40 years old and no career? If you’re 40 years old and feeling unhappy in your work, you’re not alone. Mid-life career changes are almost as common as younger professionals changing jobs or employers. The average age for switching careers in mid-life is 39 years old according to a recent study. Many people feel unfulfilled by mid-career and start considering a career change at 40.
Motivation for mid-life career transition comes from being more financially secure due to established work history, being less stressed and busy personally if children are older or out of the family home, or being stalled in career goals and opportunities. Many people may feel more confident after 40 as well, with years of complete education, training, and work experience. If you need some inspiration for your career change at 40, look no further than Vera Wang and Julia Child, both of whom made career changes after 40, Wang to a career in bridal fashion and Child to a career as a celebrity chef and cookbook author.
When asked about why she decided to strike out as a fashion designer at age 40, Vera Wang asks “Is that old?” She had doubts for sure, but says her dad pointed out to her that bridal fashion for the mid-life crowd was a business opportunity. She knew from personal experience that there was an industry need and that was a factor in her decision.
How Will You Know If It’s Time For a Change?
If you’re wondering about making a career change at 40, how do know if the time is right? While there are a lot of personal issues that factor into career changes, experts like certified health coach Stacey Morgenstern say three major signs it’s time for a career change are feeling underpaid, overworked, and underappreciated; feeling unchallenged; and feeling called to something other than what you’re currently doing.
Vista College career blog discusses reasons people in their 30’s and 40’s feel the need to change careers and what prompts them to make the change. Top reasons include to improve work life, feeling personal contributions are not valued, and poor work relationships. If you want to explore whether or not it’s time for a change, ask yourself some of these questions:
- Are you consistently drained by the work you do, physically, emotionally, and mentally?
- Do you want to do what you are currently doing for the rest of your life?
- Is emptiness and boredom a big part of your work life?
- Does your current career feel right for you?
If you are feeling unsure, unsettled, unfulfilled, bored, underutilized, or uneasy with your daily work, those are signs that it’s time for change.
Related Article: 11 Incredible Tips for Career Change at 40 You Cannot Miss
How to Decide What Career Change to Make
With average retirement at age 65, 40 year olds still have 25 years left in their working life. Do you really want to spend the next 25 years in a boring or unfulfilling position or industry? Probably not, but how do you decide what career change to make? Unless you know for sure what you want to do next, you can research industries and careers to get a good sense of what direction you want your career path to take.
Start by researching industries you are interested in to find out what types of careers there are and what kind of training and education are needed to work in them. Read industry and profession-specific books and blogs, join Facebook groups of professional organizations, and research salary ranges in the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A good way to learn about other careers is to talk to people who are in the roles you’re interested in. Interview other people who are in the jobs you want, finding them on LinkedIn or Facebook. Ask questions about what they enjoy about the work and the industry, and any career challenges they have encountered. You may even get some mentoring or employment referrals this way, or be able to do some job shadowing to get a real understanding of what is involved, the work environment, and if you’d be able to do the work.
Find out if you’d need additional training or certifications to make your career change. Some careers require advanced degrees or specialized industry certifications. You may want to take some courses on LinkedIn Learning to see if you enjoy the kind of subject matter you would need to tackle for your new career.
Career change websites such as www.careershifters.com and www.learnhowtobecome.org will be helpful in learning about work, salary ranges, required education and training, and support from other career changers.
How to Prepare for a Career Change After Age 40
Once you’ve decided what kind of change you want to make at 40 years old and no career, don’t let yourself get discouraged by the details of making that mid-life career change. When you have decided you want to do, start preparing. You may want to consider doing an adult internship, taking inventory of your transferrable skills that may help you avoid formal training, and gathering letters of recommendation or referrals to use with your resume.
Letting go of fear is an important way to prepare for a career change according to licensed psychotherapist and certified coach Babita Spinelli. She says people have three main fears that get in
the way of making career transitions, including fear of financial shortfall, fear of failure, and fear of criticism. Many people who are 40 years old and no career have families to support, financial commitments, and career achievements that they aren’t able to just drop for a career change.
Spinelli recommends preparing before big career changes by identifying financial obstacles and planning how to address them, looking for support for your plans both personally and professionally, and not letting fear cancel your need to make changes.
Entrepreneur and business consulting firm owner Sherry Ellis says part of career change preparation should include discussing it with everyone it will impact. Spouse, children, parents, and anyone you will need to rely on during the transition should know about, understand, and agree with your desire and need to change careers. Elllis also recommends test driving your new career if possible, such as part time or volunteer work in the area you are interested in working.
Another important part of preparing for a career change is revising your resume to highlight your transitional skills and the experience relevant to your new industry and employers. Use the most current resume formats in the job market and remove mention of outdated software, employment skills, and jobs held more than 15 years ago unless they are highly relevant to the new field.
Do You Need a Mentor or Career Coach?
If you’re nervous or confused about making a mid-life career change, you may want to seek out a career coach. Jobvite chief people officer Rachel Bitte says career coaches are experts in career planning, resume development, and network building, all necessary components of any career change, but especially important to mid-life career changers who may not have been on an interview in years.
Rebecca Renner, writing for Business News Daily, says investing in yourself and your career change by finding a career coach can help you save time and avoid mistakes during your transition. She says the expertise and attention that a career coach brings helps get faster results than trying to plan a career change on your own.
Monster career expert Vicki Salemi says to be sure to understand what the career coach you are looking at provides, because they don’t all offer the same things, and some may specialize in specific areas like interview preparation or salary negotiation. Get the best results by finding a career coach who is experienced with over 40 candidates and career transitions, preferably in the industry you want.
Getting from Here to There
If you don’t like your current role any longer, if it isn’t fun and exciting to go to work every day, or if you just can’t see yourself in your position for the next 10 to 20 years, you probably need to make a mid-life career change. Don’t let frustration, anger, or boredom push you into any rash decisions. Let them be the catalyst and motivation for your career change planning and preparation.
Unless the perfect opportunity falls in your lap, it’s not easy to figure out a career change. Take some time to contemplate why you’re unhappy, and what would make you happy with work again. To make your transition successful and safe, write down your wishes and plans, talk it out with those close to you, research your options, get support, and plan your transition from A to Z. As with any other career preparations like training and education, business projects, and networking, careful planning is key when you are ready for a career change.