Updated: Jun 8
Just admit it. Even just thinking about it makes you tremble in fear. Midlife change of careers is terrifying.
You've been denying this for so long, hoping that you're wrong and that the condition would turn for the better.
Unfortunately, no. You're not wrong. And you know things would never improve. You feel like getting a hard punch in the gut.
This is not how you want to spend the rest of your life. You feel stuck.
You want to quit, but it's like saying that years of your effort to get where you are right now is for nothing. All the blood, sweat, and tears you shed will go down the drain.
And don't forget the horror of having to start everything from scratch. Again. In your not-so-young age.
Stop right there. Take a deep breath and calm your beating heart. You're not alone. This guide will take your hand and walk you through the process of midlife change of careers step by step.
It's a bumpy ride, but you'll be just fine.
Part 1: Understand where you stand
Why Do People Change Careers?
How do people end up with their job? If we consider that our career is something that we will do for almost the rest of our lives, it's scary how there are still many of us who choose our career based on what others told us, or by “fate”.
There are tons of students who still don't have a clue about what they will do with their life until the last minute of having to choose their college major, or even after they graduate.
Choosing Careers Based on Ignorance
Many kids their age haven't grasped real life yet. It's just another adventure for them. They just boldly go to where their destiny takes them. How blissful youthful ignorance is.
And after spending most of their 20s surviving the harsh real world, these kids grow wiser and develop new perspectives of life. They already have goals and aspirations of what their life should be. For the lucky few, those goals and aspirations are aligned with their current path. For most of the others, they find themselves in a world that they don't want to be in.
Reason for Changing Careers
This occurrence is so common that statistics show that the average American switch jobs 10-15 times in their lifetime.
Maybe it's because they grow different passions, they want to find a more fulfilling and satisfying occupation, or they're tired of working 9-5, they seek financial stability and can't find it in their dead-end job.
But it's also possible that they need to change careers because of company downsizing or closing, unwanted job relocation, poor relationship with their co-workers or managers, ineffective leadership, or feel undervalued.
While it's better to smile, say c'est la vie, and move on to the next job; making this kind of transition is dreadful for some.
Why Making A Midlife Change of Careers is Scary
One of the very basic survival abilities of any living creature is learning to identify and avoid dangers. We don't naturally touch fire or jump off the cliff because we know those activities are dangerous. Similar things happen when we have gone through something uncomfortable in the past, we will try to avoid repeating the previous experience in the future.
For most people, especially those whose career is not aligned with their passion, their professional experience of climbing the career ladder from the very bottom is not something that can be categorized as pleasant. They will try their best to avoid having to re-living the whole process.
Different from when they were still young and have nothing else to think about except for themselves, middle-agers have to balance the current work and family life. Mid-life career change will affect the personal life, relationship, and health. The older they are, the more difficult it will be; as responsibilities will increase with age.
But what exactly are the factors that stop most people from chasing their dreams and get out of the dead-end career?
First, new career fields might require different sets of hard and soft skills. To acquire these new skills, one needs additional training/education/school/courses or even a new college degree. This equals extra budget, time, and effort. Something that someone who wants to switch paths might not have.
Second, to get the extra time needed, one might need to quit the current job and lose the regular income. Meanwhile, no income means no additional funds for education - what a vicious loop.
Transition time is also challenging. It requires more work, more learning, more time, and more adapting.
The best way to go about it is to work on the current job longer and save to survive the transition time later.
This means it requires good planning.
And planning is what we are going to do.
Do you need to change your career?
But before you take any drastic pivot, you have to make sure that you are sure about making a career change. You need to assess your current career by answering these questions.
1. What is your feeling?
First, ask your feelings. Do you think that you have made all the right choices leading you to your current role/position? But if you still feel something is not right or out of place, then there must be something wrong.
Do you love your job? Is there anything that bothers you at work? Do you feel bored and empty working in your current company?
Are you waking up looking forward to starting your workday? If not, what's the reason?
Try to find the sources of your troubles and whether this is something that you can tolerate.
2. How’s the state of your energy?
Then observe your state of energy. If you constantly feel worn out and exhausted working your current career, it might mean that you used up all your energy resources just to survive the days.
Find out what drains your energy. A holiday may be all you need.
3. How about the current work situation?
This is a simple test. Imagine doing your current job for the rest of your life. Can you picture yourself doing it?
If not, why not? What’s the problem? Can you find a solution or workaround to the problem?
4. What about the money and other perks?
Can the money and other perks you get compensate for the amount of work you give? Granted, not everybody works only for the cash, but this is one of the deciding factors to keep or leave a career.
To reiterate in simpler terms, “What you get should compensate for what you give.”
5. Does your work make enough impact?
Steve Jobs famously said “We're here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise, why else we even be here?” People feel they matter if they can contribute to the world around them.
Do you think that you make a difference? Do you feel your abilities and talents are used in an impactful way in your career? Or do you think that they can make a better impact in another profession?
6. What do I like/dislike about this career?
Make a list, compare your likes and dislikes. Be honest to yourself. And use the result to make an educated decision.
Part 2: Midlife Career Change Tips
Even if all the answers from the previous section leads you to the conclusion that you indeed need a career change, don’t make the abrupt decision. Plan well before taking any action.
Remember, fail to plan equals plan to fail.
Here are several steps to help you go through the ordeal smoothly.
1. Know What You Want
This point is still related to the previous chapter. If you don’t know what you want regarding your career, it means you are not ready to make the change. Yet.
1. Find Out What You Want
So, find out what you want. And be 100% sure, or else, things can and will go sideways. Find out what isn't right in your current job, and the reasons why you are not happy. This will be the right basis for you to make the change.
The most important thing is, don't act impulsively. You are making a decision that will determine the rest of your life.
Never, ever, make a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion.
Think it through, ask for the honest opinions of your family, significant others, and your close friends. Better yet, ask the view of your not-so-close colleagues as they tend to give you more objective insight.
Make sure that you will have no regret. Either because you make the switch, or because you don't make the switch.
2. Get Clear Objectives
Get clear objectives of what you want to get out of your career. Make a list of what you want your life to be in the next five years. This includes what you want to have and where you want to be.
Don't forget to create the same list for longer terms, such as ten years, twenty years, and so on. A journey will be more comfortable if you know where you want to go.
Create a mental picture of achieving your career. Imagine what your life would be like. Find photographs or images (and stories, videos, etc.) related to your dream career. Put them in a place where you can access them easily. A pinboard next to your work computer would be a nice one. These items will help you focus.
3. Define Your Non-Negotiable
The only certainty about life is uncertainty. So, be flexible. But with that being said, you have to have your non-negotiable. No matter what happens, these things should be your focus and not be compromised.
Consider: What makes you tick? Is it monetary or material success, or personal satisfaction from getting the work done? What work environment suits you best? Is it the quiet, laid-back office, or the one with adrenaline-pumping high-stakes deadlines?
For example, you might work for an ad agency or go freelancing as a Google Ads specialist, but you should have an income of at least $ XXX every month. Adjust everything else to meet this goal.
4. Do a Self-Assessment
To know what kinds of jobs suit you best, you need to know what kind of person you are. Look at the things that you've done and find out which ones do you like best.
Know your personality types, your interest, your aptitudes, and the work-related values that fit you.
Know which direction you should and want to go.
If you need help in creating a map to achieve your dream career and get ideas on your dream job, you can use DreamGravity’s career strategizing tool.
2. Know and Build Up Your Strengths
Every person has his/her unique strengths and weaknesses. To compete with others, you need to know and work on your strengths. This could be something that you enjoy, something that makes you thrive, and something that energizes you.
What Are Your Motivations?
Ask yourself what drives you to wake up every morning? And concerning finding the perfect career for you, what would you do for free?
For example, if you love teaching children to the point that you volunteer to teach kindergarten for free, then there’s no better motivation than surrounding yourself with children.
What Working Environment Fits You?
Are you a solo or a team player? Do you pefer a quiet or crowded environment? Are you an outdoor people person who loves to go out and meet clients or an indoor behind-the-desk type of worker? Ask yourself these questions.
Imagine your perfect day at work. Work out on the details.
Do You Have Transferable Skills?
Making a midlife career change doesn’t mean that you have to go from zero. There are common and specific things that you picked up along the way that you can bring to your new career later.
Find as many of these transferable skills as you can. It would be best for you if your new career choice is aligned with your old ones. It means that you have less new things to learn and will have a shorter and easier transition.
3. Do Your Homework - Research
To find a new role that fits you, you can't just blindly apply to any new job as long as it's different from the old one. Do your homework, find out as much as you can about this new future before you jump in.
What do you want in a career?
List down all the critical things that you want from your new career as well as the things that you'd like to avoid.
Then find out what job training and education that you need to be able to thrive in the industry. Do you need a new degree? Where should you go to obtain these skills?
Know More About The Job
Make sure that there's a demand for that kind of job. You don't want to choose a new career only to find out that nobody wants to pay you for that. Check job ads in your local papers or the internet. LinkedIn is also an excellent place to get a general view of the demand for the job.
Confirm that the earning that you'll get from the job can cover your living expenses (and more), the duties are the ones you enjoy doing, and you can get the job when you are ready.
You can get this information by talking to your connections from the industry. It's also a good idea to do some internships if possible. There's no better way to know about a job than real-world experience.
4. Get the Necessary Skills and Abilities Upgrade
After you know more about the job and the requirements, prepare yourself to meet the qualification. Get the skills and ability to upgrade.
Find and take classes and courses that will help you do that. There are tons of online programs and offline. These classes can help you with the training, education, and direction you need. After that, don't forget to update your resume.
And it's highly recommended that you find yourself a mentor. His/her real-world experience is many times more valuable than any theory. Your mentor can also help you meet the right people, which brings us up to the next point.
5. Network, Network, Network
Not everybody is comfortable doing some networking. But those who succeed faster are the ones with a vast network. Do you know that 70-80% of people get their jobs/business/gigs from acquaintances? There are also tons of opportunities that are only circulated within small closed networks.
So while you're still on your current job, use the available personal and professional networks to expand your circle of friends. Setting meetings is one of the best networking strategies. It doesn't always have to be physical meetings. You can use technology to make virtual connections.
Find and network with people, support groups, and mentors who are already doing the job that you want to do.
6. Prepare Your Finance
Now let’s address the elephant in the room - the money.
The reality is, you’re not your young self who is eager to tackle the world by yourself anymore. You probably already have your own family to think about. So you can’t just suddenly quit your job and go on another job hunting.
You have to finance yourself and your family during the process while having no income source. You don’t want to run out of cash somewhere in the middle of your journey.
You also have to think about education and training costs.
To be able to survive the transition process unscathed, you have to know how much funds you need to make the switch. Get the general calculated idea, then add 25-35 % as the safety net. It would be ideal if you could double the amount.
Also, consider whether you’d like your next career working for others or working for yourself. And whether this new career is aligned with your old. Starting your own business in a completely new field means more effort and more funds are needed.
Restarting also means you have to accept entry-level salary/income and work yourself up the ladder. Step by step.
Then your next step is to get that amount of capital before making the switch.
This means that you can’t make an immediate switch. You can, but it’s risky. You need to take your time to save enough funds, and use the time to educate yourself and network.
Part 3: Best Jobs for Midlife Career Change
Here’s the hard truth: making a midlife career change will never be easy. There’s no way around it. What you can do is not to make it more challenging than it is. That’s why it’s advisable to choose a new career that is more or less still aligned with your current job.
By doing so, you won’t need to acquire a lot of new skills and won’t have to take too much further education and training. This will help you save more time, effort, and finances.
Choose a new career that doesn’t require years of physical training. You might not have the time to acquire all the ability to compete with others that have started way longer than you. Examples of such careers are sportsmen, or maybe ballerina.
It’s almost impossible to start a career as an NBA basketball player if you don’t start at an early age. By their 30s, NBA players, or any sports player for that matter, are usually already retired.
Examples of the Best Jobs for Midlife Career Change
While you should do your research, consider your unique personality, and find the best jobs that can fit you, here are some examples of the best jobs for midlife career change to give you some ideas.
Business administration staff
Wellness and Beauty
Mental health therapist
Patient care technician
Medical insurance billing and coding specialist
Superintendent of schools
Digital Marketing Consultant
Part 4: Making a Midlife Change of Careers
Now that all the preparation has been set, after you know all you need to know and consider all there is to consider, it’s time to make the career change - or not.
Should you decide that a career change is what you need, here are some points to ponder.
How to Do Career Changes at 30?
Some might say that 30s is the best time for a career shift. It’s because, at this time in your life, you still have fewer responsibilities than at the later stage in your life. You also have fewer expenses and more years ahead to pursue your dreams.
You’ve tasted the working life and know the aspects that you like and dislike. Based on this, you have a better picture of what your ideal life would look like and the path you must follow.
You can spare time, effort, and finances to shape your life. For example, if you need additional education or training to realize your future, there will be little that will get in the way.
Are you changing a career at 30? Here are some tips to help you go through it smoothly.
1. Choose Natural Abilities Over Interest
It might be fun to chase over your interest and change your career based on it. But in the 30s, interest can still change over time and be influenced by many external factors.
It’s better to base your decision on your natural abilities. Choosing something that is aligned with your talent can save you the learning curve. Natural abilities will also stay with you for the rest of your life.
It would be ideal if your interest is on the same frequency as your natural talent.
2. Consider Going Back to College
Normally in the 30s, you still have tons of time ahead of you. So you can afford to go back to college to raise your bar above your competition.
Or if dealing with lecturers was not one of your happiest memories, you could choose other kinds of education such as online learning, workshops, and training.
The most important thing is, improve yourself with the necessary knowledge and skills to embark on this new journey.
3. Solve Problems
You’re not in the phase where you work just for the fun of it. You might want to leave a dent or two in your universe. You want history to write your name, even on the smallest scale.
So, choose a career that solves problems. Contribute to the larger world.
4. Appreciate Your Uniqueness
Oscar Wilde famously said: “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” Taken into this context, it means you should not follow others and choose the best option for yourself. You should act like nobody else but you. You’re unique because you’re you.
Don’t let others make your decision or tell you how you should do your things.
5. Think Long Term
Those who can survive the longest are those who prepared themselves to survive that long. When you make a decision, be sure that it will impact your life positively in the long term.
You don’t want to go through all the troubles and efforts to change your career only to do it again within a few months. Just like a fairy tale, you want your career to live happily ever after.
How to Do Career Changes at 40?
The background stories might be different for those in their 40s compared to their younger peers regarding making a career change. At this age, you might have more responsibilities, already settle with your own family, and have to think for more than yourself. You need to keep your work-life balance.
That’s why making the life shift might not be easy and possibly depressing to some that they decide it’s better not to change anything. That’s why it’s important to remember these things.
1. Believe that You Deserve It
If you know that you can’t stay at your job but the fears keep you from making the move, know this: everybody deserves a better career and better life, including you.
While it’s true that you have your family to think about and you need to put extra work and time into making the transition, you also have advantages that your younger peers don’t. You have a better and wider network, more experienced, and more knowledge to make the transition.
But it has to start with yourself. You have to believe that you deserve a second chance at a better life.
2. Don’t Do It Alone
Yes, it won't be easy. And yes it’s terrifying. But nobody but your pride says that you should do it alone. So resist the challenge of shifting to another lane by yourself.
You have your family behind you. You also have your workmates, colleagues, and your vast connections that could help you navigate the transition. And believe it or not, many are in your exact position. You can help each other.
3. Don’t Rush
It’s tempting to want to get over with everything as soon as possible. But you know better. You’ve seen countless examples that making a rush decision usually won’t bring you to the place that you want to be.
So use your time wisely and take it slow. Plan and gain enough knowledge and experience before you pull the plug.
Set the career transition into a 1 or 2 years goal, and start your preparation right now.
4. Make Use of Your Strength and Interest
In the 40s you should already know your strength and interest well enough to use them to base your decision on and help you during the process.
You might not have the luxury to go through another career change, so make this decision count. Be sure that this one is aligned with your strength and interest.
5. Salaryman vs. Going Solo
Based on your work experience so far, you can decide whether you want to stay as a salaryman or going solo and start your own business.
Each decision has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, starting your own business requires more time, effort, and money to set up. It also brings more risks. But if you succeed, the reward is also worth the sacrifice.
On the other hand, working for a company is a stable job. It gives you more stability in terms of income and workload. But you have to work under someone else, and the company is making the decision for you.
How to Do Career Changes at 50?
Making a career change at 50 is more about peace of mind and personal satisfaction than monetary reasons. Things like your health, self-actualization, passion, and impact on society are often more important than the paycheck.
The most important thing is not to let fears and negative emotions get in your way of achieving your career goals. Remember that your family and friends are with you along the way.
There are common things in making a career change at any age such as performing a self-assessment, making short and long-term goals, updating and upgrading your skills and knowledge, and don’t rush things; but here are some points that are specific to the 50s.
1. Be Realistic and Flexible
You should have realistic expectations on setting your new goals to ensure that you get the most satisfaction from your new job. You should also focus more on yourself, your family, and achieve work-life balance. Be flexible and don’t restrict yourself to a specific job.
2. Be Ready to Work With and For Younger Colleagues
Starting a new career in the 50s means working with younger people and some of them might hold more senior positions than you. They might also have different views than you, so be open to accepting feedback from these youngsters. You might need to up your communication skills.
3. Consider Your Bills And Retirement
Money might not be the main motivation to change your career, but you still need to pay your bills and save for your retirement.
4. Consider Your Transferable Skills
Choosing a new job that allows you to use skills from your previous job means that you won’t need to spend too much time and money on training and courses. Many industries have overlap functions. Find common grounds.