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Overcoming the Challenges of a Mid-Life Career Change

Older man listening to cell phone

Career changes can be planned or unexpected. Maybe you’re desperate to try something new and want to work in a completely different industry. Maybe you’ve recently been let go from your job and you want to use it as an opportunity to change up your career. Or, maybe you just want to leave your job on a long-term basis and see what stands out.

Although a mid-life career change can be exciting, it can also be a little nerve-wracking. Starting with a blank slate is an overwhelming feeling, but staying in a career that feels stagnant or a job that doesn’t make you happy is even worse.

So, how can you overcome the challenges of a mid-life career change and use this “blank slate” opportunity to find your true calling? The first step is changing your mindset and recognizing that you can do this. Understand that you have the power to overcome your uncertainties and fears. When you start from that perspective, the other challenges will be easier to conquer. Let’s cover exactly how you can make that happen.

Explore Growing Fields

One of the easiest ways to overcome the challenges of a mid-life career change is to go after a career that is in high demand. That might be a different job within your growing industry, or you might be interested in a completely different competitive field that is seeing exponential growth. For example, you might not immediately think of it as a “hot” industry, but careers in accounting are seeing a lot of growth right now thanks to economic conditions and a rapidly retiring workforce.

Some other jobs that are currently in-demand include: 

  • Home health aide
  • Nursing assistant
  • Construction
  • Physical therapy aide
  • Financial advisor

Even if you don’t specifically go after one of these jobs, looking for something in those industries or a job that requires similar skills might also make it easier to get hired. Do your research when it comes to which industries are seeing a boom, and make your move if a specific title interests you.

Use Your Experience to Your Advantage

Think about where you worked before. What was the corporate culture like? Maybe it was negative, and that’s why you went looking for a change. Or, maybe you liked the culture but still wanted something different. Whatever the case, you can use your experience in prior work environments to get a leg up on your competition in the job market.

While things like ageism, manifested often in getting overlooked for promotions, being treated differently, or not getting put on big projects, have no place in a career, discrimination does happen. But, don’t let that stop you from using your experience to your advantage. In fact, consider the benefits of your experience and how the things you’ve learned over the years can make you more valuable than a younger hire, including:

  • You’re more equipped to handle just about any situation
  • You can stay calm in a “work emergency”
  • You can be a mentor to other workers, sharing both career and life experience

When you’re able to see those benefits for yourself, you can feel confident in using your experience (and your age) to your advantage. Hold your head high and dive into a career where you’ll get the respect you deserve.

It’s Never Too Late to Learn New Skills

If you have a “dream job” in mind, or even if you want to change jobs within your industry, one of the obstacles you might face is lacking certain skills. But, college courses and training programs aren’t specifically designed for people just out of high school.

When you know the type of career you want to pursue, your next step should be finding out which skills are needed to land that job. If there are things you need to learn, it’s up to you to decide if you’re willing to do that. In making that decision, consider things like:

  • Your personal timeline
  • Time constraints
  • Your work-life balance
  • Financial realities

If you decide to break into a new career field, whether you want to challenge yourself or you’re dealing with empty nest syndrome and need a new experience, learning the basics doesn’t have to be impossible. You can assess your current hard and soft skills, and then decide what more will be needed to get the job you want.  Sometimes, that might mean getting a degree or certificate. Other times, you might be able to learn on the job. The real “challenge” is overcoming the mindset that you can’t learn something new or that you’re too old to take classes of any kind.

Don’t be afraid to start small and get your feet wet in a new industry. You might already know more than you think. By showing an eagerness to learn and find success in a new job, your perspective will shift, and you’ll see that you can start a new career at any age.


More on this topic:

How to Break Into a New Career Field

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