Navigating a career change can be daunting and exhilarating at the same time. It may seem especially scary if you’re going through a career reinvention at the age of 40, 50 or beyond. The good news is that it can be done. According to a study from the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), 82% of adults 47 and older who attempted a career change after the age of 45 were ultimately successful. The key is to recognize that you are not just reinventing your career. You are also redefining yourself as a human being because the process starts from the inside out. If you want to break free from an unfulfilling job and reinvent your career, here are some tips that will help you succeed.
Understand your “why”
The first step is to consider why you want to reinvent your career. Your “why” is the flashlight that will shine a light on the types of opportunities you should be pursuing. Is the stress you are experiencing at work interfering with your health? Maybe it’s time to consider a less lucrative position with shorter hours and more flexibility. Do you have a business idea that you’ve always wanted to pursue? You might be ready to consider being your own boss. Is your industry contracting or growing obsolete? Perhaps a career that utilizes your same skills is the best option.
Take a skills inventory
Think about the skills that you have and the areas you want to develop. Will you need to go back to school or get additional certifications? Invest in yourself by taking classes, attending conferences or hiring a life coach. Harvard University, for example, offers a series of online business courses that cover a wide array of subject areas, including business, computer science and education. Don’t forget capabilities like problem-solving, adaptability, project management and the ability to get results. These are impressive skills that will translate well to almost any career.
If you’ve emotionally checked out of your career, you may be on autopilot. You get up, go to work, come home, and do it all over again without feeling any real satisfaction. Now it’s time to look inward and reconnect to your authentic self. It’s what I call shifting from “head” to “heart.” You want to understand exactly what brings you joy and meaning. Identify more clearly what your unique strengths and talents are and how to leverage them more powerfully moving forward. This is a good time to complete self-assessments, both formal and informal. Some examples of personality assessments include the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator and the Birkman Method, among many others. Ask your family, friends and colleagues for feedback about your strengths, weaknesses, image and leadership attributes so you can leverage those insights as you reinvent your career. Take time to identify what your top priorities are in this next phase of your life and write them down.
More and more people over 40 are realizing that there must be more to life than sitting in an office every day hoping to get the next raise or promotion. They want to reinvent their careers so they can make a difference and leave behind a legacy they can be proud of. As a result, social impact organizations that cater to midlife career changers are emerging. One example is Encore.org, which leverages the skills and talents of experienced adults to improve communities around the world. ReServe (who calls its members “Reservists”) is another organization that matches 50 plus talent with the needs of government and social services agencies to fill critical gaps such as support for strategic planning, foundation outreach, administrative support, event planning, IT administration and more. Considering a new avenue that provides meaning as well as financial rewards will lead to career fulfillment.
Increasingly, your professional reputation is shaped by your online presence. No matter your age, it’s wise to embrace social media. The benefit of curating your online presence is that it can help you further your reach and expand your network. At the very least, you should have a robust LinkedIn profile that reflects the “new” you. Ensure that you control the message that you put out to the world rather than leaving it to chance.
Remove your biggest obstacle
You may be thinking about all the reasons you can’t (or shouldn’t) reinvent your career after 40. Some of your concerns probably include things like:
- I’m too old
- I’m too scared
- I don’t know what I want to do next
- I have too many responsibilities to take a risk
- I’ve invested too much in my current career to throw it away
All these misgivings can be overcome. The key is to make the mental shift from wanting something different to actually doing something about it. The biggest obstacle of all is you. Ultimately, if you can believe it, you can achieve it.
The journey to reinvent your career after 40 is different for everyone. While some might decide on a more subtle change, others may find themselves doing a complete career overhaul. Career reinvention is not only possible, but it’s also critical to staying relevant in today’s work environment.
As motivational speaker Michael Altshuler said, “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”
So, chart your course, buckle up and prepare for takeoff.
If you’ve been thinking about being your own boss for a while but aren’t sure if it’s the right time, download my free guide: 5 Signs It’s Time to Leave Your Soul-Sucking Job!