Starting a New Career at 40: How to Switch and the Best Career Change Jobs

Dayton Uttinger  | 

The traditional career path doesn’t fit everyone, especially in today’s rapidly-evolving market. Ultimately, you may find that after a few years or even decades in one field, your goals and needs have changed, and your career needs reconsideration. Switching careers at 40 might not be easy, but it is far from impossible — or even uncommon.

Why More People are Switching Careers at 40

It might help to know that you’re not alone, and you aren’t just having a midlife crisis. Plenty of people are switching careers at 40, and here’s a few reasons why:

  • Personal dissatisfaction with career field
  • Change in location
  • Company closure
  • Changing financial needs

Why Switching Careers at 40 is Difficult

Changing careers can be difficult for a multitude of reasons. One of the hardest obstacles to overcome is actually others’ perception of you. Some people might raise their eyebrows at a 40+ year old interviewing for an entry-level position. Even though you have more experience, hiring managers might think that you’ll be less adaptable to change or new skills. In some cases, this can take the form of prejudicial hiring or outright ageism, but that shouldn’t keep you from making a necessary change.

Younger people might have a more relevant skill set, growing up with the latest versions of technology. However, you can easily overcome this by staying up to date with yourself.

Additionally, you might have to go back to school for a career change. Figuring out how to balance tuition with your current obligations can be difficult. Many people in their 40s have mortgages or kids that they are responsible for. That’s not to say that going back to school is impossible; it just might be difficult.

How to Change Careers at 40

Set a Clear Goal for Your New Career

Given that you could be facing a bit of a challenge, it’s important that you create a battle plan before you quit your current job.

Figure out exactly what you’re missing from your career, and how you’ll be evaluating your new one. You need to know what you’re looking for in order to find it. That might be simple if it’s an increase in salary, but it’s helpful to name less concrete things like “meaning” or “more time with family.” Once you have a clear set of goals, you will be better able to assess opportunities and specific job openings to determine if they represent progress for you.

Research the Jobs in Your Desired Career Field

It’s not enough to just know what you want of out a career. You’ve got to make sure that there is demand, and that you have the skills needed to be a competitive candidate. If you do have to go back to school, then you need to know what sort of degree will be required and how long that will take you to achieve. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is a good place to start.

Also, it’s important to look into what each of your prospective jobs actually entails. Compare the job description of your current job to what you actually do. See how different they are? Try to talk to people in the field and read interviews to get a good idea of what you’ll actually be doing.

Take Modest Steps to Get Started

Talking to people in the field will also help you network, so if you do look for work the area, they can point you in the right direction.

See if there are some free online courses you can take, so you can get a feel for the field. This will let you know how much work you’ll have to do to catch up to industry standards.

At this point, create a clear to-do list of what you need to accomplish to get your foot in the door. The more detailed, the better. Start with the small steps before you really commit. Career changes can be very expensive, and you don’t want to switch only to realize you should’ve done more research.

Best Careers to Start at 40

Here are some careers that are easy to transfer into where your age won’t be a hindrance.

Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners

If you’re good with people and you like to plan, becoming an event planner might be the way to go. You can jump into it with little more than a cell phone and some good connections. Plus, event planning is expected to grow faster than average according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and typical salaries are near $50k.

Fitness Trainers

By this point in your life, you’ve probably worked out a good routine. If you’re into fitness, your age might actually be an advantage in this field. Older people get personal trainers too, and they’ll be more likely to trust your experience than someone’s youth. You can spend your days helping other people better themselves and set your own hours, although full-time workers make almost $40k.

Translators or Interpreters

Speaking multiple languages might be a skill you’ve picked up over adulthood, but it’s actually a very marketable skill. Even though there is translating software these days, it’s a long way away from replacing humans. The field is growing much faster than average, and translators pull in almost $50k a year.

Start a small business

Working for yourself is one of the most rewarding careers you can pursue. What’s more, the options are endless. You can open up any kind of business that matches with your passions and skill set; the only requirement is a good work ethic. Starting your own business can consume your life, but if you’re prepared to work hard, it can be its own reward as well.

Going Back to School at 40: Best Careers to Pursue

Some career shifts will require an additional degree. However, that doesn’t necessarily rule them out. You should still consider:

  • Dental hygienist—requires associate’s degree
  • Elementary school teacher—bachelor’s degree and state certification
  • Veterinary technologist or technician—2-4 year vocational program, depending on your state
  • Cybersecurity specialist—from associate’s to master’s degree, depending on position

All of these fields are expected to have increased demand in the coming years. Consider whether you like to work with people, kids, animals, or computers, and how much schooling you’re willing to acquire in order to change careers.

These are all just suggestions. Consider them, but be sure to examine your own desires. You want this career to match up with who you are and your priorities. Get your ducks in a row, and you just might find what you’re looking for.

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Dayton is a chronic Wikipedia addict, which is detrimental to her social life but stellar for her writing. She resides in Boise, ID, surrounded by her own frantic outlines, highlighted encyclopedias, and potatoes. The latter was not by choice.