At age 40, you are almost two decades into your career. You are also about two decades away from retirement. Do 20 more years at the same job fill you with dread? It’s never too late to hit the reset button and set new career goals.
How to Change Careers and Find Success
Vera Wang was a competitive figure skater and fashion editor before trying her hand at bridal design at age 41. Today she’s worth a reported $630 million and one of the world’s premier fashion designers with a lifestyle empire.
Donald Fisher served as a U.S. Naval Reserve officer, worked in the cabinet-making business, and sold real estate before he branched out into retail. When he was 41, he and his wife, Doris, opened the first Gap store in San Francisco in 1969, which sold Levi’s jeans and music records. As of 2018, Gap Inc. had over 3,600 company-operated or franchised stores in operation across 45 countries.
Click through to learn how you, too, can be like Vera Wang or Donald Fisher and land your dream job after changing careers.
1. Don’t Ignore the Signals
Weigh what the future of your industry looks like in the ever-evolving job market. Reflect on the pace your career has moved within the last five to 10 years. Is your salary stagnant? Do you feel like you’re moving through mud? If your industry has a dim outlook, don’t ignore these warning signs — think about making a move before a move is forced upon you.
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2. Tap Into Your Passions
Rather than acting on impulse and quitting your current job, only to accept the next one that is offered to you, take the time to learn about yourself. Twenty years might have passed since the last time you took a career aptitude or personality test, so use this time to explore. Reflect on the many dimensions of your personality, identify what you’re hardwired to do and start monetizing your many gifts.
3. Have a Sound Financial Plan
The stakes are higher when you are changing careers in your 40s. The average Gen Xer carries close to $275,000 of debt between consumer debt, mortgages, student loans and medical expenses, according to Experian.
Before embarking on your new professional adventure, assess your current financial health and commitments before switching to a lower-paying job or taking on more debt for another degree.
5. Look for People, Not Jobs
At this stage in life, it’s a mathematical certainty that you’ve met more people and shaken more hands than the 25-year-old you. With any hope, you’ve built more bridges than you’ve burned. As you’re looking to pivot careers, now’s the time to reach out to your expansive network and draw on the expertise of your connections.
5. Play Up Your Transferable Skills
Put 20 years worth of job experience to your advantage. You might be underqualified on paper to compete for roles in your next career, but you can bridge the gaps with job skills you’ve acquired along the way that will apply to other roles.
6. Embrace Your Beginner’s Knowledge
To make up for your lack of subject matter expertise, meet new situations with unbridled enthusiasm.
After starring in “Rent” on Broadway and “CSI: Miami,” Tony Award-winning actor Leslie Odom, Jr., told BUILD Series NYC how he enrolled in an acting class for beginners. It was the electric enthusiasm from his classmates that changed Odom’s motto towards acting. “Beginners are a magnet because there’s no jadedness, there’s very little fear, there’s just joy and love and light in the eyes,” he said.
7. Accept That Control Is Out of Your Hands
Sometimes circumstances change overnight and the only thing left to do is to roll with the punches.
When Maryanne Preztunik was nearing the end of her 40s, she was working in economic development for a Fortune top 10 company. The focus of her department shifted after 9/11 and months later her position was eliminated.
Because Preztunik was nimble and flexible, she was able to parlay her knowledge and skills into her own strategic planning and communications consulting firm. She returned to the very company that laid her off as a client as opposed to an employee.
8. Test the Waters
Before taking the metaphorical plunge, test the waters of your new intended career path. Hands-on internships, volunteering, sabbaticals, non-matriculating college courses or apprenticeships are all low-risk avenues to explore before quitting your day job.
Now Is the Time to Get Started
Whether it’s your desires or the changing marketplace that have shifted your career aspirations, making a switch will still be difficult. Your career pivot might take time, but life could be sweeter on the other side.
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