How to change career in your 40s and 50s
29 Jun 2023

How to change career in your 40s and 50s


How to change career in your 40s and 50s.

It’s not uncommon in midlife, especially if you have been in the same job or industry field for a long time, to want to change career and bring a new exciting challenge into your life.

The professional midlife crisis is a lot more widespread than people realise. Most people have financial commitments which limit their ability to leave a job they have outgrown, and others might be in a position to leave, or are working towards leaving, but are unsure what they want to do next.

For most of us, work takes up such an enormous part of our waking life that it is essential that we are happy in it, or else discontentment can easily spill into all the other areas of our lives and lead to depression, relationship problems, sleep issues and burnout.

From my experience, midlifers have often been in their chosen profession for a couple of decades, sometimes longer, and have climbed well up the corporate ladder to professional success, yet are desperately unhappy, unfulfilled and bored. Others will have regularly changed from job to job, seeking out some satisfaction or a new challenge in their work. You might have made changes as a result of feeling undervalued, looking for a healthy work-life balance, exploring different careers trying to find what works for them, wanting better pay and benefits, more flexibility around juggling children and work hours, wanting to be your own boss, lack of trust in an organisation, wanting more fulfilment in work, or being headhunted.

Deciding to change your career can be an exciting but also challenging process. Here are 5 essential tips to start the process:

1. Clarify uncertainty: Be clear about what it is that doesn’t work for you any more. What elements of your work support your well-being, and which detract? Consider both external and internal factors.

External factors are those stresses we are aware of around us, such as long hours, heavy workload, lack of breaks, lack of opportunity, poor management, organisational change and workplace bullying. These factors are difficult to change yourself and are dependent on collaboration with others. However, once the source of your unhappiness has been identified, consider if there is any flexibility or prospect of change in this element within the organisation. Would your ideas for change be considered or supported? If there is little chance of change, and if you decide to leave them, future employers would need to offer something different in this area which suits you better.

Internal factors are negative self-talk, self-limiting beliefs, and unrealistic thinking and expectations – stresses that go on within you and cause unease. Stress from other areas of your life may also be making it difficult for you to enjoy your work. When it is your internal state of mind or dialogue which is contributing to your unhappiness, then the locus of control is internalised, and you can take responsibility and start to effect change rather than passively wait for change to happen to you. Consider how you can change these factors and look again at how anxious thoughts and thinking errors might be contributing to your stress.

2. Stay true to your values: Remind yourself of the values that are applicable to your now in midlife and consider how centred around your values your current work is. If there is no trace of these values within your work, that could explain any feelings of lack of purpose and meaning you might experience in the workplace. For example, if you chose sustainability as one of your main values and you are working for an organisation with a high carbon footprint or a heavy use of non-recyclable plastic, this will grate against your values and cause some internal conflict for you. Maybe it’s the company’s culture, staff members, ethical stance, workload, lack of appreciation or recognition from management or the promotion of a product or service you no longer see value in. If you chose personal growth as an important value, but you’re in an industry with no prospect of promotion or with a glass ceiling or other invisible barriers preventing you from achieving further promotion.

3. Research and explore: Once you have a sense of your interests and priorities, research different career options that align with them. Look into industries, roles, and professions that you find intriguing. Learn about the required skills, qualifications, and job market trends. Use online resources, career websites, professional networks, and informational interviews to gather information.

4. Assess your transferable skills: Identify the skills and experiences from your current career that can be transferred to a new field. Consider both hard skills (technical expertise) and soft skills (communication, leadership, problem-solving). Transferable skills can help you make a smoother transition and increase your marketability.Determine if you need to acquire new skills or knowledge for your desired career. Research training programs, certifications, or educational opportunities that can help you gain the necessary qualifications. Consider volunteering, freelancing, or taking on side projects to build experience and demonstrate your capabilities in the new field.

5. Network and plan: Networking is crucial for exploring new career opportunities. Connect with professionals in your target industry through professional associations, online communities, LinkedIn, or industry events. Seek informational interviews to gain insights and advice from individuals who are already working in your desired field. Networking can provide valuable guidance, mentorship, and potential job leads. Make a plan: Create a career transition plan that outlines the steps you need to take to move towards your new career. Set clear goals, establish timelines, and break down the process into actionable steps. This plan can serve as a roadmap and help you stay focused and accountable during the transition.

Remember that a career change is a process that takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself, embrace the learning curve, and stay focused on your long-term goals and the values that truly resonate with you. With determination, strategic planning, and a positive mindset, you can successfully transition into a new and fulfilling career.

If you would like help with your midlife transition or to find direction in the second half of life, why not read The Midlife Crisis Handbook or attend a course at The Midlife Academy.