Career Change in Your 40’s or 50’s

Career change at 40 and 50

Career Change in Your 40’s or 50’s

A recent survey revealed that 62% of UK workers would like to change careers.  If you’re in your 40s or 50s and concerned about making a career change, know that it’s never too late. By 2025 there will be one million more people aged 50 or over which means that one in three of the working age population will be over 50.

The growing skills shortage and low unemployment presents a unique opportunity for those in their 40s and 50s to change careers more easily. In order for your career change to be successful however, you’ll need to plan your next steps carefully. From self-assessment to upskilling and updating your CV, here’s your to-do list for a successful career change when you’re over 40.

Self-assess 

To make the right career change, you need to understand your motivations and what inspires you. You should also ask:

What’s important to me?

What do I want to achieve in the next 1, 5, 10 years?

What will success look like?

Personality tests such as Myers Briggs personality test and The Big Five Personality Traits can help you understand more about your personality and how you interact with others. Understanding your personality traits helps you gain clarity on which work environments will suit you best.

Once you have a vision of what you want in your career, it’s time to decide on the next steps. If you have a clear career direction, you can more forward to identifying the skills and experience you will need to make the transition. If, however, you’re unclear about the career you want to pursue, you’ll need to take some time to explore your options and decide on the best career move for you. 

While online career tests like Prospect’s job match can give you some ideas about careers that might suit you, they can’t narrow down your options and make decisions for you. You’ll need to consider which career will be a good fit for you along with the opportunities available.

A qualified career counsellor and coach can help you take stock of your work values, skills, strengths and interest areas which will enable you to make sound career decisions. They can also help you identify areas for development, guide you in creating a career action plan, and assist with building your personal brand to market yourself into your new career.

Upskill 

Choosing a career that takes advantage of your transferable skills and experience makes sense but if you need to learn new skills, there are plenty of ways to do so. 

Online, Udemy and EdX.org offer free and affordable courses in a variety of disciplines. LinkedIn learning is also a popular online learning platform, and you can easily add your course certificates to your LinkedIn profile. 

Volunteering is an excellent way to gain practical experience and offers the added, possible advantage of gaining a reference from your host. Some job seekers also manage to secure paid employment with their volunteering host organisation. 

Check your finances

Changing careers at any age has financial implications, but over 40s might have to consider their move more carefully. It’s likely that changing careers will mean a pay cut for a period of time. If you do happen to have savings, they can offer a financial buffer during your career transition. 

If your career change requires a university qualification and your budget is tight, you can consider cheaper routes such as an online learning via the Open University for example, or applying for a student loan to fund your studies. 

Securing a job in your new career while you’re still working in your old job is ideal but not always possible. If you’re thinking of leaving your current job, consider transitioning into your new career by taking smaller gigs at the start. You’ll be able to build up your skills, experience and network before taking the final leap when the time is right. 

Dust off your networking skills 

As you might already know, networking can get you through the door a lot faster than relying on job boards. Your family members, neighbours and work colleagues may hold the key to your next career. 

Leverage your existing network by connecting or reconnecting on LinkedIn, sending key contacts a simple message to get the conversation started. 

If your current connections don’t work in your new target sector, build your network by getting involved with professional associations and check out Meetup.com for networking events in your area. You can also make new contacts on LinkedIn and ask for networking advice in the sector you’re interested in via LinkedIn Groups for example. 

Update your brand 

Once you’re ready to take the leap, you’ll need to re-brand yourself. That is, you’ll need to change how you are marketing yourself to potential employers and recruiters. Assess your transferable skills and re-write your elevator pitch. Check that your career change motivations are very clear. 

Ensure your brand message is consistent in:  

Your CV. A skills-based CV can help you showcase your transferable skills rather than your job titles. Make sure you include a personal profile at the top that explains your career change. 

Tip: Don’t get filtered out by Applicant Tracking Systems. Use as many relevant keywords to your target industry as possible and consider limiting your work history to the last 10-15 years to avoid possible age discrimination.

Your cover letter. Don’t shy away from mentioning why you’re changing careers, and be sure to highlight how your skills and previous experience are transferable to your new career. 

Your LinkedIn profile. Recruiters use LinkedIn regularly to search for candidates. They’ll use keywords from industries they’re recruiting for to find people that match. Make sure your About section, your Skills and Role Descriptions include industry keywords throughout to appear in the right search results. 

In summary: 

To make a successful career change in your 40s or 50s, you need to identify your motivations and choose a career path that’s right for you. Make sure you’ve taken your finances into account and consider how you’ll acquire any knowledge, skills and experience you’re missing. Powerful re-branding will help you send a clear message about your value in the market and ensure you stand out to employers as you transition into your new career. 


With thanks for research and contributions by Natàlia Fernández Ashman

Lisa LaRue is a registered Career Coach at CareerWorx with more than 20 years’ experience helping people plan, manage and find happiness in their careers.

Lisa LaRue
lisa@careerworx.co.uk
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