Changing careers at any age is tough, but for many reasons it is perceived as being more difficult once you hit 40. However, if 50 is the new 30, that makes 40 the new 20, but with the advantage of 20 years of experience under your belt! So, what is the difference between choosing a career at 18 or 20 and making that choice when you are over 40?
At 20 you have many of the advantages of youth – enthusiasm, energy and the desire to follow your dream. This is very positive, if you know what your dream is. Unfortunately, many people simply drift into a career. This often happens to young people who have little or no work experience and who must base their career ideas on other people’s reports or on what they see on TV.
Once you reach 40, there is a very good chance that you will have a much better idea of what you really want to do. After 20 years or so in the workplace, you will have a much more realistic picture of the job market and you’ll know which aspects of it you like and which you don’t like. If you have been unhappy in your previous jobs, you’ll also understand how important it is to enjoy work and you won’t want to waste your time doing something you hate.
One of the most difficult aspects of changing careers later in life is dealing with other people’s attitudes. This applies both to employers and to your friends and family. Unfortunately, some employers still tend to favour younger applicants, despite anti-ageism laws. So it can take some work to persuade them that you are right for the job.
Career changes usually involve retraining or going back to college. Although mature people make better students, taking their studies more seriously and getting good results, it’s still a big step. Many older people are nervous about going back to school if they haven’t studied for years. In addition, funding can be an issue, especially if you have responsibilities like a mortgage or a family.
So it is important to research your potential new career before taking any major steps towards it. You need to be sure that you will enjoy the work and don’t mind starting at the bottom of the ladder. You will also find that support from friends and family will help you keep going when things get tough.
These days it is possible to study part-time, and many courses are set up with older students in mind. It may take a bit of organizing, but you should be able to find a way of completing your studies which will fit in with a busy routine. And if you have lost your job, you should check out government aid, bursaries and charitable foundations for possible sources of funding to enable you to retrain.
Planning a good job search strategy, such as making good use of networking and creating a strong résumé will help you find a job in your new career.
Changing careers over 40 is not only possible, but also much more common than it used to be. With drastic changes in the job market and the speed of progress in technology, it is something which most people will find both desirable and necessary.