Considering a Midlife Career Change? Here’s How to Make the Decision

Do you love your job? 

It’s an important question – and one we don’t ask ourselves enough.

You might have switched majors in college a few times (75% of people do), or maybe job-hopped a bit in your 20s and 30s. But by the time you hit your 40s, there seems to be more pressure to have an established career. Is a midlife career change even a real thing?

Many people find once they do settle into a career, it’s not as fulfilling as they had hoped it would be. At this point, it can feel like a long-term relationship where the love is starting to wane. You’re not happy with where you’re at, but you feel like you’ve already poured so much time and effort into your job that starting over seems, well, impossible.

I remember feeling that way myself when I was considering changing careers. I was well-established in the world of academia, but eventually realized that the path I was on was not the one I truly wanted. It took an injury accident to force me to slow down and figure this out.

Why do people make a midlife career change?

One of the primary reasons why people change careers in their 40s is to pursue personal fulfillment. After years of working in a particular field, some individuals may find that their interests and values have changed, and they are no longer satisfied with their current career path. Some people, especially those that have been successful early in their careers, find that the stress and demands of the career are taking a toll. Some people may wish to pursue a career that aligns better with their passions and values, presents new challenges, or allows them to make a more significant impact in the world. 

Whatever the reason for your career change, know that you’re not alone! Many people make a midlife career change to great success, finding a new occupation that fulfills their changing needs.

5 questions to consider before making a midlife career change

Before you jump headfirst into a new career, it’s important to prepare yourself for what could be a fairly rocky path – these five career questions can help you get started.

1. What are you looking for in this new career and how will it fulfill that need?

Do you know what career you’d like to explore, or do you just want something – anything – different?

Before you hand in your resignation letter, think about the things you love and hate about your current career. It may be helpful to write a list of pros and cons. 

Do you love your coworkers, but find the work boring? Do you enjoy working with people, but wish there were better pay and benefits available?

Take some time to really pinpoint what you’re missing in your current position. Would a position at a new company fill those needs, or are you better off looking at a new career entirely? If it’s the latter, what careers offer solutions to what you’ve been missing?

This is a great time to dive into some research using career websites. The U.S. Department of Labor has a great website called on careers and job training, as well as current openings to explore.

2. Will you need to go back to school?

Many careers require training and/or education. If your new career path does require further education, consider the time and financial commitment it would require. Is a return to the classroom feasible at this time?

It’s also worth noting that even if you don’t fully qualify for a position, that shouldn’t necessarily deter you from filling out an application. Many companies are willing to train the right candidate if you match even just a few qualifications. 

Research shows that men are more likely to apply for those long-shot jobs, applying when they meet just 60% of the qualifications. In contrast, women tend to apply to jobs only when they match 100% of the qualifications. 

There really is nothing to lose in these situations – so if you find a job posting that looks appealing, go ahead and submit your application!

3. Do you have a strong support system?

A midlife career change can be an emotional roller coaster. You have an endless list of things to worry about: insurance, loss of income, a new schedule – and so on.

One of the best ways to remain clear-headed during a career change is to lean on your loved ones. Do you have a robust support system in place? Who will you call when you need mentorship, advice, a listening ear, or simply a distraction from all the to-dos?

Talk to the people closest to you before you dive into your career change and let them know you may need a little extra support in the coming months, and don’t be afraid to reach out to them when you feel the need.

4. Are you financially prepared to temporarily lose income?

Changing careers is exciting! But it’s also scary in that you may have to go with lower or even no income for a little while. When you have children or other dependents, that thought is even scarier. 

If possible, it’s best to have a fully funded emergency account ready to go before you quit your current job. You may also wish to secure a job in your new field before announcing your departure from your current job, to reduce the amount of time you’ll go without income. 

If your new career requires a relocation, also factor in the costs of moving to a new place and establishing a home once there. 

5. What’s the best and worst case scenario?

Lastly, it’s important to keep a realistic mindset. Think about the worst-case scenario: Could you lose your home? Still feel unfulfilled? Is it possible that your new career comes with an enormous amount of soul-crushing paperwork? 

Don’t let these questions send you into a spiral of despair, but don’t avoid them, either.

Next, think of your best-case scenario: Are you happy and fulfilled with your new job, stimulated by new challenges? Are you making more money or working in a better environment?

In the end, you have to weigh the risk with the reward and make the best decision for you and your family. Maybe it’s obvious that a new career path is right for you, or maybe you need a little more time to think or research. 

Regardless of your next move, it’s a good idea to meet with a financial advisor who’s well-versed in career changes – they can help you ask and answer the right questions as you create a plan for your future.

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