally different area? The answer to these questions will determine how many of your current skills are transferable, your chances of landing a more senior position and the amount of retraining, if any, you’ll need to do.

Are you able to spend time retraining?

Retraining can take many forms. With part-time, online and blended learning options available there are classes for every learning style and level of commitment. Figure out how much time you can commit to retraining in your new field, whether that’s weekends, evenings or a few days per week. Being realistic about time commitment will help you not just find a suitable course but also complete it.

What are your key skills and strengths?

Do you have a talent for working with people? Are you a great team leader? Do you have a head for numbers? Making a note of your skills and strengths will help you clarify exactly the sort of role you might want to go into and where you can make the biggest contribution. You’ll be surprised how many of your current skills are transferable and can be utilised in your new career.

What do you like and dislike about your current role?

Figuring out what you like and dislike about your current role will help you ensure that you can focus on the things you love and avoid the more negative aspects of your job in any future career choice. Are you feeling unchallenged? Is the work too physically demanding? Would you like to do something more rewarding? The tasks which you particularly enjoy in your current role are also worth noting so you can find a career that incorporates these elements too.

Popular roles for 40+ career changers

If you’re still not sure exactly what career you’d like to go into, take a look at some of these popular choices for 40+ career changers.

Accounting

An accountant is responsible for keeping and interpreting financial records. They use numbers and financial statements to analyze and report on the health of a company, organisation or individual. Many institutions offer accounting and bookkeeping courses that can be completed in a relatively short period of time.

Accounting is a great career choice for:

If you enjoy problem solving, puzzles and working in teams this could be the role for you. Crucially, accountants need to be good at explaining complex ideas in relatively simple language to those with little or no financial education. Excellent people skills are a must.

Teaching

Teachers work with both young people and adults in schools, colleges and other educational environments, providing instruction in various subjects at different levels. Teachers are expected to encourage, inform, motivate and nurture their students as well as prepare them for exams which enable further education or career plans. Becoming a teacher's assistant may also be a good option for those looking for a career with a lower barrier to entry.

Teaching is a great career choice for:

A good teacher will be a strong communicator and an excellent listener. Those with skills in empathy, adaptability, patience and have a passion for learning will find teaching a versatile and highly rewarding career choice. Life experience will also be sought-after quality in this role.

Web Developer

Web Development is in high demand across the UK, the field also has a reputation of starting salaries, and plenty of opportunities for career growth. Additionally, many companies don’t require traditional degrees when hiring web developers. This makes it a great field for those looking to switch careers as you can up-skill with online courses, bootcamps, or more comprehensive web development training programs in a relatively short period of time and start earning.

Web Development is a great career choice for:

Critical thinking, creative problem solving, and an eye for design are key attributes of engineers. If you have an insatiable curiosity and commitment to lifelong learning then you already have some of the key personality traits of a successful web developer.

Dental hygiene / dental assistant

A career in dental hygiene or as a dental assistant is both varied and rewarding. The job involves greeting patients, scheduling appointments, following up enquiries and processing new patient information.

Dental hygiene is a great career choice for:

A dental hygienist or dental assistant needs to be patient, quick on their feet, disciplined and diplomatic. For those who love working with the general public this is a job that requires both interpersonal skills and technical training.

Personal trainer

The job of a personal trainer is to create individual fitness programmes for different clients as well as motivating and guiding them to achieve their goals.

Personal training is a great career choice for:

If you have a passion for sports and staying healthy, personal training can be a very rewarding career choice. You’ll need to have high energy levels and be great at guiding and motivating others to reach their goals.

Massage therapist

Massage therapists use touch to manipulate the muscles and other soft tissues of the body to help relieve different complaints such as stress and pain, as well as increase relaxation and improve the overall wellness of their clients.

Massage therapy is a great career choice for:

If you’re looking to break away from a desk job and would like a career that impacts positively on the lives of others massage therapy might be something you should consider retraining in. You’ll need to be a people person who is both adaptable and empathetic to each of your client’s needs.

Information technology

Skills in information technology can open doors to numerous careers in a wide range of industries. From app and website development to systems and security analytics, the scope of jobs available to those with this skill set is large and growing all the time thanks to the increasing digitization of our work and home lives. Similar to web development, you can often learn all the skills you need to get started and obtain a recognized credential via an IT training course in just a few months.

Information technology is a great career choice for:

If you enjoy solving complex problems, building user-focused applications or websites and troubleshooting issues, information technology has the full package. In addition, those with the right skills can expect to earn relatively high starting salaries as demand for these skills is currently at an all-time high.

Concrete steps to changing your career

To help you launch your new career, we’ve put together some simple, practical steps that you can start today.

taking the first step in your new career

  • Brainstorm potential career choices

    While you’re still in the early stages of deciding what your next career step might be, speak to family and friends about their work and create a mind map of potential career ideas. Keeping in mind what you like and dislike in your current role and what you are hoping to achieve in your next one, create a short list of jobs you might want to find out more about.

  • Look at the job market

    It’s worth having a look at the needs of the job market before deciding where you’re heading next work-wise. There may be skills shortages in your area and, if so, you might be well-positioned to land a sought-after role once you’ve undertaken relevant training or education.

  • Do your research

    While it’s important to pursue a second career that will be personally fulfilling, it's also good to be realistic about what you will be able and willing to achieve. Researching different careers will help you find out exactly what training you need to undertake to get your dream role and give you an idea of the length and scope of the learning period. When you have all the facts to hand you should ask yourself if you are still willing to take on the commitment that the job training requires.

  • Retrain

    Once you’ve decided on a career choice that ticks all your boxes personally and professionally, it’s time to look into retraining. Retraining will enable you to onboard the right skills for your new career as well as provide you with the certification you’ll need in order to demonstrate your abilities to future employers

    When looking into education options, it’s important to identify what your particular learning style is. You’ll also need to think about what you can commit to time-wise and if you’d like to study from home, in a classroom or opt for a mixture of the two.

    When thinking about your learning style, consider these questions:

    • Do you enjoy working in groups?
    • Do you thrive in a one-to-one teaching setting?
    • Do you like to study independently?

    You’ll also need to think carefully about your schedule, both over the short and long term. Do you have time to study full time or part time? Will you be working while you study or taking a break from work to complete a course? 

    Once you know the answers to these questions you’ll be in a good position to select a course or program that not only fits in with your schedule but that also optimizes your learning.

  • Get practical experience

    Getting some hands-on experience will be hugely advantageous when you are starting out in your new career. It’ll give you the chance to put your new skills to the test as well as get a real feel for the industry you’d like to go into. There are lots of ways to get practical experience before you land your first position. Consider looking into some of the options we’ve listed below either while you’re retraining or even earlier. By doing so you’ll be acquiring relevant experience and building on your knowledge of the role and industry.

    • Internship
    • Volunteering
    • Job shadow
    • Request to take on tasks relevant to your new career in your current role or company
    • Freelancing

Conclusion

We hope our guide to changing careers at forty has inspired you to take steps towards changing your career. It’s not an overnight decision, but by asking yourself some hard questions, doing your research and making a commitment to retraining in the skills you need, that sought-after role can become a reality, no matter what your age.

Don’t forget, having age and experience can be a distinct advantage on the job market, so be proud of the steps you’ve taken to get to this point and be confident in the knowledge and skills you already have. When your experience, commitment and previous skills are combined with the right education for your chosen field, you’ll find you have the full package needed to launch the new, vibrant and fulfilling career you’ve always wanted.

Pitman Training has helped thousands of adults in their forties and beyond up-skill and reenter the job market with a new career, successfully. If you are interested in learning about our renowned training programs contact us today, or locate a centre near you.

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