Have an unrealized passion or simply feel stuck professionally? You may want to consider switching careers. The looming question of how to switch careers can weigh heavily on your mind, especially if you don’t know where to begin. However, with careful planning and a detailed action plan, pivoting careers doesn’t have to seem overwhelming.
In this article, we’ll look at the factors to consider when thinking about a career switch at different stages of your life. We’ll also explore how higher education can take you a long way in the process of transitioning careers.

Before we look at how to switch careers, let’s start by answering the most basic question – 

Why do people consider switching careers?

Why do people switch careers?

Here are few reasons that could lead to this decision:

  1. Work-life balance and flexibility: Some people seek better work-life balance, flexible scheduling, and a positive work culture. This becomes one of the main reasons for them to pivot careers, and pick a profession or job that helps them find a better balance between their personal and professional life.
  2. Salary and career satisfaction: As a working professional, it’s vital for your career growth to seek good pay and improved career satisfaction. With a desire for a new challenge, people often look for career ideas that can help them reach these goals.
  3. Company culture and advancement opportunities: Sometimes, individuals may switch careers to work for an organization that offers a more promising career path and a culture that better suits them.
  4. Personal growth and intellectual challenge: When you’ve stuck to a job or profession for a good amount of time, it’s easy to feel tired, bored or simply burnt out. A common reason why people consider switching careers is seeking personal growth via intellectually challenging roles and opportunities.
  5. Changing priorities and values: It is quite possible that as you grow older, your priorities and values evolve. With these revised priorities, you may want to seek a career that aligns better with your changing needs and concerns.

While these are just a few of the reasons why people consider switching careers, there could be other personal and professional reasons for someone to make this decision.

How to Figure Out What Career You Want

An important part of career planning and development is to understand what kind of profession or career aligns well with your long-term goals. These goals could include professional growth, financial stability, and a sense of achievement and personal satisfaction. But how do you know which career is the best for you? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Take a personality test 
    One of the first steps that could help you figure out what career you should pursue is taking the personality test. A popular personality test is designed by the Myers & Briggs Foundation and is called the MBTI Assessment. This assessment helps you understand how you take in information and make decisions, along with your patterns of perception and judgment. Considering your personality traits, these kinds of tests can help you determine your strengths and weaknesses, thereby narrowing your career choices.

  1. Do thorough research
    Once you’ve recognized your shortcomings and strengths, and have picked careers you could pursue, start your research. Figure out if you have the education and skills you need to enter the workforce in your desired industry. Some professions, like law and medicine, need specific higher education degrees or certifications to practice. If you are interested in these professions, it’s wise to first find an education program that helps you land a job in your field of work.
    Other factors to consider could include career growth possibilities, demand for professionals in the industry, job opportunities, financial stability, and work-life balance. Apart from these, look at how a career in your chosen industry can help your personal growth. Will it boost your confidence? Could it give a sense of achievement? It’s important you have answers to these questions before you take the leap of faith and think about how to switch careers.
  2. Explore possible degree options
    When looking to switch careers, it’s important to look at the educational requirements for entering and succeeding in the career or industry of your choosing. For example, if you wish to pivot to the medical field or a legal career, you would be required to complete a set of educational programs or certifications for your desired role. Start by researching what educational qualification would be needed to enter your new profession. Another tried and tested method is attending open houses to explore various study programs relevant to your field. Remember, it’s never too late to widen your horizon and gain additional knowledge about a profession you’re truly interested in.
  3. Find and connect with industry people
    A great way of picking an industry to build a successful career is to get deep insights into the realities of the industry and profession. This will help you match reality to your expectations and make a smarter decision about your career. To do this, start by speaking to a mentor or a professor who has inspired you in the past to gain relevant insights. Alternatively, you could attend seminars and job fairs where you could connect with industry professionals. These individuals can give you a detailed lowdown of what you can expect when entering the profession or industry, along with pro tips that can help you build a successful career. Also, this is a great way to start building a professional network which can prove exceptionally useful in the long run.
  1. Internship and volunteering
    If you’re confused between professions and are not sure what to pick, a wonderful way to explore options is to find a short-term volunteering opportunity or an internship program. This would give you the much needed practical experience of working in the industry, and a sneak-peek into the professional life you would live, if you chose to build a career in this industry. What’s more, the skills and experience gained in these opportunities prepare you for real life situations in professional settings, giving you a headstart in the industry and an edge over your competition.

Additional Pro Tip: Ensure you have a decent support system
When deciding the career you want, it helps to know if you have a strong support system to back you, in case things don’t work in your favor. You may have good or bad experiences when you initially begin working in the profession of your choice, Sometimes, your expectations may not match reality. It’s important to know you have the emotional support of your friends and family to assure you that this isn’t the end of the world. Also, it’s wise to have a financial backup plan to help you kickstart your professional journey again. Remember, this is just a phase and with better research and planning, you can establish a successful career that helps you lead a comfortable life.

When thinking about pivoting careers, remember that this isn’t just a simple job change. You may need to consider a number of factors because a career switch could have a lasting impact on your personal and professional life. Let’s take a quick look at considerations when making the career switch in your 30s, 40s and 50s. 

Changing Careers in your 30s

  1. Start by Self Reflection
    First, it’s important to self-reflect and understand your strengths along with your reasons for change. Identify activities, subjects, or hobbies that genuinely interest and excite you. Reflect on your skills and strengths to learn what you’re naturally good at. Consider your values and priorities. What matters most to you in a job? Do you value creativity, helping others, stability, challenge, or flexibility? The answer to these questions play an important role in deciding if you want to switch careers.
  2. Education and Training
    If you’re in your 30s, there’s a good chance that you’ve been away from textbooks for a while. Depending on your new career path, find out if you need to get an advanced degree that can put your past education and experience to good use. You may also want to consider professional certifications to apply for roles that need expert level skills. Another medium of relevant skill development is enrolling in a certificate program or bootcamp that equips you with the skills you need to succeed in your new career path.
  3. Set Long-Term Goals and Make an Action Plan
    Establish both short-term and long-term career goals. This will help you envision your professional life while also giving you insights into how this may affect your personal life and relationships. It is a good idea to break these goals down into small, manageable steps, and create a realistic timeline for achieving them. A defined action plan can certainly strengthen your decision of considering a career switch.
  4. Consider Growth Opportunities
    One of the primary reasons why people consider switching careers is to find opportunities that help them grow professionally. When making a list of your career ideas and considering switching, check out professional demand, average pay in the industry, and market conditions to learn if the timing of the switch is appropriate. Your research will help you land a job and establish a career that fulfills your professional goals, while also giving you a sense of satisfaction and achievement with each growth opportunity.
  5. Start building a professional network
    Now that you’ve decided to make the switch, it’s time to start connecting with industry folks to build a strong professional network. Individuals who’ve spent considerable time in your chosen industry can connect you with other professionals who can help you kickstart your career in the industry. 

Changing Careers in your 40s

  1. List Your Transferable Skills
    Now that you’re in your 40s, you have likely spent a number of years in your current profession. In this time, you have built a set of skills that could come in handy, even if you switch careers. Start by making a list of activities you have been doing on a regular basis, that now have practically become muscle memory. Once done, you can recognize the skills that could be transferred to your next profession and put to optimal use in your new job role. These could range anywhere from people management skills, your analytical ability, or even your leadership qualities.
  1. Your Current Experience
    Having spent a considerable amount of time in a job role or an industry gives you invaluable experience, possibly giving you expert level knowledge and skills to survive in the corporate world. Use this knowledge and experience to your benefit. When listing career ideas and thinking of possible job roles, see how your current knowledge can come in handy in your considered profession.
  2. Level up Academically
    If you believe your knowledge isn’t sufficient to excel in your new line of work, consider pursuing a higher education degree relevant to the profession. You could enroll for a master’s program, online degrees, or even a second degree in a new subject, depending on the level of expertise you require. Some professions will require you to have a license or professional certification to practice. While it may feel weird at first, getting back to an educational setting can help you transition into a new role seamlessly, and with confidence. So, before you make the switch, update yourself about the educational requirements required to enter the industry or profession in consideration.
  3. Financial Responsibility
    While it’s never too late to pivot careers, your 40s may be a time when your financial responsibility is more than it was in your 20s or 30s. However, with careful planning and consideration, you can sail through. Factor in your current situation before you decide the career you want to pursue and industry you wish to enter. You might want to consider the cost and finances involved during the transition and plan accordingly. Consider speaking to industry professionals and understanding the pay structure and financial growth opportunities for the considered profession. 
  4. Check out Growth Opportunities in Your Industry
    It is possible that you may feel stuck because you’re not able to access the growth opportunities available to your younger team members due to age-bias. Don’t worry, it isn’t the end of the world. Many individuals also consider a job change because they want to access the growth opportunities available in another industry. It’s wise to research and find out the options, professional or monetary, you could be exposed to, if you plan to make the switch. When switching careers, you should have some room to maneuver and change plans. Otherwise, this could turn out to be a risky decision.
  5. Stay Updated with Latest Trends
    Lastly, an important factor to consider is familiarizing yourself with the latest job search tips to land the right job, along with the tools and technologies required to excel in your new job role. While digital platforms and networking methods might be different than you remember, it’s never too late to learn something new. You’ve got this!

Changing careers in your 50s

Changing careers in your 50s
  1. Health and Wellness
    While your 50s are a time to slow down a bit and pay attention to your overall health and well being, your age shouldn’t stop you from taking a chance and pivoting careers. If you listen to your body and are attentive towards its physical and mental needs, you should be able to seamlessly transition to a career that you’re passionate about. Nonetheless, when making the switch, it’s a good idea to factor in if your new career suits you at this stage of your life. It’s important that, in your new role, you’re able to find the right balance of mental and physical wellness.

  2. Work – Life Balance
    50s are considered to be the start of the golden period of your life. For some, it could also be the right time to discover new passions, like leaving a stressful corporate job and taking up a role that helps them give back to society. When doing so, make sure you look for professions and job roles that help you find the right balance between your professional and personal life. This is the time of your life to make memories with your family, even while you discover a career opportunity that you’re passionate about. Striking a balance between your work and personal life can help you gain a sense of satisfaction that possibly was missing from your life in the past. 
  3. Get Educated
    As mentioned earlier, some of you might want to let go of a high-stress corporate job and pick a profession that aligns well with your interests and passions. You might want to become a grade school teacher, but may not have the educational qualification to enter the teaching industry. Or, you’ve always dreamt of working with animals, but do not have the relevant educational credentials.
    Before you consider switching careers, it’s best to do your research to find out what educational requirements you may need to fulfill to enter and excel in your new profession.  People getting new degrees at an older age is becoming more common. Additional education can give you the confidence to strike out in a totally new direction, when making the career switch.
  4. Age Related Considerations
    Age-bias is not unheard of in the corporate world. From not being offered certain job roles because of you being close to retiring, giving an older employee’s responsibilities to a younger worker, possibilities of discrimination due to age are not unheard of. To deal with this bias, the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has set up the Age Discrimination in Employment Act that forbids employers from discriminating against older workers. Before you make the switch, speak to people who’ve worked in the industry to understand if considerations related to age are common in the profession you are considering.
  1. A Solid Support System 

When switching careers, it’s important to have the support of your family, friends and well-wishers before you take this leap of faith. You could seek help from professionals like career consultants who can assist you in your transition, or speak to professionals or family members who are a part of the profession or industry you’re considering. The support of your loved ones can give you the much needed confidence to pivot careers and build the zeal to excel in this new field of work. 

When wondering how to switch careers, or even industries, there are a plethora of factors that to consider before you make the decision. Your decision to switch careers should make sense, not just professionally, but also from a personal perspective. If you’re considering various career ideas and are confused about which one to pick, remember that every person’s professional journey is unique and your experiences and aspirations may look different than your friends’ or family members’. Making sure you play on your strengths can take you a long way and give you a sense of accomplishment that will fuel your career path. It’s never too late to make the switch. 

Is it possible to switch careers in your 40s?

Yes, switching careers in your 40s is possible. It’s never too late to pursue a more fulfilling or aligned path. With years of experience, mature decision-making, and a clear understanding of personal goals, transitioning careers can bring new challenges and opportunities. Many find renewed passion and satisfaction, leveraging existing skills while acquiring new ones. It’s essential to thoroughly research the desired field, assess transferable skills, and consider part-time roles or education for a smooth transition. With thoughtful planning, a career switch in your 40s can lead to enhanced job satisfaction and long-term fulfillment.

If I’m halfway through my career, how can I shift to a better earning career with easy degree options?

Consider pursuing online certificates or short-term courses in high-demand fields like digital marketing, data analytics, or project management. These programs often offer flexible schedules and can quickly enhance your skill set. Alternatively, you could explore accelerated degree programs in areas with strong earning potential, like information technology or healthcare administration. Look for programs that recognize your prior work experience, potentially reducing the time required for completion. Leverage networking and mentorship opportunities within your current industry to gain insights into lucrative paths. By strategically upskilling and utilizing your existing experience, you can shift towards a better earning option without requiring an extensive time commitment.

What factors must I consider when switching industries?

When switching industries, consider assessing your transferable skills and identifying areas where your expertise aligns with the new field. Research the industry thoroughly, understanding its dynamics, culture, and future prospects. Evaluate your passion and interest in the new field, as enthusiasm can drive success. Network with professionals in the target industry, seeking mentorship and insights. Consider obtaining relevant certifications or additional education to bolster your qualifications. Be prepared for a potential initial dip in income or a transitional period. Finally, assess the long-term growth potential and job satisfaction within the new industry to ensure alignment with your career goals.