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Mid-Career Change: How to Know It’s the Right Time & Then What?

Mid-Career Change: How to Know It’s the Right Time & Then What?

As a career and business coach, I get questions like Should I change careers at this age? or Am I too old to change careers at 40 or 50? or How can I change without starting over? If you are wondering about a mid-career change (30, 40, 50), I’ll show you why it’s not too late. Let’s bring some ease to the process.

We’ll look at:

  • Why it’s not too late (and how it could be the right time)
  • Some of the common mid-career change worries (you’re not alone in those)
  • How to change careers at 40 or later
  • What else can I do without starting over?
  • New skills needed? Transferrable skills?
  • Why you may want to consider self-employment
  • So should I change careers?

I love helping people who are looking to change careers at a mid-career point such as at 40 or later. The beauty of mid-career change is that you have developed skills and experience, you’ve seen something of the work world, and with clarity you can chart a new path that really serves you.

Strong and beautiful tree at mid life - prime of life
Strong and beautiful at midlife because of deep strong roots. Just like you.

Changing Careers in your 30s, 40s or 50s? It’s Not Too Late.

In my early 40s, I was convinced everyone but me was on a good career path. I thought maybe a passion career was not in the cards for me, or it was really late to be figuring out my own career path.

I had had some jobs that I enjoyed and did well at, but then something would happen. So I had had a few pivots along the way, but there I was after hitting 40 and feeling confused again. And feeling drained and dreading a change.

Turns out, all that I had done before was exactly the right background to prepare me for my next chapter which has been the most fulfilling and best fit of all, starting in my mid-40s. I had gained a lot of good experience. None of the journey  before was a waste! It was just a new and better chapter of a long book.

Being at midlife, I had gained lots of experience and self-awareness that I could mine for insights, in order to choose anew. With career guidance help to pull those insights together, I discovered a path that used my skills, met my financial needs, lit me up, and worked for my energy needs as an introvert and HSP.

Now as a career and business coach for introverts and HSPs, I’ve helped many others at mid-life to find their fresh career path at 40, start a business at 50, choose anew as they approach retirement, and more.

Dealing with Worries about Mid-Career Change

If you’re wondering how to change careers at 40 (or later), you might have some of these worries:

  • I should have this figured out by now.
  • Nobody will hire me in my 50s.
  • I don’t have time (or energy or money) to go back to school.
  • Will I find a job that meets my current salary?
  • I’m too old to learn something new.
  • But I’m trained as a ______, what else could I even do?

First, you aren’t alone in these worries, but I find these worries are more fear-based than reality-based. As I mentioned, I started a new path in my mid-40s, and I’ve helped many women figure out how to change careers at 40 or 50.

Actually I find it easier to help people with a mid-career change than when they’re just starting out (which I happily leave to experts on early careers). Lived experience is so helpful when it comes to career clarity and transitioning to a new career, just like a big tree with strong established roots.

After you have more work experience is actually when the dream careers or the most wise business directions have more of a chance. It’s a perfect time!

If the world is going to keep changing, and you keep changing too, why wouldn’t your self-expression in your career or business also change? Career change is normal and natural.

How to Change Careers at 40 or Later

My favorite tip for 40+ career change: clarify your strengths and what you want.

Most people aren’t really clear on this. They might know a few skills or what their training is in, or what’s on their resume, but their natural strengths and their core values? Not so much.

When you know what makes your heart happy and what you naturally do well, then the whole career and/or self-employment journey gets so much easier.

An assessment tool is not enough to solve the bigger question of what to do.

It can be hard to clarify and understand your own strengths and discover a new path on your own. I created a self-paced online course that includes some live call opportunities for camaraderie and additional guidance, so you’re sure to get through it: Career Clarity Course – Simple Steps to Uncover the Best Use of You Now. It’s especially designed for introverts and/or HSPs, and open to all; and it has a sliding scale.

What else can I do without going back to square one?

climbing a ladderOne of the places many people get stuck is figuring out what else they could do. They don’t want to go back to school for a new degree. They don’t want to feel like they are starting all over on the bottom rung.

It can feel tricky. Often there are different job options within the same field that maybe you’ve never explored or even heard of.

You also have gained lots of transferrable skills that you’re not even aware of. That’s where that strengths and self-awareness work comes in.

To give you a taste of more options out there, you can find creative ideas here:

Before you rule out a career change, get curious about your core strengths, what matters to you, and what else is out there.

Let yourself explore. It can be an adventure that’s fulfilling in itself. Then you’re more able to decide what’s possible. Knowing yourself and knowing your options can help you find a little hope.

New Skills Needed? Transferrable Skills?

A big worry is whether you’d need a new degree to make a career pivot, and it can feel so late to invest in that. I’m a big believer that there are lots of options besides going back to school.

You really do have valuable experience that counts! Even if you’re sure you’ve “just been a secretary” or “my interests are SO different than what I’ve been doing.”

You have transferrable skills and the key starting place is in learning what are your core strengths. You’ve been using your strengths somewhere in your life already, but it’s likely you’re unaware of them, or discounting them, or don’t know what to call it. (A career coach or online course can help with strengths clarity and confidence.)

Yes, it can be useful to brush up on a few skills, or learn some new ones or get a simple certification, but that’s vastly different than a new degree. It shouldn’t cost my time and money, and it should be fun when you make good choices.

The time to choose which skills or certifications to pursue is after you’ve done some clarity of what you want to do and where your natural strengths and talents lie.

Self-Employment May Be a Viable Option

One thing not to rule out is self-employment. For a long time, I thought having a business was extrovert territory. Turns out it’s a great fit for many introverts and HSPs, and it turned out to be a fit for me, much to my own surprise.

If you’re wondering if it’s a good fit for you, here’s an easy, low-cost (or no-cost) way to explore this option: Bridge to Self-employment Course. You’ll get concrete answers to your worries about money, energy, risk — all with introverted and highly sensitive women in mind. And you’ll hear stories from people like you who are making it work.

Should I change careers at this stage in life?

There’s no need to stay in a stressful career or one that no longer fits (or never really fit).

Mid-career change can feel challenging, but it’s a temporary challenge. Staying put is often a long-term challenge.

Staying in a job that doesn’t suit you will continue to drain you, year after year, and sadly the draining energy can lead to burnout and illness. I’ve been there.

If you are concerned about burning out or just feel like things are “off,” it’s worth considering a career change. Sometimes small changes make a huge difference (and that’s definitely worth a look).  And sometimes you get clarity about a bigger shift that pays off in creating more work-life harmony, the life you really wanted anyway.

You might feel like it’s too hard to find the right career path or that you’re at a dead end with your job search. Neither is true.

There’s hope. You can make a career change and maybe even start your own self-employment career — it’s not too late. Take some time to get familiar with your own strengths and what you want and then explore careers that seem aligned with that. A mid-career coach can help.

"I am strong in ways I don't even know yet."

Bottom Line

  1. The idea of making a mid-career change can feel scary at first, and that’s normal.
  2. Exploring new possibilities takes time and effort, but it’s worth it to not feel drained all the time.
  3. The journey of self-discovery can be joyful in itself. Maybe it’s time to dip a toe in and see.
  4. You might benefit from talking with a mid-career coach.
Picture of Val Nelson

Val Nelson

I’ve been a self-employed career/business/purpose coach since 2009. I help introverts and HSPs (like me) who want to make a difference — in a way that fits our practical needs too.
Val Nelson | Coaching | Groups | Courses | Newsletter | LinkedIn

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