Sometimes, while trekking through your career, year after year, you suddenly reach a point where the same-old-same-old just doesn’t work anymore. You might find that projects that used to excite you now leave you cold. As you plod through your day, you can’t shake the feeling that there’s something else you’d rather be doing. Your job may have been fulfilling at one point, but now…it’s simply not.
You’re not alone. Changing careers mid-life is more common than you might think. According to a 2019 Indeed survey, the average age at which people make a significant career change is 39. And these were deliberate, not rash, decisions. In fact, 83% of respondents reported that they thought about and planned their career change for up to 11 months before making the shift. Most interestingly, 78% cited dissatisfaction and a lack of challenge as reasons for their departure.
In reality, it’s never too late to make a career change. If you’re discontent with your current trajectory and think a new direction might restore the job satisfaction that’s lacking in your life, it doesn’t matter how old you are. Your quality of life is more important. If you have the skills you need or know how to acquire them, starting a new career in your 40s or beyond can be the best decision you have ever made.
But this doesn’t mean you should jump in without proper planning. There are several important considerations to think about before making the leap. This article will help you decide if you’re ready.
Career Changes Can Be Scary, But They’re Worth It
After devoting years to your career, the prospect of a change can be daunting. There are financial considerations that can’t be ignored. If you leave a job you’ve known in order to seek new horizons, will you be able to support your family? What if you fail? Is the risk involved in giving up job security a fair trade for a renewed passion in your work?
These are valid fears, but letting them dominate your decision-making could leave you frozen and in the same lackluster career you’ve been thinking about leaving. You must balance the potential pitfalls against the substantial gains that are possible. Imagine how you’d feel working in a field that you’re passionate about — one that fulfills you emotionally as well as financially.
You might turn a hobby into a career, fusing your personal interests with your professional life. If your current career is a dead-end, you could find a new path to advancement. A change might also bring you a better work-life balance if your current career keeps you away from home more than you’d like.
You already know what you’ll get if you stay where you are. If you’re unhappy with that prospect, then you should listen to your fear only so far as it helps you make a career change intelligently. But you should still follow your plans and make the change.
Clarify Your Motivations
Take stock of the reasons you’re considering switching careers to make sure it’s the right move. If you’re unhappy with your current position, ask yourself why. Is it because you don’t like the company you’re working for or the industry you’re in? Maybe your work schedule no longer supports your lifestyle. You might still enjoy doing what you do if you switched companies, found a less stressful industry, or found a related position that offers better hours.
However, if it’s clear to you that your passions lie elsewhere regardless of who you work for, then making a career shift is the only way to align your ambitions with your situation.
Make Sure There’s a Market for Your Passion
Doing what you love is always better than punching a clock for a paycheck. But before you take action, do your research to be sure someone will pay you for what you want to do. You might derive significant pleasure from weaving baskets out of old drinking straws, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to make it a career.
Basket weaving is an extreme example, but it illustrates a point. If your desired career is difficult to break into, you have to consider whether your current skills are enough to open the door. If they aren’t, give thought to what you’d have to do to be competitive in the job market.
You might need to go back to school or join a career training program. Some careers require significant schooling, but many others are accessible through a simple certification program. Alternatively, you could seek out apprenticeships or mentoring relationships with existing professionals. If you can afford a pay cut, entry-level opportunities likely exist to bridge you into your chosen field while you build up the skills and credentials you need to advance.
Chances are that if you’re considering a change into a field you’re passionate about, you already have a base of knowledge to draw from. Since you aren’t starting from scratch, you won’t require the extensive training someone else might.
Promote Your Transferable Skills
Your current career track may be vastly different than your preferred vocation, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have transferable aptitudes. Almost every job requires strong interpersonal skills, problem-solving, time management, and a willingness to learn. You’ve spent years honing these abilities, and they’ll serve you well as you transition to a new position.
When approaching employers, focus on the skills you have, not the skills you need to develop. A competent, hard-working employee who fits well within an existing culture but doesn’t have all of the required skills to do the job can be more valuable than a highly qualified candidate who is lacking the soft skills necessary to fit in. Job skills can be learned. It’s harder to teach someone to be a quality human being. Focus on what you know and demonstrate why you’ll be an asset in your new field.
The first step toward a new life is deciding to act. Once you’ve committed to your path, you’ll naturally seek out the knowledge, people, and training you need to make it happen. Find people to help you and then get the education you need. The resources are out there. Give us a call to learn how Washington Technical Institute can help you make your career shift a reality.