How to Choose a New Career When You’re Over 40

Making a career change when you’re 40 or over is both exciting and terrifying; the secret to successfully choosing a new career is to get comfortable with the idea of taking risks in life.

And, you need to follow through at every step of the way. “Those who are blessed with the most talent don’t necessarily outperform everyone else,” says Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics. “It’s the women with follow-through who excel.”

You don’t need talent, education, a flat stomach, or a wealthy husband to make a career change when you’re over 40. You need guts to follow your nose and stay true to your heart.

Reading books like Career Match: Connecting Who You Are with What You’ll Love to Do also help. This book is surprisingly accurate – it has a test to determine what careers match your personality.

Speaking of personality – if you’re an introvert, read Best Jobs and Careers for Introverts – From Online to On Air.

Stop thinking in terms of “choosing a new career” or “I’m over 40 and too old”

I’m 42, and will be starting grad school in three weeks. I wrote about it in How to Get Into Grad School – Master’s or PhD Programs – I’m going for my Master’s of Social Work (MSW) at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

I’ve never had any problems making career changes – I’ve worked as a teacher, Mentoring Coordinator at Big Brothers, freelance writer, blogger, youth worker, staffing coordinator, and now I’m a graduate student (and blogger, of course!). I think one of the reasons I can switch jobs easily and eagerly is because I never worry about the future. If I think about the future, I feel paralyzed.

So, to choose a new career when you’re over 40, don’t get trapped in the “what if’s”! I don’t know where my MSW will take me. My plan is to counsel people who have been diagnosed with chronic illnesses…but my practicum may change my mind.

Don’t let the seriously adult idea of choosing a new career scare you or bog you down.

Think back to 30 years ago

What did you want to do when you were 10, 15, or 20 years old? I’ve always wanted to be a counselor or psychologist, but never felt ready to take on other people’s problems. Now that I’m over 40, I’m ready to pursue that career. I want to counsel people who are chronically ill because I have ulcerative colitis, and my husband and I can’t have kids because of infertility.

What have you always wanted to do with your life, but were too scared? Now that you’re choosing a new career, you can go in that direction!

Also, learn how to write a strong cover letter.

Join a businessperson’s group or association

Connect with entrepreneurs and small business owners – they’re usually passionate, enthusiastic, creative, and supportive of people who want to choose a new career! They know what it’s like to set and achieve goals – and to fail to achieve their goals.

change careersIt may feel weird to attend meetings of a business group when you don’t actually own a business – especially if you’re not inclined towards entrepreneurship! To overcome this awkwardness, remember the reason you’re there: to connect with businesspeople and find out how they choose their careers. Talking to them will give you fresh new ideas for what to do when you’re over 40 and looking for a new career!

Remember that this is your only life – but not your only career

I know two women over 40 who are making career changes, and I know it’s not easy for either of them. They alternate between excitement and terror, hope and fear, dread and anticipation.

But they also know that this is their chance to not only choose a new career, but to change the direction of their lives. They are willing to do what it takes to find their new path.

Quick tips for choosing a new career when you’re over 40

  • Read books by entrepreneurs – one of my favourites is The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich.
  • Talk to an employment counselor.
  • Take a test to determine what your natural skills and strengths are.
  • Spread the word to friends, family, and neighbors that you’re looking for a new career.
  • Look at your local college or university’s course list.
  • Consider working overseas (I worked in Kenya for 3 years, teaching at an American school).
  • Connect with people you admire, who are in love with their jobs or careers.
  • Think of the risks you took in the past…you don’t regret any of them, do you? Even your mistakes are valuable.
  • Remember that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago…and the second best time is today! It’s not too late to choose a new career.

Are you an introvert? Read Best Jobs for Introverts and People Who Like to Be Alone.

Your thoughts on changing careers are welcome below!


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1 thought on “How to Choose a New Career When You’re Over 40”

  1. Thanks Laurie.. for such helpful information on how to choose a career when you’re over 40.

    May Jesus Bless U n yr hubby..

    Iqbal, India