How To Make A Successful Career Change At 40

Are you thinking about how to make a career change at 40? It’s never too late for a career change. With the right tools, guidance and motivation, nothing is impossible. Skills can be learned. Jobs can be found. Progress can be remade. And it’s worth remembering that most of the experience you have will be useful, regardless of the industry you’re moving to. 

It might be scary, but it’s possible. All it takes is a choice. So if you’re unhappy in your current position, and you want to move to something completely different, here are the steps to take to make it a reality.

Figure out what you’d like to do

The hardest part is deciding which path you’d like to take when making a career change. Maybe you’ve always wanted to be a detective. Maybe you have a hankering for astrophysics. Maybe you’d like to dance on stage. Or maybe you don’t really know.

Grab a piece of paper

On it, create four headers: what I want, what I can do, jobs that do that, and what I need to learn. Fill out “what I want,” first. You can be as specific as you like. It could be that you want to be a doctor, but it doesn’t need to be a job. It could be that you want to play piano every day or simply to help people.

Once you have your list, write down all the skills you already have. Don’t leave anything out. So put down your qualifications, but also add skills like “good with money” or “able to organize.” If you’re struggling to think of anything, ask a friend to help you out.

Match those skills with the things you want to do. Do any jobs jump to mind? Write them all down in the third column. You don’t need to have every skill that job might need. That’s what the final column is for.

Lastly, once you have your list of jobs, write down where the gaps in your knowledge are. Search for the roles online and look through a few job descriptions. What are they asking for? Do you have those skills?

Decide what suits you best

Go through your list of jobs and star the ones that really make you excited. Try to keep it to only two or three. Once you have those, you can look back at the skills you’d need to do those roles. At that point, all you need to do is get those skills. There’s nothing else standing in your way.

Struggling to think of what you’d like to do?

There are plenty of jobs out there that you might not even know about. So it’s also worth doing an interest test. CareerOneStop has a good one: it only takes a couple of minutes, and it’ll show you a list of roles based on your answers.

This is a great way to find out about professions that you’ve never heard before. And perhaps find a career path that suits you best.

Get training

Now that you have an idea of the path you want to take, there’ll likely be a few gaps in your knowledge. It’s time to level yourself up. There are a few ways to get the training you might for a career change need.

  • Internships and apprenticeships. Search online for internships in the profession you’re looking to get into. You’ll get hands-on training in the role and be able to learn while you work. After the internship, many companies are likely to hire you into a full-time position. Even if they don’t, you’ll have relevant experience on your CV which will make it far easier to land your next role.
  • College. It’s never too late to return to college and get a qualification. Search for the courses that come up most in the role you’re looking for. If you already have a degree, which isn’t particularly relevant for your new role, it might be worth getting a Masters in a field closer to the profession.
  • Online courses. Programming in particular has many coding bootcamps like ours where you can learn a language in just a few weeks. But other professions also have courses you can take from home and study in the evening.
  • Teach yourself. Formal education isn’t the only way. In fact, a degree is really only a shortcut to say you understand a topic. But it’s not essential. Employers just want to make sure you can do the role, so look at sites like Skillshare, Masterclass or to teach yourself these skills, regardless of which career you’re looking to enter.

Whatever route you decide to take, it’s relatively easy to get the education you might need. And at 40, you’ve likely built up the work ethic and research skills you need to be able to ace any tests that come your way. Who doesn’t wish they could go back to school with all the experience they’ve built up over the years?

Find the finance

Many people assume that getting educated will cost too much. But there are ways to find the money you might need. Visit CareerOneStop to get more information about your state.

  • Grants. There are over 8,000 scholarships, fellowships, grants and other ways to get financial aid. There’s no harm in applying, so it’s worth narrowing down the list and seeing if you qualify for any of them. You can find a full list online. If Coding Dojo is your choice we have a host of scholarships available to all types of students to support them.
  • Work-study. This is a government plan to help people afford their course. You’ll work part-time, usually in roles related to your degree, through the college you’ve applied for. Search for work-study programs in your state to find out more information.
  • Study abroad. If you’re good with languages, it’s also worth looking for education overseas. For example, Germany doesn’t have tuition fees, except for a €250 admin fee. While in Norway, if you can prove you speak fluent Norwegian, it’s completely free. And there are plenty of other European countries who take international students for little-to-no fee, even in English.
  • Loans. Federal student loans are the typical way to afford your college fees. But if you’re not going to college, and are instead considering a coding bootcamp, then it’s worth checking out Skills Fund. They have been incredibly in securing 100% of the support students need in order to pursue coding bootcamp.

Start searching

Once you have your training, it’s time to start searching for jobs. There are plenty of ways to find work. Try using one of these sites:

Any of these is a great place to start. Bear in mind, there are always more specialist sites for specific industries, too. For example, in programming, you can find work on Hired or Vettery.

Making the switch

Making a lateral move or a career change at 40 doesn’t have to be a daunting task. It might take a while, in some cases, but it doesn’t matter your age. In fact, the older you are, the more you’ll find you already have a lot of the skills you’ll need. 

And programming is an industry that is particularly easy to sidestep into. You either know how to code or you don’t. We’ve seen lawyers change careers in their thirties, and start to work for financial businesses in just a couple of years. So if you’re considering switching to coding, we offer a 14-week bootcamp which will give you all the skill you need to break into the industry.

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