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How to make a career change at 40

By Alison Rodericks | 22 November 2019


Gone are the days when we stumbled into a job after high school/ university and stuck to it until we retired at 60. An Australian Jobs report states that more than one million Australians change jobs every year and more than half of these move to a different industry/career. 

A 2019 report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals that three in five (59%) of the 3.2 million working age Australians who were employed were also studying to further their career prospects. 

This could be to gain a promotion, start a side hustle or completely change careers. Yes, most of the new jobs in upcoming industries will need further education and training, with many organisations asking for university or VET (Vocational Education and Training) qualifications. 

Making a career transition is challenging at any age, but more so when you’re in your 40s (or beyond) due to additional responsibilities and risks, like paying a mortgage or rent and caring financially and physically for your young children or ageing parents. 

Why do people change careers in their 40s?

smiling middle-aged man and woman

  1. Your current job doesn’t suit your current lifestyle.
  2. You’re feeling burnt out. 
  3. Your current job has become obsolete. 

1. Your current job doesn’t suit your current lifestyle.

If you’re in your 40s and your current job doesn’t pay the bills or satisfy your financial and social needs, you need to have a Plan B. Quite often, the job you had when you were single and in your 20s may not fit in with your current family life if it involves shift work, travel, etc. Make sure your new career gives you job satisfaction and financial security. 

2. You’re feeling burnt out.

After years of being in the same occupation, you may begin to experience job burnout, which has a range of physical and mental symptoms like headaches, lack of sleep and feeling inadequate. If your current job constantly makes you feel bored or causes undue stress, you need to assess if you need to change jobs or change careers. 

3. Your current job has become obsolete.

Technological unemployment is when technological advancement results in the loss of jobs. Automation taking over many manual processes such as driverless trains and automatic checkout counters at shops. If the job outlook/career prospects look bleak, it’s time to move on. Look for industry trends and reports to find out what jobs are on the rise.

Questions to ask before changing careers in your 40s

colleagues smiling at something on phone

  1. Have you done your research?
  2. Is it something you love?
  3. Do you need to requalify?
  4. Do you understand your local labour market?
  5. Do you have a support network?
  6. Can you bear the financial costs of a career change?

1. Have you done your research?

Look into your new chosen field very closely to see if it aligns with the stage you’re at in your personal life, the job opportunities it offers, the time it will take to establish yourself, etc. 

Make a list of all your possible career options and then delve into each one, culling the ones that are not viable. Gather more in-depth information by speaking to people who work in this industry to get first-hand knowledge and advice and try to get a mentor, if possible. If you don’t have any personal contacts, connect on LinkedIn.  

2. Is it something you love? 

As the saying goes, ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’. If you’re considering a career change after crossing your 40s, it better be something you’re passionate about. 

Perhaps using a skill that you’ve always had or taking up a cause that’s close to your heart. Just remember, even though you’ve made this change in your 40s, you’ll be doing it for the next 20-25 years, so choose wisely. 

3. Do you need to requalify?

Find out if your current skills are easily transferable to your new career or if you need to requalify. It’s common for people switching careers in their 40s to find that they need to retrain or study completely different  skills. You might need to do a short course/go back to university. Online study is gaining popularity these days since you can study in your own time. 

4. Do you understand your local labour market?

If you’re switching careers, make sure to choose something that will be in-demand for years to come. Do your research: find out if there’s a dearth in the job market for what you want to do and if you can fill this gap successfully. Figure out your potential earnings, and map out your career prospects. 

5. Do you have a support network?

Juggling a career change with study and family responsibilities is very stressful for all involved. Make sure your partner and children understand your study commitments and support you by picking up the slack. 

Talk to them and work on a plan together to cope with reduced income as well as less time spent with them due to research and study. They can be your sounding board and support system throughout this career transition. You can also seek the help of a career coach/guidance counsellor.

6. Can you bear the financial costs of a career change?

If you have to re-train, tuition fees can be expensive. Find out if you qualify for a government subsidy. Also, keep in mind that you might have to start out at the bottom rung in a new career and this can be at a much lower salary. You may have to budget carefully and make sacrifices before things turn a corner. 

Prepare for a career change with online study

If you’re ready to change careers, studying a course with Upskilled can help you get the training you need. You can work towards a nationally-recognised qualification in a variety of fields including business, community services and IT. Contact Upskilled’s education consultants and learn how you can make that career move today.
 
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