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Midlife Career Change: A Guide for Finding Your New Career Path

Common Obstacles to Changing Careers

It may seem unrealistic to even hint at a midlife career change. But if you are unhappy with your job, stagnant, and/or not seeing things going anywhere for you, this change could be just what you need. Working in one career for so long may make you feel trapped; you may not even know what you are looking for in a new job, may not possess the skills or degree to get the job you want, and may be worried about your financial security if they do make a career change.

This uncertainty and fear of the unknown can cause a lack of confidence — making it even tougher to get started on a midlife career change. It may help to know that you can overcome the following common obstacles when changing careers:

  • Skills and Experience: If you feel like you have worked toward one career for too long, only honing the skills needed to perform your current job well, all is not lost. Chances are that you have transferable skills that will apply to your prospective career. Understanding these skills will be critical in knowing which skills and experience you will need to improve on. But do not dwell here either; gaining the skills and expertise you need to change your career can be achieved as well. Consider volunteering for organizations in the industry you are looking to break into, and/or finding a mentor to show you the ropes. If you do not have the time to do either of these things, there are ways to find jobs for middle-aged people that require no experience or degree.
  • Uncertainty. The fear of the unknown can make you want to stay safe in your current job. You may not know how you’ll do in your new career, and you may not even know how to get your foot in the door. It helps immensely to do your research about your future career. Check out industry leaders and trends, talk to people who are in the position you would like to be in, and get a feel for how competitive your new field is. The more informed you are about the landscape of your new industry, the better prepared you’ll feel about making the career change. Becoming familiar with your new career can also make things less overwhelming. If you know exactly how to achieve your goal, you can break things down into smaller, manageable accomplishments — rather than just jumping blindly into the deep end.
  • Fear of Getting Out There. In today’s world, and especially in certain fields of work, you’ll have to introduce yourself, rub elbows with, and reach out to those in the industry. You may not like to hear it, but this will involve social media and networking. Networking doesn’t have to be a pain if done correctly and can get your face in front of potential employers. For instance, you can use LinkedIn to connect with business leaders and more — as well as for learning about industry trends, opening positions, and increasing your professional knowledge. You may also be more likely to land a job if a business or employer has seen your face and knows a bit about you, as opposed to someone they don’t know anything about.

Using Personality Tests to Find New Careers

As a midlife career change will be a transitional period of your life and career, it will help to assess who you are at this point in time and what you want to become. This assessment can help you determine what career might be right for you. A personality test may be able to highlight why you aren’t satisfied with your current job; your personality may have changed over time, and your current personality traits may be more compatible in a new workplace. There are several personality tests you can take to evaluate career options in which you may find the most happiness.

Finding a Job with the Myers-Briggs Test

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test is the first step in understanding which career may better fit your personality. While being criticized for its rigidity and inflexibility, the MBTI can be a great place to start when assessing the complex characteristics that make up your personality. The MBTI identifies sixteen personality types based on how you answer specific questions (questions may vary depending on which version you take), but will determine which way you lean on the following personality traits:

  • Extrovert or Introvert – E or I
  • Sensing or Intuition – S or N
  • Thinking or Feeling – T or F
  • Judgment or Perception – J or P

According to the MBTI, depending on your answers, you can be any combination of these traits — totaling 16 possible personality types. Below are the best job and career matches for each personality type:

  • ISFJ – Office Clerk, Actuary, Tax Assessor, Bank Teller, Accountant, Social Worker, Librarian, Athletic Trainer, Carpenter, Engineer, Nurse Practitioner, Court Reporter, Biological Technician.
  • ESFJ – Office Manager, Event Coordinator, Human Resource Manager, Elementary School Teacher, Dietician, Police Officer, Insurance Agent.
  • ISTJ – Construction Worker, Aviation Technician, Real Estate Appraiser, Accountant, Teacher, Athlete, Surgeon, Lawyer, Military Officer.
  • ISFP – Artist, Carpenter, Fashion Designer, Art Teacher, Social Worker, Pharmacist, Paralegal, Scientist.
  • ESTJ – Chief Information Officer, Auditor, Civil Engineer, Hospital Administrator, Judge, Mechanical Engineer.
  • ESFP – Artist, Interior Designer, Retail Manager, Travel Agent, Child Care Provider, Social Worker, Nurse, Police Officer.
  • ENFP – Actor, Journalist, Public Relations Specialist, Psychologist, Advertising Manager, Event Planner, Real Estate Agent, Teacher, Counselor, Fitness Trainer.
  • ISTP – Carpenter, Cost Estimator, Athletic Trainer, Police Officer, Biologist, Flight Engineer.
  • INFP – Animator, Editor, Designer, Career Counselor, Librarian, Teacher, Social Worker, Physical Therapist, Anthropologist.
  • ESTP – Chief Information Officer, Financial Planner, Insurance Agent, Building Inspector, Fitness Instructor, Police Officer, Airline Pilot, Biologist.
  • INTP – Animator, Author, Accountant, Lawyer, Engineer, Scientist, Computer Programmer, Web Developer.
  • ENTP – Architect, Actor, Human Resource Manager, Market Researcher, Lawyer, Accountant, Scientist, Engineer.
  • ENFJ – Actor, Author, Designer, Business Management, Teacher, Counselor, Sociologist, Athletic Trainer, Lawyer, Flight Attendant.
  • INTJ – Art Director, Writer, Architect, Accountant, Professor, Pharmacist, Lawyer, Police Detective, Scientist, Computer Programmer, Engineer.
  • ENTJ – Architect, Business Executive, Accountant, Advertising Manager, Engineer, Computer Scientist, Biochemist, Doctor, Judge, Sales Agent, Reporter, Public Speaker, Economist.
  • INFJ – Artist, Journalist. Attorney, Human Resource Manager, Teacher, Social Worker, Environmental Scientist.

OCEAN

Another way you can determine which job may be right for you, and perhaps even whittle down the job options above according to your MBTI personality type, is to deploy the use of another acronym. OCEAN refers to what psychologists have generally agreed upon as the five core traits in personality:

  • Openness to Experience – Are you inventive/curious or consistent/cautious
  • Conscientiousness – Are you efficient/organized or easy-going/careless?
  • Extraversion – Are you outgoing/energetic or solitary/reserved?
  • Agreeableness – Are you friendly/compassionate or challenging/detached?
  • Neuroticism – Are you sensitive/nervous or secure/confident?

Testing for or asking yourself the questions consistent with OCEAN can help you narrow down what you are looking for in your new job. For instance, if you find yourself more inventive/curious and open to new experiences, you might explore becoming an artist, a social worker, or a biologist. If you are more cautious and are not as open to new experiences, you may consider a more stable job such as an accountant, an insurance agent, or an architect.

Finding a Job with the DISC Test

The DISC test is meant to help understand and ascertain how people will interact with their given environment, by identifying strengths and weaknesses in four areas of behavior:

  • Dominance;
  • Inducement;
  • Submission;
  • Compliance;

There are DISC personality tests, and many more free career personality tests you can take online to discover the right job for your personality. Knowing your personality, and which job or line of work suits it best, can make your midlife career change less intimidating. By understanding what type of work you should get into according to your personality, you can start preparing right away to gain experience and learn the necessary skills. You can also feel confident that you are making the right decision, as you will be more likely to be happier in your new position.

Look to Your Hobbies for Job Ideas

In all likelihood, you enjoy activities outside of work — so why not get paid to do something that you love doing? If you know what you like to do, you may not have to take a personality test to know what line of work you should gear your career change toward. Whether it’s photography, cooking, or arts and crafts, there is potential to gain income from a hobby. There is always the option to write about these topics or teach them as well.

Turning your hobby into a full-time job won’t happen overnight, and you’ll likely have to work at making this change gradually, taking into account several considerations before you try turning your passion into your career.

Turn Your Passion into Your Profession

Making your hobby your full-time job can be satisfying and liberating. However, there is a possibility that you may not end up enjoying it as much as you thought you would. Before making this decision, ask yourself if you can make preparations to ease into making your hobby a part-time job first.

Additionally, question whether or not you’ll still have the same passion for your hobby after needing to do it day in and day out for a paycheck. If all signs point to yes, or if you decide that the risk is worth the reward and your happiness is worth more to you than a high paying salary, turning your hobby into your new career is a plausible option.

Consider Self-Employment

The freedom of being your own boss is enough for some people to take the risk. For older workers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that self-employment rates are higher than those of younger workers. One reason for this could be that older workers, having worked for longer, have accumulated the wealth, credit, and resources it takes to start a business. Even if you do have the necessary resources to minimize the risk of becoming self-employed, you will need to plan to be your own boss carefully.

To become self-employed you’ll need to determine, among many other nuances, which business structure will work best for your services, the fees you’ll charge to make a sufficient income, and which tax laws you’ll have to adhere to. It takes a strong will to make the change to self-employment, especially if you currently have a job. It is entirely possible for anyone to change careers and become their own boss, but self-employment jobs are great for after retirement as well.

New Career, New Degree: Going Back to School

Changing careers — whether it is to become self-employed or otherwise — may also involve going back to school. Many positions require a degree, and you might be passed over by employers if you are expecting to land a job on your skills alone. Many people choose to pursue formal education, as is required in specific sectors of the workforce, but the job may be well worth the time and effort. Attaining a degree can be time-consuming and laborious work — especially if you are a parent — but a midlife change will increase your quality of life, meaning going back to school could be rewarding.

Financial Resources

Formal education demands a significant amount of time and effort. This combination is enough to deter some people from going back to school entirely. Adding the fact that you have to pay a (sometimes hefty) fee to obtain your degree is usually a major component in this decision. If the financial aspect of college is too much, there are numerous ways you can get financial assistance to go back to school and get your degree.

Scholarships, FAFSA, and even financial aid for single moms can give many people the chance to earn their degree. No matter what stage of your career you’re in, going to school doesn’t have to break the bank. You have a life, a job, and possibly even children. These financial resources can significantly reduce the stress of earning your degree.

Career-Specific Training

If going back to school is not an option, there are career-specific training programs you can take advantage of as an alternative. Career training programs are generally shorter courses, making them not as extensive as college courses. Career training programs do, however, come with a significant benefit — they are much cheaper than going to college.

Career training programs are shorter because they are narrower in scope, only training you for the skills you need to succeed in a specific position. You can enroll in many programs, including ones like:

  • Agriculture;
  • Arts and Communication;
  • Health Sciences;
  • Information Technology;

Although not a degree, being able to put skills and training program experience associated with your career of interest on a resume can be enough to land you a job. During a career change, you may not have the time or money to go to college. You are also likely to be overlooked if you have no proof of skills and/or experience. Consider one of these programs to get your foot in the door.

Certifications

Another alternative to college, and if career training programs are out of the question, is to become certified. A certification is evidence that shows you have the skills and knowledge pertinent to a specific occupation. A popular avenue is to get certified in various areas of the Information Technology industry to start your IT career. Finding a certification is as easy as an online search, and you can earn a certification by completing a career training program, or by passing an accredited exam.

There are many ways to start a midlife career change, even without experience or a degree. This can be overwhelming, but if you know where to begin and how to initiate this change, you can leave your unfulfilling job behind. If you feel that your happiness is more important than your safe and underwhelming job, a career change may be in order.