How to Change Careers In Your 40s and Be More Fulfilled
Does your current job feel like Groundhog Day? You get up in the morning and go to work (to a position that maybe at one point was your dream job). You clock in, do your work, poke around on Instagram, and wait for the end of the work day so you can go home... only to wake up the next morning and do it all over again.
If this sounds familiar, you might be considering making a career change. There are all kinds of reasons why someone may be looking for a new career at 40. You might want to make a greater impact in a more satisfying career, earn more money with a career transition, or have a better work-life balance with more time for your personal life.
Changing careers two decades in might feel overwhelming. But with a little research and a lot of determination, you can make it happen. Read on to learn everything you need to know about a career change at 40.
3 Key Takeaways:
- In one survey, 82% of respondents aged 47-55 had made a significant career change, mostly after age 45. You aren't alone!
- You might be looking to switch careers to make more money, follow your passion, or try something new before you hit retirement age.
- To make a career change at 40, assess your transferable skills; talk to your network to get an idea of your options; and get your resume and cover letter up to date.
How often do people change careers at 40?
Changing careers to a new career at 40 (or even beyond) is more common than you might think. According to the 2019 Career Change Report put out by Indeed, 49% of employees had made a "dramatic career shift." An additional 65% were considering it.
Another survey from the American Institute for Economic Research discovered that 82% of respondents age 47-55 had made a significant career change. Most of those changes happened after age 45.
And in 2023, Monster states, an unbelievable 96% of workers are looking for a new position. Surely many of them will end up in a new career that's different from their current job, too.
Colonel Sanders started KFC at the age of 62. Sam Walton opened the first Walmart in 1962 at 44 years old. If they can do it, you can, too.
Why change careers at 40?
Many people may be looking for a new career because of reasons like:
- A change in their current lifestyle and/or financial responsibilities
- Boredom in their current role or industry and seeking professional growth opportunities
- Relocation to a new city, state, or country
- Stress in a toxic work environment
- Being laid off or fired
- Reentering the workforce after addressing family responsibilities or being a stay-at-home parent
You may want to achieve work-life balance or simply follow your passion, maybe launching your own business or growing your side hustle into a full-time gig. Other people are finding that their industry has been affected by globalization, and they need a new job. Still, others are simply bored, leading them to make a career change at 40. These are all valid reasons to look for a new job.
At a younger age, you may have been limited to entry level jobs. But with the years of experience and transferable skills you have at age 40, you'll have an edge, starting at a higher level than fresh graduates do.
The challenge of changing careers at 40
A career change at the age of 40 might feel risky. By now, you're likely settled in your career. Maybe you've taken steps up the career ladder. You may feel uncomfortable giving up your stable job, potentially taking a pay cut, and switching careers--somebody has to be the breadwinner, after all.
Career changes at 40 can present a unique set of challenges. For example, maybe you landed your job with an associate's degree. With a new career, you may need to acquire new skills or education to land opportunities other than an entry level position.
Starting over in a new career can require a significant investment of time, effort, and money, and not everyone is willing or able to start from scratch. What's more, you might encounter age bias from employers who want to higher younger generations.
If you decide a career switch isn't right after all, that's completely okay. But if your current career makes you feel worn out, depleted, and exhausted, it might be time for a change. Take it from us: It's not too late. With careful planning, research, and perseverance, it's possible to overcome these obstacles and successfully transition to a fulfilling new career path.
How to change your career at 40
Do you feel ready for a new career at 40? Before you jump into a midlife career change, take a look at our list of tips for switching careers and finding a new dream job.
Assess your skills, interest, and values
You likely chose your current career path when you were in your 20s--perhaps even sooner if you picked a career immediately after high school. You're a very different person at age 40 than you were in your early 20s. Your core values, life goals, and your idea of a dream career have likely shifted and changed.
Your skills and expertise have definitely changed, growing, and evolving along with you. It's completely okay to now feel some self-doubt in your job, wanting to find a new career that better aligns with who you are now and what you want out of the rest of your life.
This is why we recommend starting with an audit of sorts--thinking hard about your current skills, interests, and values. Brainstorm and add your notes onto a sheet of paper. Then consider which of your skills and experiences could most easily transfer to a new career. If you're an English teacher, for example, you can most likely become a freelance writer more easily than changing careers to a scientist.
Explore career options
Once you've got a good idea of what you want to do, the next step is figuring out what kind of available opportunities are out there that align with your career goals--and the way to do that is through research, research, research.
Watch out for industry trends and see what you must study to progress your career. Get used to any industry-specific jargon and topical subjects to sound knowledgeable in interviews. You can also research what hiring managers are looking for in potential candidates, especially if it's been several years since you've applied to any job opportunities.
Research the options available for a midlife career. Are they mostly part-time jobs or full-time jobs? What kind of new skills are they asking for (like technology that wasn't around when you started out)? If you're considering striking out on your own, what are the best business ideas? Then learn how to create a resume for your career change that explains how some or all of your skills are transferable.
You'll find thousands of job ads online. Don't get overwhelmed. As a career changer, staying focused is the best thing you can do. Look at jobs with a critical eye, only moving forward with options that are best suited for your skills, interests, and current stage of life.
Talk to peers, mentors, and former colleagues
Your personal and professional networks of mentors and peers can serve as valuable resources, offering advice from their standpoint to help you with a midlife career change. It may be helpful to ask them questions like:
- What are my transferable skills?
- What am I passionate about?
- How well does my current job seem to fit me?
- From your perspective, how much do I enjoy my job? How good is my work-life balance?
- If I were to have any other job besides what I do currently, what would you see me doing?
Now is the time to take advantage of your professional network. Someone from your network might be able to introduce you to the right person or company for your new career. Asking for informational interviews is always a good idea.
A powerful networking platform to leverage is LinkedIn. You can do cold outreach, research desired industries and positions, connect with industry experts, directly reach out to recruiters, and more. To get the most out of this platform, though, it's crucial to make sure your LinkedIn profile is optimized.
A great way to check your LinkedIn profile is to download Teal’s Free Chrome extension which includes an automated LinkedIn Profile Review. Once you install the extension, just go to your profile page and click on the Teal logo. You’ll see a list of recommendations on how best to optimize your profile and can make updates as needed.
You'll also want to get your immediate family on board with the change. Your new career won't only affect you--it will impact others, too. Your transition will go more smoothly if the most important people in your life are committed to helping.
Finally, if you can locate somebody who made a successful career transition in their 40s or 50s, they can provide a wealth of information and tips to help you do the same.
Talk to people in the career you want
Once you've narrowed down your options and you have an idea of the new career path you'd like to pursue, find people who work in this job and pick their brains. Ask them questions about their professional life and what tips they have for you. For example:
- How did you get started in your field?
- What are the most important skills to have in your current position?
- What is the most meaningful part of your job? What's the hardest part?
- If I'm interested in following a similar career path, where should I start? What skills would you recommend honing?
These people also might be able to connect you to others who can help you test the waters before diving into a brand-new industry. If possible, try working part-time, doing volunteer work, or picking up contract work in a position that interests you.
Recreate your job search assets
The next step in changing careers: Get your resume and cover letter up to speed. It's likely been a few years since you applied to jobs or went through interviews--so your job search assets will need a little brushing up and need to be repositioned to help with your upcoming career change.
Teal's free AI Resume Builder tool is a great place to start. Upload your current resume or import your LinkedIn profile. Then use the AI Resume Builder's AI-powered features to tweak your existing skillset and experience into a more appropriate document for your upcoming career pivot.
Use the AI technology integrated within Teal's AI Resume Builder to generate professional summaries directly within the Teal platform.
Make sure to include transferable skills on your resume. These are the skills you've acquired while working at one job over the years. They aren't specific to any one role--they can easily "transfer" to another job. They might include soft skills, or interpersonal skills, such as communication skills, leadership, conflict resolution, and creativity.
Make a job search plan
When your resume is ready, it's time to outline a plan of action to help you tackle job applications for your career change at 40. Think about the type of companies or employers you'd like to work for. Then begin researching open positions online.
Before applying to a job, research each company to ensure they're a good fit for the skills, values, and goals you defined earlier. You may also want to give yourself deadlines to apply for jobs.
Track your job search
It can be difficult to keep up with all of your job prospects and applications. This is especially true for career changers, who likely have many other things-- a current job, a family, and other obligations--going on as they simultaneously look for a new job.
We recommend using something like Teal's Job Application Tracker to keep tabs on everything related to your job search. This free tool includes a Chrome extension to directly save jobs you're interested in from hundreds of different job boards. You can also organize job postings and applications throughout each stage of the process.
Manage your job search with Teal, a free job tracking software that lets you track and store important job hunting details.
Teal's Job Application Tracker also makes it easy to keep track of all communications throughout your job search. You can access email templates that are ideal for various situations throughout each stage of the job search process.
Communication templates for different situations throughout the entire hiring process are located within Teal's Job Application Tracker.
Tailor your resume to each job you apply for
As you apply to different jobs, make sure you're customizing your resume for each one according to the job description. Even adding a few small skills or changing the way you word certain job titles can better position you as the job seeker who's most qualified for the position.
Teal's AI Resume Builder can help here, too. Attach the job posting you're interested in, and Teal will compare the job description with your resume, giving you a Match Score to help you understand where you can beef your resume up to make it better aligned with the job.
Get the tools you need to be equipped for your career change
A career change at 40 isn't for everyone. This is a big change, and it can feel scary on multiple levels. But if you're in the wrong career--negatively impacting your finances, passion, or mental health--making a career change can pay huge rewards.