Midlife career change: A complete guide

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Don’t let age prevent you from achieving career satisfaction.

While changing careers in your 40s and leaving an industry in which you may have invested much of your adult life can be scary, it also can be exhilarating if the move is truly what you desire.

You’re not alone if you’re considering changing careers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics examined the number of jobs that people born in the years 1957 to 1964 held from ages 18 to 48. They found the average to be 11.7 jobs during that age range.

As you ponder your next move, maximize your chances of a successful midlife career change with these strategies.

Tips for Changing Careers in Your 40s

Don’t be rash.

Get out of the mindset that you need to hurry up with your decision before you “get any older.” Take some time to discover what you want and how to get it. You may find that you still enjoy what you do but would welcome changes such as the ability to work remotely or a schedule more conducive to work-life balance. Or you may arrive at the conclusion that a different field really is the answer.

When deciding to pursue a midlife career change, Executive Coach Erica McCurdy, of McCurdy Solutions Group, recommends pondering why you are making this change. “Is it because you are truly unhappy with the career? Or could it be environment, geography, or something else that is causing the unrest? Gain clarity before going after the change. You will be asked at some point to explain your reasons. You will be able to give a more positive and engaging answer if you have reached a personal comfort level with your decision first.”

Learn as much as possible about a potential new career by researching qualifications, salary, and market. Talk to people in the profession to get a vivid and realistic picture of what the work is like, how career paths typically unfold, and what skills make candidates attractive.

Promote your strengths.

Since you’re changing careers in your 40s (and not your 20s), you’ve likely accumulated a variety of transferable skills that new employers will find valuable. Take pride in your background, and demonstrate a willingness to learn what you don’t know.

“Worry less about the fact that you haven’t been in the industry and focus more on how your years of experience workinghave prepared you to understand and respond to the employer’s needs—whatever they are—whenever the need arises,” McCurdy says. “Maturity can also translate into confidence and experience. That can work for you in an interview.”

Another bonus of being “seasoned” is that you’ve likely built up a substantial network. Use these connections to your advantage when seeking employment opportunities in your new area of interest.

Get up to speed.

If you haven’t job searched in quite some time, realize the process has changed a great deal in recent years.

“If it’s been awhile since you have been a job seeker, as you start your new job search, it’s important to get up to speed on the latest trends,” says Toni Frana, FlexJobs’ career coach.

“Many companies use applicant tracking systems to scan an application even before a person sees your resume and cover letter. If you aren’t familiar, learn how to optimize your resume for each application. Also, networking has always been and still is a valuable piece to your job search—now it’s possible and encouraged to network online. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, or aren’t up to date on your current one, plan some time to familiarize yourself with online networking strategies on LinkedIn and other social media platforms.”

Additional things you may want to brush up on include:

Focus on your passion, not your age.

If you’re changing careers in your 40s, don’t assume age is a strike against you. Employers want the best person for the job, and your goal is to show why that new hire should be you.

“Don’t make age an issue. The employer will know you are older just by looking and talking to you,” McCurdy says. “Be upbeat and confident, and avoid comments about being the ‘old one’ or comments about all the ‘young ones.’ Keep your energy level up and make eye contact. If you feel like someone that employers would enjoy having around, they will want to have you around—it’s as simple as that!”

Involve your family.

While you are the one who will actually perform the new job, your decision is bound to affect others. Failure to seek their input and address their concerns early in the process can cause tension down the line.

“By the time someone reaches ‘mid-life,’ they tend to be deeper into financial obligations such as home mortgages and family expenses that have been developed under an established career income,” says Duncan Mathison, executive career coach and co-author of Unlock the Hidden Job Market: 6 Steps to a Successful Job Search When Times Are Tough.

“A career change might require investment in additional education or a step back in earning until the new career is established. A midlife career change may create a disruption in the family’s lifestyle. Family members who depend on your income just might have an opinion about that. Or, a spouse who is forced to pick up the budget slack may become resentful of you ‘pursuing your passion.’”

Common Midlife Career Change Jobs

Although FlexJobs has jobs listed in over 50 categories, some roles lend themselves better to a midlife career change than others. Here’s a list of the best jobs for changing careers in your 40s.

Real Estate

Real estate is a popular industry to transition into. Real estate can work as a side job, or can be a full-time day job. Earning your license can often be completed in 60-90 hours. Some roles in this category include realtor, underwriter, loan processor, and broker.

Teaching

At this point in your career, you’ve likely honed your experience in a subject matter or two. If you have the skills to present your knowledge to others, a teaching role could be a good fit. Teaching jobs can be done virtually, and there are also opportunities to tutor and write course curriculum.

Social Media

If you have a background in marketing, advertising, or writing, transitioning to a social media career could make sense. Social media coordinators typically write posts for social platforms, interact with online communities, track metrics, and more.

Writing

No matter what your previous career was in, there’s likely a need for a writer with your expertise. Technical writing, medical writing, grant writing, finance writing, educational writing, parenting writing, science writing…the list goes on. If you have strong writing skills, they can be used as leverage.

Project Manager

With years of work experience often comes great organizational and management skills. Project management can be a great midlife career change option for those who are able to take a project from start to finish and keep it on time and on budget.

Recruiter

If you’ve ever wanted to be the interviewer instead of the interviewee, a job in HR may be right for you. Your experience working for other companies can provide insight into what it takes to perform as a recruiter. Because of your experience, you’ll be expected to source and potentially onboard candidates, facilitate communication among employees, and act as a point person.

Consultant

Consultants are often project-based workers who use their expertise to help a company solve problems and come up with new solutions. Your years in the workforce can make you a great candidate for a consulting role where you can provide subject matter expertise and guidance to organizations or individuals.

Resources for Learning

As mentioned earlier, soaking in information can’t be overlooked. Podcasts, blogs, meetups and niche user groups, and social media can all help inform decisions as you consider a midlife career change.

Podcasts for Career Changers

  • Pivot: Conversations on finding opportunity for your next career and creative projects.
  • Career Tools: A weekly podcast focused on specific actions you can take to grow and enhance your career.
  • Classy Career Girl Podcast: Inspiring lessons to help you find career fulfillment, work-life balance, and happiness.
  • How Did You Get Into That?: A look at people who are doing something interesting to make a living.

Articles and Newsletters for Career Changers

Meetups/User Groups for Career Changers

  • Career Transition on Meetup.com: This is a collection of 388 groups with over 98,000 members. Find a local group to network and meet others in your phase of life.
  • What’s Next – Midlife Career Change & Transformation LinkedIn Group: LinkedIn can a great source of career change networking. This group has over 7,500 members and connects those who are interested in midlife career change and/or transformation.
  • Eventbrite: Eventbrite is a way to discover local networking groups and groups for your specific industry. Click on the “Business” category to see what’s available in your city.

Planning Your Midlife Career Change

Whether you know your next career move, or you’re still discovering what’s out there, FlexJobs is here to help you land your next role. Our jobs all offer some level of work flexibility and can be found in more than 50 career categories.

This article originally appeared on FlexJobs.