Tips for Changing Careers After 40
Deciding to Make a Career Change
Could it be that you were like me and woke up one day thinking “Is this all there is in life?” My life was in such a routine mode that it was almost on automatic. I would wake up and get ready for work, have a slice of buttered toast and a quick cup of coffee, then commute 45 miles to my job where I would spend the next 8 to 10 hours spilling blood, sweat, and tears for a company that returned very little appreciation.
In fact, my employer routinely called me in on weekends with veiled threats that my job was on the line if I didn’t make it in. I had always been loyal to my employers and only took one personal day in 14 years. I was at the top of my pay scale, dedicated, and even enthusiastic at times. I served on many committees that helped my employer become more efficient and put them on a projection to save millions of dollars over the coming years.
The loyalty was not reciprocated. I was laid off with about 50 of my fellow employees during the economic downturn in 2008. At first I felt a little bit of panic and then after a couple of days I realized that I wasn’t in too bad of a position. After all, I had saved regularly and invested in my retirement fund. I projected that I had about 6 months of a cushion and then things would get tight.
The panic started to return a couple months later when I still could not find a job with reasonable pay. I was supplementing my unemployment benefits with income I earned from writing, which was about a quarter of my previous income. I went on dozens of interviews and even took a temporary position that paid half of what my last salary was. I was called into the office expecting to be brought on as a permanent employee but what I got was another pink slip and a “sorry, we’re downsizing. This industry is going flat and you should probably consider changing careers.”
I sat in my car for about half an hour not knowing what to do next. I was just turning 40 and spent so many years learning and perfecting my trade. How could this middle-management guy even suggest that I change careers? I wanted to cry but I couldn’t and I actually started to laugh.
That was it. I made a decision on my drive home that I would never let myself be put in a position where someone else had control of my destiny. I would be my own boss. I would earn my own keep. But doing what? Naturally, I turned to the only thing that really gave me pleasure; writing. I was determined to make my living as a professional writer.
As I look back, it was a heck of a ride but I have no regrets. Now, I do what I love and write on subjects that I am passionate about and people pay me. They pay me very well. You may be finding yourself on a similar path, or trajectory, if so I have a few tips that could help you make the tough decisions ahead.
Know Your Priorities
If you’re thinking about a career change then you should sit down and write out your 5 top priorities. What is important to you? Is it family, security, money, status, toys, or leisure? It’s usually different for most people because we all come from different backgrounds. For instance, I wasn’t married, nor did I have any children, so I felt I was pretty mobile and could go anywhere at any time. I did however have a mortgage and looming student loans, and an auto loan that I was still repaying so for me my financial matters were very important.
Seeing your priorities written down can help put things in perspective and help you determine how much risk you are willing to take. I know this is cliché but there are no guarantees in life so you want to be familiar with the level of risk before you make any final decisions.
Find your Passion
Are you over 40 and thinking about changing careers?
Find Your Passion
Although I have many hobbies and things I am interested in, I have always been a creative person. Writing, photography, and other artistic endeavors have always played a major role in my life. I had always been told by much wiser people to find what you love to do then make a career out of it. It was great advice but I always feared that if I made my passions my work then I may someday end up hating what I once loved.
I’ll tell you, I was wrong. I absolutely love to write and to take photos. I’ve created a career that employs both of these passions. As a professional blogger, podcaster, and photographer, I get to do what I love every single day. And every day brings me new inspiration.
You may discover that you love to cook or teach or help others in some way. If so, then go for it. Get certified and credentialed. Keep in mind that when you are changing careers after 40 and you are planning to work for an employer then it is likely that you may end up with a boss that is younger and less passionate than you. You should know if your ego will allow this.
Take it Slow
I had no choice but to jump into the deep end. You may have other options such as starting out slow and exploring your passions on the weekends or during your time off of your current job. Take in some classes and workshops and network with others that are succeeding in your chosen passion.
Most importantly, make sure you are financially ready to make the jump. If possible, build up a six month cushion so that you can account for all of your living expenses. It may take you a year or 2 but if you are married and have children then I would expect your family is at the top of your priority list.
Communicate with your spouse and your family. Make them aware of your plans and show them the benefit that would come with their support. Involve your family as much as possible and your passion will overflow onto them.