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How to Start A New Career Path in Your 40s

Lifestyle
Published: 5 months ago, Last Updated: 4 months ago
Laura Gibson
Writer: Laura Gibson
Jackson Rhodes
Reviewer: Jackson Rhodes
Listen minutes

In the words of author George Elliot, “It’s never too late to be who you might have been.” This sentiment rings especially true when considering a career change at 40.

The prospect may seem daunting at first, enveloped in fear and excitement. However, this journey promises the allure of self-discovery and the gratification of unlocking unexplored potentials.

So, as you stand at the crossroads of a new career horizon, remember that embracing change is about taking the first step with courage and curiosity. Ready to turn the page to a new career chapter? Keep reading to learn how you can start a new career in your 40s.

Change of Career in 40s

A recent study showed that 66% of Millenials, most of whom are already approaching 40, are considering a career change. Various factors may prompt a career change at 40. It could be a quest for better work-life balance, a desire for more financial stability, or simply the pursuit of a passion that has been long sidelined.

Over 82% of people reported successfully making a career switch after age 45. However, transitioning to a new career path in your 40s requires a well-thought-out plan. By assessing your skills, interests, and the market demand, making a career change at 40 can be a rewarding achievement. 

The Benefits of Pursuing a Career Change in Your 40s

The 40s are often considered a time of settled routines and established careers. It’s worth noting that making a career change at 40 can be difficult, requiring a lot of outreach and effort.

Job applicants sitting waiting for interview

However, if you’re sure you want to start new, you have the upper hand in several ways. Here are some aces you have up your sleeve when deciding to start a new career in your 40s:

  • Leveraging Existing Experience: By the time people reach their 40s, they have amassed substantial professional experiences, which can be translated into a competitive advantage. You have already mastered many skills like problem-solving that can be applied in various fields. Even if experience is not industry-specific, transferable skills can significantly smooth the transition.
  • Better Mix of Skills: In your 40s, a refined blend of hard and soft skills often comes to fruition, making you a well-rounded candidate for a career change. Hard skills like technological knowledge can be applied to specific industries, while soft skills, such as communication, leadership, and emotional intelligence, apply to all jobs regardless of sector.
  • Established Networks and Relationships: Established connections can provide insights into new industries, referrals to job openings, and introductions to influential individuals in your desired field. Moreover, a robust network can also offer mentorship and advice to help navigate the transition smoothly.
  • Financial Stability: The likelihood of having achieved a level of financial stability in your 40s is high. This can provide the freedom to explore new career possibilities. The financial cushion can offer the liberty to take calculated risks, go back to school, or accept a position with a lower starting salary.
  • Enhanced Self-Awareness and Clarity: With the wisdom acquired over the years, people in their 40s often possess a better understanding of what they want from a career. This can lead to a clearer vision of which careers align with personal values and long-term goals. 

The Difficulties of Making a Career Change in Your 40s

The transition to a new career in your 40s can be a rewarding endeavor. However, the path may not always be so smooth. Here are some difficulties individuals may encounter during this period:

  • Lower Positioning and Recognition: Transitioning into a new career may entail starting from a lower rung of the ladder, which can be daunting. This could mean having a reduced voice in decision-making, receiving lower pay, and sometimes reporting to supervisors younger than yourself.
  • Retirement Plan Uncertainty: By the age of 40, many individuals have established a retirement plan, often with significant contributions towards it. A career change at this stage can introduce uncertainty into this plan. With about 25 years left until retirement, a career shift can disrupt the financial security that has been building.
  • Long Transition Period: Transitioning may take time, especially for learning new skills or adapting to different industries’ cultures and expectations. This lengthy adjustment period can be a deterrent, as it may take a while before you feel proficient and comfortable in a new role.
  • Financial Constraints: Making a career change may initially involve taking a pay cut. A survey found that one-third of job switchers agree to a pay cut for a better work-life balance. However, adjusting to a lower salary can require a lifestyle change, particularly for those accustomed to a certain standard of living. The financial responsibilities often associated with the 40s age group, like mortgage payments or children’s education, could exacerbate financial strain.
  • Employer Skepticism: Some employers may be skeptical towards new employees in their 40s. Nearly 93% of workers believe that age discrimination against older workers is common. Employers may feel you are overqualified or question your adaptability to new technology. Convincing potential employers of your commitment and transferable skills might be challenging. 

How to Start a New Career After 40

Venturing into a new career post-40 is an opportunity to blend the wisdom accrued over the years with the zest of embracing new challenges. Here’s how you can strategically navigate this transition:

Set Goals and Self-Assess

A comprehensive self-assessment can help align your experience and skills with the opportunities available in your desired field.

Stack of resumes

For instance, here are some self-assessment tools you can use to provide insight into careers that would be a good fit for you:

The information gained from these assessments can refine your career change strategy. For example, if your assessments highlight strong interpersonal skills, careers in sales, counseling, or human resources might be a good fit. 

Perform Industry Research and Networking

Capitalize on your established professional networks and LinkedIn to explore new industries and opportunities.

  • Join and engage in industry-specific LinkedIn groups.
  • Network and share your career change goals with existing contacts for advice and potential leads. 

Obtain Skill Development and Certification

Advance your career by building on existing skills or gaining new ones through online learning platforms.

  • Use Coursera, edX, or LinkedIn Learning to acquire industry-relevant skills.
  • Pursue valued certifications to enhance your resume, keeping in mind the associated costs.

Create a Transition-Friendly Resume and Online Presence

Create a resume and LinkedIn profile that showcase your readiness for a career shift.

  • Highlight relevant skills and tailor your resume with industry-specific keywords.
  • Update your LinkedIn headline and skills section to reflect your new career focus. 

Seek Mentorship and Continue to Learn

Mentorship and continuous learning are keys to successful career change at 40.

  • Engage with potential mentors through LinkedIn and industry events.
  • Join professional associations and mentoring platforms like MentorCity or SCORE for guidance. 

Best Ideas for Mid-Life Career Change

Considering a mid-life career change opens up a realm of new possibilities. This phase of life, coupled with accrued skills and experiences, can serve as a launching pad into new vocations.

Couple shaking hands with real estate agent

Below are some career change ideas at 40:

Real Estate Agent

Average annual salary: $49,700

The work of a real estate agent offers the flexibility of self-employment and the opportunity to leverage your interpersonal skills. The first step on this journey involves immersing yourself in a state-approved real estate education course, followed by conquering a state licensing exam. And if you’re eyeing a competitive edge, consider pursuing additional certifications like the Certified Residential Specialist (CRS).

The real estate market’s dynamics may vary, but with the current trend toward urbanization and property ownership, there’s a steady demand for real estate agents. The overall job outlook for real estate agents has been positive since 2004, and 216,460 new opportunities are expected to open by 2029

Personal Trainer

Average annual salary: $41,740

A transition to a personal trainer role not only promotes a healthy lifestyle but also provides a chance to connect with and inspire others. Your interpersonal skills are your ally here for building a robust client base. Kickstart this transition by obtaining a certification from a recognized body like the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

To carve a niche for yourself, you might want to specialize in areas like senior fitness, nutrition, or sports performance. This field allows for quick entry post-certification, and the growing health consciousness among individuals ensures a steady clientele. Personal trainers’ employment rates grew by 14% from 2022 to 2023, resulting in more than 45,000 opportunities. 

Social Media Manager

Average annual salary: $52,250

This is where your seasoned communication skills can shine, blending creativity with strategy. A background in marketing or communications could be your stepping stone into social media marketing. Proficiency in social media platforms, SEO, and content creation will truly set you apart. The demand for social media managers is high, given the digital shift in marketing strategies. It’s also a job that you can usually do remotely.

Social media manager working on laptop

The job outlook for social media managers is promising, with a projected growth rate of 10% from 2018 to 2028, indicating the creation of around 37,000 new jobs over this period. 

Nursing

Average annual salary: $96,285

Nursing is a field that not only offers job stability but also a chance to make a tangible difference in people’s lives. While a Bachelor of Science in Nursing is usually required, individuals looking to enter the field can obtain an Associate’s Degree instead, which typically spans two years and can be a quicker entryway into the profession. Post-education, you have to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become a licensed nursing practitioner.

Your interpersonal and caregiving skills would be highly valuable here. And the healthcare sector is ever-growing, providing a stable job market for aspiring nurses. The Registered Nursing workforce is expected to grow to 3.3 million in 2031, adding about 200,000 nurses to the industry. 

Nonprofit Organization Manager

Average annual salary: $57,887

If making a difference rings a bell, steering towards becoming a nonprofit manager could be your next stop. A background in public administration, social work, or a related field could be beneficial. The crux, however, lies in harnessing strong leadership, fundraising, and grant-writing skills. The nonprofit sector is continually in need of dedicated individuals ready to make a difference, making this a viable option for a mid-life career change. 

Examples of Successful Career Changes at 40

It’s not uncommon to hear about people who reached a turning point in their 40s, prompting a momentous career change. Here are some individuals who successfully navigated a career change in their 40s:

Vera Wang

Vera Wang was initially a figure skater who then became a journalist at Vogue when her creative inclinations took a significant turn at 40.

Vera Wang standing in front of wedding gowns

The pivot was sparked while designing her own wedding gown, leading her to open a bridal boutique. With time, Wang launched her fashion line, transitioning into a celebrated fashion designer. By pragmatically leveraging her skills and contacts, Vera Wang serves as a renowned example of a well-planned career transition.

Joel Greenwald

Joel Greenwald’s story is a perfect example of the harmonization of personal and professional life. Initially a physician in internal medicine, the demanding hours started clashing with his and his wife’s aspiration for family time, especially with three young children.

At 36, Joel forayed into financial planning courses while still practicing medicine. By 40, he transitioned full-time, now advising doctors and dentists on financial planning. With more flexible hours, transitioning to financial planning improved Joel’s work-life balance, aligning better with his family aspirations. Joel appreciates the symmetry between his past and present professions, stating, “It’s incredibly similar to being a physician; after health, finance is probably the second most important.”

FAQ

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most commonly asked questions about a career change at 40: 

Is 40 Too Late for a Career Change?

No, 40 is not too late for a career change. More than 21% of all employees transition to new careers in their 40s and beyond, finding satisfaction and success in new fields.

Is a Change of Career at 40 Worth It?

A career change at 40 can lead to enhanced job satisfaction, better work-life balance, financial growth, and new learning opportunities, making it a worthwhile endeavor. 

How to Make a Career Change at 40 With No Degree?

Begin by identifying transferable skills from your previous experiences that are valued in the desired field. Acquire industry certifications and networks to build connections that can lead to job opportunities. Opt for entry-level roles or internships that require minimal qualifications to gain a foothold in the new domain. 

How to Make a Career Change at 40 With No Experience?

Conduct informational interviews to learn about the necessary skills and qualifications for your desired field. Transition smoothly by engaging in targeted training or coursework to build a solid knowledge foundation.

Elevate your transition by seeking the mentorship of seasoned professionals within the industry whose guidance can be valuable. Additionally, identifying and showcasing the transferable skills from your previous job can make your career shift more attainable. 

What Are the Best Jobs for a Mid-life Career Change?

Some good options include a real estate agent, personal trainer, social media manager, healthcare fields like nursing or medical coding, and positions in the nonprofit sector. The best job for a mid-life career change would align with an individual’s interests, skills, and the demand in the job market. 

Final Thoughts

Starting a new career at 40 is less about starting over and more about building on the life experience you’ve already acquired. It’s a bold invitation to mesh your seasoned skills with newfound passions, opening doors to exhilarating opportunities and growth.

Remember, the horizon of fresh careers is vast and welcoming, ready to embrace those daring to step towards a fulfilling encore.

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