Are you considering a career change after 40? There are likely many questions swirling around your head. Am I too old for a career change? Do I have relevant skills for a career change? Can I be successful making a career change after 40?
After I turned 40 it was like a fire lit up inside of me. I knew it was time to go after my career dream of starting a blog and being a professional writer. I loved being a career coach (which I’ve done for nearly 20 years), but I wanted to do my job differently.
I have always worked for someone else. Until recently I didn’t realize the “thing” that was always missing. What I longed for was to go my own way. To be my own boss. Make my career exactly what I want and need it to be.
Starting my blog and pursuing my dream of being a published author has been anything but easy. But I do not regret my decision for one single second. There have been many mistakes I have made (and continue to make). In this article I will outline the most common mistakes that I have made in my own personal journey changing careers after 40, as well as common mistakes I see clients make as a professional career coach.
Career Change Mistake #1: Being Hasty
As a career coach one of the most common mistakes I see clients make is to jump from career to career too quickly. It’s important to stop and take time to evaluate your current or last job and what you found satisfying and not satisfying. Did you not like the environment or the people? If that’s the case, you might not need to make a major career change, but perhaps a change of work setting.
If you are feeling generally bored and restless, it might be time for a major change.
Start by doing what I like to call a personal deep dive. Assess your biggest interests, strengths, personality traits, and priorities like income, work schedule, and lifestyle.
A common complaint I hear clients say is, I don’t know what my strengths are. If you’re not sure what you are good at, talk to people who know you best, like close friends, trusted colleagues, or family members. Ask them what they think are your top three strengths and talents. Sometimes getting a new perspective can open up a world of possibilities!
Career Change Mistake #2: Self-Sabotage
“I’m too old for a career change!” “I’ll make a fool of myself!” “I don’t have any skills.” “I’m just stuck.”
Do any of these self-sabotaging phrases sound familiar? We are all guilty of using these “career success killers” at one point or another in our lives. The first step is recognition. But after you admit to doing negative self-talk, then what?
Many people unfortunately stay stuck in that negative head space. I don’t want that to be you!
You cannot let fear or guilt stand in the way of a career change after 40.
Chances are you have kids or you are the caretaker for parents or other family members (even fur babies)! Now is the time to focus on your career happiness. It’s okay to be selfish. Don’t just strive to make a change. Strive to make a career change that will bring you happiness and fulfillment!
If you are scared of failing, it’s normal. But consider the alternative. What if you never even try? The not knowing will likely always haunt you. If you make a mistake and choose a path that is not a great fit, you can recover. You will recover. And you will have learned a lot about yourself in the process so that your next career move will be even more successful.
Career Change Mistake #3: Going It Alone
With the pandemic we are more isolated than ever. It’s easy to stay hidden behind your computer or phone. Being stuck mostly inside your house doesn’t help either.
Try to resist the urge not to tell people you’re make a change. I understand you might not want to shout “I’m going through a major life and career transition!!” from the rooftops. But you’ve got so many people in your corner. Current and former colleagues and supervisors will surely be references or provide a nice LinkedIn recommendation.
Reach out to other moms or women in social networking groups and on social media platforms. Be bold and say that you’re looking to make a career change and would anyone be willing to have a Zoom coffee chat? You will likely be surprised at how many other professionals are in the same boat and craving to connect!
When I was interviewing for work a couple years ago I was hesitant to reach out to former managers. I felt like I was bugging them. But it turned out the people I was resistant to connect with were the ones who were my biggest advocates!
Career Change Mistake #4: Not Re-Branding Yourself
If you are making a major career change after 40, chances are your resume and LinkedIn profile also need a major renovation. You don’t necessarily need to hire a professional writer and pay hundreds of dollars. But you should make sure your job search documents accurately and successfully reflect who you are and where you want to go professionally.
Ideally your resume should be targeted to each specific job you apply for. If you’re making a major career change (for example, switching from healthcare to education) you can use transferable skills like problem-solving, oral and written communication, and project management to highlight your relevant achievements.
A specific objective statement can help a hiring manager or recruiter understand how your background and skills can translate to your targeted field. For example, “Seasoned healthcare administrator seeking to leverage skills in program management, budgeting, and quality control to transition into higher education administration.”
Creating a LinkedIn profile (if you don’t already have one) is quick, easy, and best of all, free! Make sure to have a targeted, keyword-rich headline so recruiters can find you. Also, start asking current and / or former supervisors and colleagues for recommendations.
Take the time to list your most recent 3-5 jobs. Don’t repeat information from your resume (it’s tempting, I know). Try to use your LinkedIn profile to tell a more personal story of who you are and what makes you unique. You can use the first person on LinkedIn.
Here’s an example of how to write the content for your work experience: In my role as an XYZ specialist, I oversaw the digital marketing and PR for the jewelry and accessory division. What I loved most was using my creativity and passion for fashion accessories to create a unique, cohesive brand.”
If you have writer’s block, spend time browsing professionals’ profiles with similar career background and goals.
Career Change Mistake #5: Staying Stagnant
Making a career change takes a lot of work, not to mention lots of time. It’s all about baby steps!
While you are transitioning to a new career field or job, there’s a lot you can do to keep your resume and skills current. Do you need additional training for your new career direction? Take some free YouTube tutorials or online classes. Try volunteering to get some experience in your targeted field. Catchafire and VolunteerMatch are both organizations that offer virtual volunteer jobs.
You can also do freelance, contract, or temp work to acquire and hone skills while you job search. Don’t stress too much if the work isn’t exactly aligned with your career goals. Focus on building transferable skills that you can use in any job, like oral and written communication, leadership, teamwork, and problem solving.
A career change after 40 can be incredibly rewarding and successful if you have the right mindset and tools. Remember to take baby steps, and focus on the journey as well as your end goal!