Only ‘48% of American workers are very happy at work.’1
If you’ve been unhappy with your work for a while and the thought of a midlife career change is more like a nightmare than a dream come true, it might be time to make some changes.
Considering a midlife career change? Well, you are not alone! ‘Now, 30% of the current workforce will change careers or jobs every year’.2
Midlife career change can be difficult but not impossible, especially if you take the right steps along your new career path.
‘Low awareness of career guidance available is a factor holding back some midlife job changes, with half (51%) of all 45 to 54 year-olds unaware of any career information or advice services’.3
If you’re unsure where to start, read on!
Mindful Steps to Midlife Career Change
Step 1: Get Clear On Your Motivation
What Is Your Real Motivation?
When you’re unhappy and unfulfilled at work, it’s easy to assume that a career change is the solution. However, not all of us are cut out for a change in mindset and a completely different career. Midlife is an ideal time to take stock of your skills and passions. What have you always wanted to do?
Can you pinpoint an area of your career that is not working for you? What is the deal breaker? Is it your salary, health insurance, lifestyle, work-life balance, or simply the need for a change from your first career? Or maybe a lot of these factors are holding you back from true career fulfillment?
If you’re unsure of what you really want as a second career, that’s okay. You can try some exercises to help get your creative juices flowing and figure out the kind of work that would make you excited about getting up in the morning. Follow these steps:
Think back on all those moments when you felt like the luckiest person alive (even if they were rare). What was happening? What age or stage were you at in your 20s, 30s, or 40s? What do you want your life and career to be like in your 50s or 60s?
When you’re feeling especially creative, make a list of ten things that really bring you joy. Then narrow down your midlife career change favorites to the top five and see how many are work-related or involve people at work. You might be surprised!
Another tactic is to look out for some of your favorite characters on TV and in movies. What about them do you love so much?
Brainstorm some things that always make you smile: a walk through the woods, watching little kids play soccer after school, etc.
The more detailed your list is, the better! Then it’s time to dig deep into those feelings and see what they mean.
Motivations for Midlife Career Change
Now that you’ve got some midlife career change ideas about what makes you tick, it’s time to compare them to your current life situation.
What if those things could be a part of your work life?
Could the motivation behind your ideal job reflect something you love about your current career? For example, you might want to work with kids because they make you feel especially joyful and alive. Well, what if that joy could come from mentoring the teens in your neighborhood?
You may be thinking, Well, it can’t hurt to add these things to my list! But remember, this is about what you’re realistically able to accomplish. Midlife change can be a lot of work, and your future self will thank you for thinking things through now before jumping into something that might not end up being the best fit!
Step 2: Talk To Trusted Friends And Family
Career Change Midlife Can Be Intimidating
It’s important to remember that midlife career change is not an easy undertaking. There will be people who tell you it can never happen or that there isn’t enough time left in your life for a big move now. But what do they know? How many of them have your best interests at heart? Midlife is the perfect time to do something for yourself!
Here are some of the most common reactions you might get when discussing this new endeavor with friends and family:
- “Oh, that’s nice, love. I hope it works out, but don’t worry if it doesn’t.
- “Well, that sounds like a lot of work. Are you sure?”
- “You can do anything! You don’t need to change your career; you’re great at what you do already. I’m sure you’ll figure something out.”
No matter how supportive they might seem on the surface, these reactions can be discouraging and potentially set you back in your journey to midlife career change. However, the right advice from well-meaning people (or even a push in the right direction) can make all the difference.
Step 3: Enlist Supporters
Create A Midlife Career Change Support Team
The great thing about a career midlife move is that you don’t need to start from scratch. You’ve probably already got some experience and skills that will help in your new career, but it is also possible to pick up new ones quickly!
You also probably know by now a lot of people who can introduce you to the right people and help get your foot in the door. Midlife is a time for reinvention, so don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for assistance!
Who do you know who has an exciting career or was in the same boat as you not too long ago? Maybe they can offer advice on how to make your dream a reality. Is there someone in your network that inspires and motivates you every time you see them? You’re lucky if you have a few people like this in your life!
Here are some questions to ask if someone is willing to be part of your support team:
- What’s worked well for them? Do they still work with that person or company? If so, how often do they speak with them now, and what do they talk about?
- What did they do when the going got tough? How did they stay motivated and focused on their goal?
- What would be their top recommendation?
- Are there any jobs or programs out there that seem like a good fit for your skills and interests? If so, who should you talk to about them—schools, companies, etc.? Maybe even just getting some names will help in the next step.
Step 4: Experiment With Different Jobs
If You’re Feeling Lost, Try Doing Some Shadowing
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and unsure of your next move, try doing some shadowing. In other words, spend time with someone who has a career that interests you, just to see what it feels like to be them for the day or week.
Shadowing can be an easy way to start building professional connections in a new field—if you do it right!
Here are some tips for getting the most out of shadowing someone:
- Be clear about your intentions. Are you trying to figure out if this is something you want to pursue? Or just gathering details on what their career might be like so that you can better decide which direction to go in after learning more about the industry?
- Ask good questions! Make it a conversation, not an interrogation. Try to find out what they love most about their career and why they decided to go this route in the first place. Midlife is all about taking chances, but you still want to make smart decisions based on real information instead of assumptions or guesses.
Step 5: Consult a Careers Coach or Advisor
If you’re feeling discouraged, consulting a career coach or advisor can be very helpful. Midlife is also the perfect time to work with an expert who has experience helping people make major life changes because they understand how it feels.
The right guidance and support at this stage of your journey can help keep things on track so that you don’t get off track, and that can make all the difference. A Careers Coach or Careers Advisor will be able to identify the steps you need to take next in order for your midlife career change dream to become a reality.
Step 6: Start A Business Or Freelance
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of the options, it might be time to try something new. Starting a business or freelancing is an exciting way to get out there in the world and start generating money on your own! Midlife is also a great time for a midlife career change into entrepreneurship because you have more experience than most people just starting out, and you probably have a little bit of money saved up, too.
You may consider a career shift away from being an employee and make a move to become your own boss!
Here are some tips for making your midlife career change happen by starting a business or freelancing:
- What skills do you already have? What skills will you need to learn?
- Make a list of all your hobbies. How many could turn into businesses?
- What are some problems that other people have but might be willing to pay you to solve?
- Could you offer anything to the world that’s missing out there right now?
Step 7: Enhance Your Skills
You may need to upskill in a certain area if you want to go in a new direction.
Midlife is a great time to get your resume polished up, update your LinkedIn profile, and learn the new skills required by your next career.
Perhaps try an online course or a community college course. A midlife career change is also the perfect time to take on an apprenticeship program or internship where you can learn on-the-job while getting paid, which means that even though you may have to take a bit of a pay cut, with the relevant work experience and qualifications gained, you will become more competitive in your next job search.
Step 8: Update your Resume / CV
It’s time to dust off your resume and add in all the amazing skills and achievements you have built up in your previous career. They’ll be more impressive than you think because this time around, you’ll be speaking from experience and will have concrete examples of your abilities. Midlife is the perfect time to get your resume and LinkedIn profile polished up.
Step 9: Make The Decision To Go For It!
This is where the rubber hits the road! Decide to make a change and go for it! Midlife is the best time to reimagine what you want your life to look like. You’ll never know until you give it a go.
Step 10: Identify At Least Ten Job Possibilities
By writing down ten jobs that you might be interested in and then researching each one in depth, you will have a much better idea of the best direction to take. Go with your gut instinct and make your midlife career change happen!
Step 11: Identify The Ideal Companies To Work For In Your Chosen Field
Remember, you are not necessarily looking for a job with one specific company. You are instead seeking out the industry in which you would be happy working, so it’s important to research what types of companies operate within that sector.
Step 12: Set A Deadline
Setting a deadline will help keep things moving along and motivate you to reach your midlife career change goals!
Step 13: Measure Your Progress
As you are making your midlife career change, it’s important to keep track of how far along the path you have come. Use a journal or calendar to record all your efforts towards reaching your goals.
Step 14: Celebrate Your Successes!
You’ve earned yourself some time off for working so hard on your midlife career change. Take a day to reward yourself for all your hard work and enjoy the fruits of your labor!
Midlife career change job ideas
Using your music skills to entertain others in public venues, playing at weddings, etc. You must get gigs by networking!
Using your art skills to create paintings, sculptures, etc. You must get gigs by networking!
Performing or hosting shows in public venues for entertainment purposes. This could be anything from stand-up comedy to puppeteering to political commentary.
Training others in yoga, meditation, etc.
Helping clients overcome their personal or professional obstacles. You may do this face-to-face, on the phone, or by email! This job can be done from anywhere in the world, too!
Taking pictures of amazing locations all around the world and selling them online for people to buy.
Helping to protect the plant and animal life in nature for future generations.
What is the best career to start at 50?
When people ask me this question, I always say that there is no ‘best’ career. Just base your decisions on your passions and what you enjoy doing.
Midlife is the perfect time to take your life into your own hands because it’s a point where people are usually at their most stable, have more money saved up than ever before, and have worked for decades, so they know how to work well under pressure!
Is it too late at 50+ for a midlife career change?
No way! Experiencing a Midlife Career change is actually a great time to take on entrepreneurship or change careers because you have more experience under your belt than most people starting out, and you probably have a little bit of money saved up, too.
What is the best Midlife Career Change to start at 40?
At forty, you’re at an ideal age to start a business or change careers because you have more experience than most people starting out, and you probably have a little bit of money saved up, too.
Midlife is the perfect time for entrepreneurship because you’ll be able to speak from personal experience about what it’s like to work in this industry and bring something unique to your clients.
Midlife is also a great time for freelancing because you have more experience than most people just starting out, and you probably have a little bit of money saved up, too!
How do I make a midlife career change?
Midlife is the perfect time to get your resume polished up, update your LinkedIn profile, and learn new skills. Perhaps try an online course or a community college course.
Midlife is also the perfect time to take on an apprenticeship program or internship where you can learn on-the-job while getting paid. Ask advice, network, and get your name out there.
Feel trapped in your job? How To Get Unstuck
Look for inspiration on an online job forums for current jobs in your area, like:
- Total Jobs
- LinkedIn Jobs
Evaluate your priorities, such as:
- income- level
- employment opportunities nearby
- working hours
- flexible hours
- travel requirements
- remote working options
- career promotion possibilities.
Once you’ve figured out what’s important to you, then it’ll be easier for you to figure out which job suits those priorities best!
Then look at some online course providers for some inspiration on what jobs you aspire to! Good sites are for example;
- Digital Skills Academy
- Future Learn
What are transferable skills?
There are lots of jobs out there in which you could really showcase your transferable skills!
Transferable skills are all the things you’ve learned through your life experiences. They’re not necessarily related to any one job, but they can be combined with other similar skillsets to make a good Midlife career change!
- Organizational abilities from working in an office could help you get into administration work for home-based businesses.
- Teamwork skills from working in retail could help you get into software testing.
- Communication skills from working in a restaurant could help you get into sales.
- IT skills from working in an office could help you get into IT sales.
- Leadership skills from working in education could help you get into management or project and program management.
- Numeracy and literacy skills are essential for most jobs. You may have to brush up your skills with an online course.
Midlife is the time to decide what you want to do with your passion, so don’t be afraid of trying out some new things at this point in your life.
It is not the time to get stuck in a boring rut! Go out and find your passion, and start following it today!
- Korolevich, S. (2021) The Meaning of Work in 2021 — A Generational Divide, GoodHire. Available at: https://www.goodhire.com/resources/articles/meaning-of-work-survey/
- Dimovski, A. (2020) 20 Eye-Opening Statistics About The State of Career Changes in 2023, Goremotely. Available at: https://goremotely.net/blog/career-change-statistics/
- Editor (2023) Don’t get stuck, get help, Careers can Change. Available at: https://careerscanchange.co.uk/dont-get-stuckget-help/
- Future World of Work – 2023 (2023) Sonovate. Available at: https://www.sonovate.com/future-world-of-work-2023/