Need a New Career? How to Change Careers at 30, 40, 50
Did you know that Amazon's Jeff Bezos, fashion mogul Vera Wang and astronaut-turned-politician John Glenn all changed their careers after the age of 30?
Now, more than ever, people decide to change their careers at any time, and many are happy they took the leap. In 2016, Indeed estimated that 50 percent of U.S. workers wanted to change their careers, and many who are unhappy in their current positions go on to find more fulfilling careers, regardless of their age. If you're telling yourself “I need a new career” but not doing anything about it, there are actionable steps you can take now to change your situation for the better, even if you're not a millennial.
Why Change Your Career?
One of the most compelling reasons to change careers is feeling unsatisfied in your current position. There's nothing worse than the day-in, day-out grind of a job that makes you miserable, that feels like a dead end or that simply doesn't fulfill you anymore. If your job feels a bit like Groundhog Day, and it's the same unfulfilling hassle each and every day, you have good reason to consider a career move.
Changing your career – at any age – offers the following benefits:
- New challenges
- An improved outlook
- Increased motivation at work
- Better work–life balance
There's also always the possibility that your new career will prove to be more lucrative or stable in the long run, too. Switching companies or industries could be the best decision you ever make for your professional life.
Of course, you may encounter some roadblocks as you transition into a new role, and there will inevitably be a learning curve as you adjust to your new position, even if you've prepared yourself with the right training and education. Oftentimes, though, the potential gains outweigh inevitable hurdles and inherent risks of pursuing a new line of work. You stand to gain so much from going after a career that's more aligned with your interests, talents and long-term career goals. How to change careers at 30, 40 and 50 may be a challenge in some ways, but it's highly possible for you, and, in the end, could be highly rewarding.
Career Change at 20
If you’re in your 20s and thinking about a career change, many of the tips we list for other age groups will apply to you, too. Your transferable skills may come from school, an internship or part-time jobs, like retail or food service.
If you’ve already worked an entry-level corporate job, make sure you emphasize that on your resume. You’ll want to highlight your unique professional and educational background to potential employers and make the experience you have seem relevant to the positions you’re vying for.
Keep in mind that when you do make the switch to a new career, hiring managers might expect you to take an entry-level position and work your way up, but, of course, this isn’t always the case.
Career Change at 30
By the time you reach your early 30s, you might have a decade of solid work experience under your belt. Perhaps you've proven yourself to be a reliable employee, a hard worker and someone who's capable of succeeding professionally, even if you haven't always loved where you've worked. Although it may have seemed easier to hop around different industries in your 20s, it's certainly not frowned upon and is quite common for 30-somethings to make a big career jump.
Here are some steps you can take if you're thinking about exploring new job opportunities and industries in your 30s:
Identify Your Transferable Skills
One of the first things to consider about changing your career in your 30s is which transferable job skills you have that other industries would find valuable. For instance, good communication skills, project management skills and problem-solving capabilities can prove valuable in a number of different niches. It's not a bad idea to make a list of transferable skills and highlight those on your resume and LinkedIn profile as you begin to apply for jobs.
Think About What You Really Want from Your Next Job
What's lacking in your current position? Maybe you wish you spent less time at your desk and more time working directly with people. Or maybe you wish your job were more creative or challenging. Your 20s were a great time to try on different hats and figure out what you do and don't like. Your 30s can be an ideal time to hone in on finding a job that aligns with your interests.
Research Your Options and Make a Plan
Whether or not you have your sights set on a specific job, you'll need to start researching positions and industries based on your interests. You may benefit from taking a career assessment or meeting with a career counselor. Then you can narrow down your list to pick a specific career (or maybe a few different options) and start taking the steps toward making yourself marketable to employers. If you already have a career in mind, you're one step ahead and can delve into researching the skills you'll need for a successful transition.
Be Patient and Realistic with Your Expectations
Changing careers will probably feel more like a marathon than a sprint. It might take months (or even years) to get the adequate training and experience you need to pull it off. You also might have to spend some time playing the waiting game as you send out your resume.
Some employers expect you to have five to seven years of experience for certain positions, so you might have to take an entry-level job in your field of interest or a significant pay cut to get your foot in the door of your chosen industry.
Remember, too, that some employers will see your previous years of work experience, even though they're in another field, and think you have high expectations for salary, quick growth, etc. Make sure you communicate to them in cover letters and interviews that you're willing to take on an entry-level position and work your way up. At some point, you may want to explain that you're willing to take a pay cut if it means you're more satisfied in and passionate about your new career.
Keep your expectations realistic and trust that you'll end up in the right place eventually if you put in the work. And if you get discouraged, instead of paralyzing yourself with thoughts of “why can't I find a job?” work on building up your skills, gaining experience and making connections to get closer to starting your new career.
Get the Experience You Need
Depending on how specialized or technical a role is, you'll need to acquire a certain degree of experience or training to attract the attention of hiring managers. You may need to enroll in training courses, volunteer your time at a company or organization participate in an internship or even go back to school.
That's when I decided to move here, and... I invested in two more certifications to get me here.
Tony Phillipsinformation services support
Tony Phillips worked in the textile and tool-and-die industries for many years but knew he needed a new career when factories started closing down. But first he needed a formal education, so he trained for and passed his entry-level certification. Tony started his IT career at age 40 and is still going strong. Several years later, he added two more certifications to his resume and moved up to his current position in Information Services Support.
Career Change at 40
A lot of what applies to changing your career in your 30s also applies to changing your career in your 40s, so if you skipped to this section of the article, scroll back up to read about identifying your transferable skills, getting the experience you need and managing your expectations.
Following are some specific things for 40-somethings to keep in mind as they transition their careers, though, that don't necessarily apply as much to workers in their 30s:
Consider Your Priorities and Responsibilities
Financial responsibilities like a mortgage, car payment and your kids' education might be on your mind if you're in your 40s. You might feel as though you had a lot more wiggle room when you were younger to take the risk and change your career. But your personal priorities and responsibilities shouldn't necessarily prevent you from switching careers if you're unhappy. They're just variables you'll have to keep in mind when you think about how much time you have to acquire training, education and experience to position yourself for the job you want. Based on how much time you can devote, you'll need to assess which positions are realistic for you. It's all about achieving the right balance so you don't overwhelm yourself.
Create or Grow Your Rainy-Day Fund
Because you do probably have more financial obligations than you did in your 20s and 30s, increasing your savings can be particularly important if you're thinking about quitting your job for another opportunity. If you don't have enough savings to keep yourself afloat for at least six months, it may be time to squirrel away more before you take the leap.
If you hope to keep your day job while you gain experience and explore options for your career change, it's still a good idea to have extra funds available for the unexpected. There's always the unfortunate chance that you might lose your job or earn significantly less than you're used to. A sufficient rainy-day fund can help you bridge any financial gaps as you transition.
Use Your Network to Your Advantage
Over the years you've probably built sizable personal and professional networks. If you happen to know someone who works in the industry you're interested in, reach out to them and let them know you're thinking about a change. Who you know can make a huge difference and help you get the interview you want. If you also know that a friend of a friend or a colleague of a colleague could introduce you to a mover or shaker at a particular company, it doesn't hurt to ask for an introduction. There are no guarantees that knowing the right people will help you get the job you want, but shaking the trees in your network is worth a shot, and it can prove to be quite beneficial.
Career Change at 50
No, you're not too old, and it's not too late. Plenty of people change their careers in their 50s (and even their 60s)! Much of what people in their 30s and 40s should do applies to you too, so if you haven't already, make sure you read the advice earlier in this article. That said, there are particular challenges and things to keep in mind if you're a career changer in your 50s, though.
Fine-Tune Your Online Presence
Professionals in their 50s may have less of an online presence than their younger counterparts, particularly on job-hunting sites like LinkedIn and Indeed. If you haven't completed – or even started – your LinkedIn profile, that is probably one of the first things you should do to put yourself on the map. Highlight all of your relevant and transferable skills, and send out invites to your email contacts so you can build your online network. Creating a resume on sites like Indeed and Monster can also help you expand your online reach.
Don't Downplay Your Years of Experience
If you've worked in senior positions that required a great deal of responsibility, emphasize this on your resume and at job interviews. You want to prove to hiring managers that you've excelled in your previous lines of work so they can be sure that you'll bring the same level of competency to the table with them. There's no reason to downplay what you've accomplished over the years. It says a lot about you as an employee, even if it's not 100 percent relevant to the positions you're applying for.
Accept That You Might Have to Report to Someone Younger
This is often the nature of the beast when you change your career in your 50s. There's a chance your supervisor may be decades younger than you. Luckily, there's no reason this should bother you. No matter their age, they've worked to move up the ladder at their job and earned their position. All you need to do is figure out how you can best learn from them to become better and more successful at your new career.
Follow Your Passions
You've dedicated decades of your life to working jobs that may not have lit your fire. Your 50s is the perfect time to finally follow your passions and discover your true calling. It's a great time to stop saying “I need a new career” and start making it happen. You only have a few more decades left before retirement, so why not go after your dreams with all the gusto you can?
Changing your career just takes passion, dedication and research. If you trust in your abilities, put in the work and chase after your calling, everything stands to fall into place in your professional life.
Are you ready for a career change? Take our free career test to find out.