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Making a Career Change at 40? 10 Things You Need to Know

These cautions and tips for changing your job when you’re over forty will help you decide what step to take first. Making a career-changing decision at 40 is easier with these practical, inspirational Blossom Tips.

When you’re changing your career at 40 or any age, you must believe that you WILL land on your feet! Hold on to the hope and faith that everything will be all right. You have options and choices, and you can move in any direction you want. You must believe your new career will suit you perfectly, you won’t have any regrets, and you are moving in the right direction. Trust and believe in yourself. Your confidence and belief in yourself is the foundation of making a successful career change at 40 or any age.

If you need to make money during the transition from one career to another, get ready to take a step or two down the career ladder. Read articles like 10 Highest Paying Jobs for College Students, and remember that it’s only for a little while! When you’re making a career change you need to keep your options open and be humble. Sometimes a “pit stop” is necessary while you’re changing careers.

In this article bestselling author Richard Bolles shares his cautions and tips for changing your job when you’re forty or older. I also include several smart snippets of career advice from his books.

Richard Bolles is the author of the bestselling What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers book series. He encourages people over 40 to start moving in the direction of their new careers by starting a blog or website devoted to the new job. For instance, if you’re currently an employment counsellor at a community college and you want to be an organizational psychologist, start blogging about making career changes for people in their 40s and 50s. This may help your graduate school applications, give you additional information about the the psychology of the workplace, and add to your credibility.

If it seems like too much work to blog about your job (and blogging is hard work, believe me!), consider creating a job that aligns with what you love to do. Read 25 Odd Jobs and Hobbies That Make Money in Creative Ways for ideas.

10 Tips for Making a Career Change at 40

When I was 42 I went back to school, to get my MSW (Master of Social Work) – so I understand what you need to know about how to make a career change.

Are you considering going back to college or university? Feel free to ask me questions in the comments section below about returning to school as a mature student. Even better, read Should You Go to Grad School for a Master of Social Work (MSW)?

1. Focus on one change at a time

If you’re changing your career, try to avoid other major life changes as well. Keep your home life, social life, relationships, and health as steady as possible right now.

“You need a place to stand, when you move your life around, and that place is provided by the things that stay constant about you: your character, your relationships, your faith, your values, your transferable skills,” writes Bollees.

2. Start with what you want to do, not what the job market says

Avoid taking the media or industry’s advice on the “hottest new careers” or “best places to find a job.” Instead, figure out what you want to work at every day. This will help you find long-term job satisfaction and help you decide on a meaningful career change at 40.

Boles guarantees that unless you look dirty, wild, and disreputable – and you smell really bad – an employer is looking for you. If, that is, you know what your talents and skills are.

If you don’t know where to start, read Help Finding Part Time Jobs for Seniors and Retirees (I know you’re not a senior or retiree if you’re searching for career change tips for people over 40, but the tips are timeless :-) ).

3. Free yourself from old patterns

Look around for any type of career that interests you. Often, we fall back into the patterns we’ve been living all our lives. Instead of plodding along in the same career direction, talk to people who are working in fields or jobs that intrigue you. Why stay in the same job market when you’re changing careers at 40 – why not push the edges a little?

“I’m sure that a huge proportion of the situation you are facing is out out of your control,” says Bolles. “There’s nothing you can do about it. But that proportion can’t be 100 percent. There’s got to be some proportion – let’s say it’s even just 2 percent – that is within your control. You can work on that. Who knows what a difference that may make?”

What old patterns are holding you back? Don’t underestimate the power you have, even if you feel lost and even helpless when you’re learning how to make a career change at 40. It will get easier, and you WILL get through this!

4. Take your time when you’re considering a career change

“The more time and thought you can give to choosing your career, the better your choice will be,” says Bolles. “There is a penalty for seeking quick and dirty career fixes.”

This is an important caution about getting a different job, because it may be the last time you take this big of a risk. On the other hand, you must remember that sometimes the only way to figure out what you want to do is to start moving forward. Then, the open and closed doors will help you decide what step to take next.

If you’re discouraged and unsure where to start, read How to Know What Job You Should Have.

5. Expect to make mistakes

Making a Career Change at 40If you open yourself up to the expectation that you will take a wrong turn on your career path here and there, you’ll be more likely to take healthy risks. You have time to correct and recover from a bad decision – and the only way to know it’s a bad career choice is if you try it. Take a risk, and learn to be okay with making mistakes. This is a good life tip, not just a caution about changing careers when you’re forty!

Here’s a practical tip on how to make a career change that will help you identify mistakes you may not even be aware you made:

“A vast majority of employers now Google your name before they’ll consider hiring you,” writes Bolles in the 2014 edition of What Color is Your Parachute? “There’s your new resume…What we know for sure is that somewhere between 35% and 70% of employers now report that they have rejected applicants on the basis of what they found through Google. Things that can get you rejected from a job interview are:

  • Bad grammar or gross misspelling on your Facebook or LinkedIn profile
  • Anything indicating you lied on your resume or job application
  • Badmouthing of previous employers
  • Any signs of racism, prejudice, or screwy opinions about stuff
  • Anything indicating alcohol or drug abuse; and any – to put it delicately – inappropriate content

Don’t make the mistake of ignoring your online presence, especially if you’re active on various social media sites.

6. Try to enjoy the adventure of changing your career

Sure, making a career change at 40 can be scary…but it’s also a very exciting time in your life. This is your chance to create a new life, start fresh, and use your brain and body in a whole new way. Bolles says if you’re not having fun changing your career, you’re not doing it right.

Not only will lightening up and having fun will help reduce stress when you’re changing career at 40, it will help convince potential employers that you are easy to work with. Light to carry. Flexible. Adaptable to a new team and work environment.

7. Remember there are no guarantees

“Don’t get a college degree in some career field just because you think it will guarantee you a job! It will not,” writes Bolles. This ties into the second tip about career change at 40, which is to use your interests and passions as the foundation of your decision. Don’t rely on the industry, job market, or even college recruitment posters to help you decide what career to choose.

8. Learn healthy ways to deal with stress and anxiety

I think these tips for a career change at 40 can be applied to a career change at any age – or even when you’re 16 and trying to decide what you want to do with your life.

In some ways, making a career change when you’re over 40 isn’t any different than switching jobs when you’re 20 or 30. Except, you may feel the pressure of age – and old age. You may be a bit more stressed at 40 because you have mortgage payments, student loan debt, kids’ expenses, car payments, etc.

It feels scary to take a job risk or make a career transition at age forty, but it may be the best thing you could do at this point in your life.

Here’s my favorite quote from What Colour is Your Parachute:

“One of the saddest lines in the world is, ‘Oh come now – be realistic.’ The best parts of this world were not fashioned by those who were realistic. They were fashioned by those who dared to look hard at their wishes and gave them horses to ride.”

If you’re wondering how to change careers when you’re 40, dare to face your dreams head-on.

Don’t forget to consider your personality! If your personality traits mostly introverted, read Best Jobs for Introverts and Quiet People.

The last two tips for making a career change at 40

I found a groovy career website that helps people change their careers, and wanted to add these two tips:

9. Have a niche

You are definitely going to have a lot of choices when you change your career, but choice is really not helpful in the sense that you’ve got to get clear and very specific about what you want to do. When you go to market you want to be “one of one.”

In other words, be specific in identifying a niche for your career. This way you’ll have less competition from other, more general job candidates.

10. Get help specifically geared to making a career change at 40

changing careers at 40Think about what help you’re going to need when you’re making a career change at 40, and where that help is going to come from. Some of it will be close to you – obvious and free. Some of the help you need might not be so obvious and you might need to buy into it. For instance, you may need to become a member of a career development club to make use of its tools, support and community.

Or, maybe you need to hire a job coach or employment counselor to help you navigate the stress and fear that comes with changing a career when you’re 40 plus.

These last two tips on changing your career are from 10 Ways to Get Focused on Your Career Change, on the Position Ignition website.

Resources for Making a Career Change at 40

In in What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers, Richard Bolles says, “Hope depends upon taking care that we have at least two alternatives in every situation, with every task confronting us.” This Parachute edition features the latest studies and perspectives on today’s job-market, including proven strategies for finding jobs even when everyone tells you there are none.

Bolles also encourages us to stop living for weekends. When you’re passionate about your job, you won’t drag yourself to work every day. “There is a vast world of work out there in this country, where at least 111 million people are employed in this country alone – many of whom are bored out of their minds. All day long. Not for nothing is their motto TGIF – ‘Thank God It’s Friday.’ They live for the weekends, when they can go do what they really want to do.”

Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type is by Paul D. Tieger (et al) is especially useful for millennials and baby boomers experiencing midlife career switches. That’s you, if you’re searching for tips on how to make a career change at 40. This book leads readers step-by-step through the process of determining and verifying which Personality Type they are. Then it identifies occupations that are popular with each Type, provides helpful case studies, and offers a rundown of each Type’s work-related strengths and weaknesses.

If your career change involves moving overseas, good for you! Read 10 Things You Need to Know About Moving to Africa.

And remember: When you see someone successful, you only see the public glories – not the private sacrifices it took to succeed. Be prepared to make sacrifices if you’re making a career change at 40…or any age. It’ll be worth it.

Your thoughts are welcome below! What’s your biggest reason not to change your career? What’s holding you back, and how are you coping with the stress of making a career change at 40?


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23 thoughts on “Making a Career Change at 40? 10 Things You Need to Know”

  1. Now that I’m closer to 50 than 40, I believe making a career change isn’t as simple as “do what you love.” I love to walk and listen to podcasts, but that won’t net me a job (unless of course I’m picking up garbage in the parks….hmm….).

    If I were to change careers now, at age 48, I’d go to a career counselor. Even better, a free government organization that offers resume help, job resources, work tips in today’s economy, etc. There are so many factors to consider – and so many opportunities that didn’t exist before! Talk to someone who can guide you through the process.

    Unless, of course, you want to go back to school. Then, I’d suggest contacting the admissions office and setting up an appointment. Get in-person tips and advice; it goes a long way!

    Now let’s get all dreamy for a second….if you could have any career or job in the world, what would you do? Dream away :-)

  2. I’m over 40, been a commercial driver for 10 years. My resume is thin. Still driving, but know that I can not stay in my profession for too many more years. I would like to be planning for my next career. Thoughts?

  3. Hi,
    I am thinking of changing careers to Master’s in Psychology with Concentration in additions. I am 41 and currently in business at a company where I have worked for the past 13 years. I have a calling, though, to help others with additions, substance abuse, and alike. Rather than look for more money in the career I am in now, I am looking to start over, basically. Of course, I am nervous; however, this change is really what I want. I am more worried about not making enough money while I am in school at the job I am at now. However, it is job security, and I love the place and my job. Anyway, thanks for reading.

  4. Hello Tica,

    Maybe you have too much information! I don’t know you (which is why I normally try not to give advice), but it seems to me that you’re overthinking this decision.

    I know it’s a huge step to make a career change when you’re 40 (or 46, like me :-) ) — but there is no right or wrong answer. You need to rely on your intuition, your gut instinct – the still small voice inside of you. A book can’t tell you if you should change your career or go back to school, and neither can I. Only you can make this decision.

    Take a deep breath, and sit peacefully. Close your eyes, and ask yourself “What do I really want to do? Where do I want to be in one year, or five years? WHO do I want to be?”

    Here’s an article that I recently wrote, to help women make decisions:

    How to Make a Decision by Looking Forwards

    You have enough information. Now, you need to rely on that still small voice inside of you to take you in the direction you need to go.

    Read my decision-making article, and tell me what you think!


  5. I am 40. I have been admitted into a Master Degree in Human Services. It is a MS in Human Services, this is the link: I am really not sure if I want to pay all the money and get into the program. I am not sure if I should look better for a Technical career. The thing is English is not my first language and somehow I feel very insecure with my writing skills. Also I am really not sure I like the field. I feel very good helping people but I feel overwhelmed when dealing with a lot of people. I have A Bachelor degree from another country, so I wasn’t able to work in hat field here, but because I have bachelors degree I qualify to apply for grad school. I have been living in this country for the last 14 years, I am a professional medical interpreter but I feel I want something a little more rewarding. I have read all the books you recommend, oddly as much I read as more confused I get. Any input?

  6. A very good article about making a career change at 40 that I enjoyed reading today, thanks and God bless you for this insightful article.

  7. I’m just 31, but I feel like I’m worth WAY more than what I’m being offered. I’ve thought alot about this over the last 3 years and Although it is scary making a big change I’m going back to school to become a doctor. Everything about the change makes sense to me, but selling that idea to others is kindof the scary part.

    I wish all of you a very fruitful experience because change can be scary, but I think staying where I’m at is much much scarier.