Don’t be afraid of a midlife career change (and how to make it happen) 

So, you’re dreaming of making a career change? Congrats, that is so exciting!  

But … also extremely scary, right? Trust me; I get it.

After so many years focused on a specific career or industry, it’s hard to imagine starting fresh and doing something else.  And even if you can imagine it, it’s probably difficult to consider this option seriously for fear of jeopardizing your current lifestyle and financial responsibilities.

But have you ever thought about everything you could gain by making a midlife career change? Or weighed your mental health and the chance of feeling professionally fulfilled against the stability of that uninspiring job you hate? 

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The silver lining with a midlife career change is that you aren’t showing up empty-handed; you have years of valuable experience to help you transition and succeed in a new job. Whether you feel the urge to try a completely different but more satisfying role, are looking to transition to a new industry or business model, or even pondering breaking out on your own as an entrepreneur — you have a lot more to offer in your new career than you give yourself credit for. And whatever you don’t know, you can always learn.

Don’t believe me? Let’s dive into how your years of experience have prepared you for success in your new professional adventure and why you owe it to yourself to try.

Your experience is valuable, no matter what you choose to do

When considering a change in your career path, your greatest asset is the knowledge and expertise you have acquired in your previous roles. It doesn’t matter the industry, the company, or the position — you have something valuable to offer in your next job or professional endeavor.  

The most important skills are transferable

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When it comes to mid-career professionals, no amount of training or education outweighs the actual hands-on experience acquired over time. Industry terminology, business processes, and job-specific expectations can all be learned. But the precious skills that drive results — leadership, verbal and written communication, organization, negotiation, project management — can only be perfected over years of trial and error.  

These transferable skills allow you to adapt quickly and excel in a new professional environment. In addition, combining these skills with your past work experiences gives you a unique perspective in a new setting that may allow you to identify opportunities others might overlook. 

Need help thinking about what transferable skills you can offer to a new employer? Ask your close friends, family members, and coworkers what your best professional qualities are. Chances are you have acquired many of these valuable attributes over the years without even realizing it.

Career changes require adaptability and resilience

Career transitions have become increasingly common, especially as the workforce has adjusted to a “new normal” in these post-pandemic years. So not only is this trend more accepted these days, many employers will appreciate your desire for a career change as it demonstrates adaptability and the courage to embrace new challenges.

Having diverse work experience demonstrates your ability to navigate different industries and company cultures, which is especially beneficial in today’s ever-evolving job market. A background in various types of roles shows that you can learn quickly and are not afraid of change. And by outlining how your expertise will be beneficial within a new role or company, you demonstrate a growth mindset and a “think-outside-the-box” mentality. 

Showcasing your adaptability and resilience, along with the years of professional success under your belt, sends a strong message to employers that you can embrace change, tackle new challenges head-on, and contribute positively to their organization’s success.

How to create your dream career

Are you ready to create your dream career but need help figuring out where to start? Here are some steps and tricks to consider as you embark on this new adventure.

Use your experience and interests to find a desired role

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Whether you already have a new career path in mind or are just looking for something different, the great news is that you have years of experience to guide you in finding the best role.  

If you have your heart set on a specific job or company, start searching open job listings for any that might be a good fit. When assessing new roles, review the job qualifications carefully to find areas that overlap with your background. Be sure to highlight this relevant experience on your resume and in the interview with concrete examples, which helps the recruiting manager understand why you are a good fit for this position.  

If you are still determining what professional direction you should be headed, try taking an assessment test to evaluate how you can best utilize your skills and passions. LinkedIn published a helpful guide, including many resources that you can leverage. Keep an open mind going in, complete a few assessment quizzes, and see what results you get. This approach will definitely give you some new ideas to think about.

What you don’t know, learn and prepare for

If you want to make a career jump to a new field that requires credentials or industry knowledge, do some research to understand better what kind of commitment that requires. Depending on the transition you’re evaluating, this may be easier than you think.

Industry insights play a crucial role in navigating a new field, so be proactive in seeking opportunities for growth and learning. Staying informed about current trends, challenges, and advancements helps you understand the landscape and identify areas for development. You can take courses, attend workshops or seminars, network with professionals in your desired field, or even pursue further education if necessary.

Are there any exciting fields where you can use your professional background with some further training to get started? Perhaps you have a background doing data entry for an accounting team — maybe consider getting your certification in bookkeeping. Or if you have a degree in English and have been working as a Marketing assistant — have you ever thought about taking a copywriting course so you could start freelancing?

Some transitions may require a more significant leap in training (and of faith), but nothing is impossible with dedication and desire. While the upfront workload to complete the necessary training may seem daunting, you might actually find the process fulfilling and enjoyable as it brings you closer to your new profession.

Whatever you do, don’t let the training and time commitment hold you back from pursuing your passion. Embrace the learning curve as the next important step toward your dream career.

Tap into your network

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When it comes to career changes, often it’s not what you know; it’s who you know. And while I wouldn’t recommend applying for a job you are utterly unqualified for just because the CEO is your uncle (hello, nepotism!), I do recommend you use this philosophy to your advantage when possible.

Networking and professional connections are crucial in facilitating a successful career transition. When embarking on a new path, it’s essential to tap into your network and call on those connections to open doors to new opportunities.

Networking for career change success involves reaching out to colleagues, mentors, industry professionals, and friends and family who may have valuable insights or connections in your desired field. These individuals can provide guidance, advice and introduce you to critical decision-makers or job openings.

By utilizing professional networks and industry insights during a career transition, you position yourself for success by gaining invaluable knowledge, expanding your network of contacts, and increasing your chances of finding fulfilling opportunities within your chosen industry. Not to mention, the most efficient way to get your foot in the door anywhere is always word of mouth.

Customize your resume and interview talking points

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When making a career change, customizing your resume and talking points for interviewing becomes even more crucial. Your resume is your marketing tool, and it needs to showcase how your skills and experiences align with the desired role.

Start by thoroughly researching the desired role and understanding its essential requirements. This will help you identify the relevant skills and experiences you can highlight on your resume and in the interview.

By highlighting your transferable skills on your resume, you demonstrate how your past experiences have equipped you with the necessary attributes to drive success in your next position. Provide additional detail on projects and roles that have similarities with the job qualifications of the new work you’re seeking. Use previous experience not directly relatable to the new role as another opportunity to outline your transferable skills and diverse background. If you want extra resume support from an expert, enlist the help of a professional resume writer to perfect or review your resume and ensure you have a convincing final product.

Prepare for each interview with a mental list of professional examples demonstrating your transferable skills. When brainstorming these examples, find ways to correlate these experiences to relevant situations and traits necessary in the desired role. Seek the help of a career counselor, mentor, or friend, and do a mock interview to help you practice before the actual event.  

Both verbally and on paper, clearly communicate why you are interested in making a career change and how your previous experience is valuable in the new field. Additionally, include any relevant certifications, courses, or training programs you have completed that enhance your qualifications for the desired role.

Your aim is to bridge the gap between your previous experiences and the desired role, convincing the employer that your unique background would be an asset to their team.  

Don’t be afraid to take the leap

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Even using all these tips and tricks, resources, and professional connections in the world, there isn’t a surefire way to make a career change. There will always be some risk and fear of the unknown involved. The only way to make the change is to make your choice and take that leap.  

When I left my corporate career, I was scared to death. I was walking away from the security of a steady income in a profession where I had become an industry expert into — well, into a world full of uncertainty. All for the chance to gamble on a different career that I felt passionate about.  

It was not an easy decision, but after years of feeling unfulfilled and dreaming of something better, it was a decision I could no longer ignore. So I crunched the numbers, made a plan, and took the leap.  

It’s been six months, and I’m still figuring out this new career path. I’m learning everything I can, trying new things, and staying open to every possibility. And even though the future is still uncertain, I’ve never felt more alive and hopeful in my career.  

You owe it to yourself to try

The bottom line is if you’re thinking about making a career change, then something isn’t working for you in your current career. If you have looked under every stone and evaluated every opportunity to find fulfillment in your current line of work yet still come up empty-handed — then you can’t afford to not try something else. Life is too short to be miserable, and it’s never too late to try.

A career change may not be a straight road to overnight success, but you may discover a different kind of success or find a new passion through the process. That’s the beauty of embracing change — by moving past your fear of the unknown, you open yourself up to endless possibilities.   

Wishing you all the courage to take the leap and follow your dreams.

Have you ever considered making a career change? What is holding you back? If you have made the switch already, what advice would you share with others? Tell us in the comments!

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