Moving into a different career can seem like an overwhelming challenge. However, if you have realized that you are no longer satisfied with your current role, making the switch can mean the difference between long-term happiness and long-term misery.
Changing careers takes some careful planning, but it doesn’t have to feel like a risk, and it doesn’t need to happen all at once. Taking slow steps toward your new desired career is the best way to make the change.
We have outlined six steps you should take when planning a mid-life career change and included some links to resources that can guide your journey.
Identify Your Motivations
The first thing you need to do when contemplating a career change is to ask yourself, “why do I want to change my career?” Depending on your answer to this question, a complete career change may not be necessary.
If your motivation for wanting to change careers is your overbearing boss, irritating coworkers, or lack of upward mobility on your team, you may be able to solve these issues by switching to a new department or looking for a job at a new company in the same field.
However, if your motivations for wanting to leave are rooted in a mismatch between you and your chosen field, a new career might be necessary. If you’re a software engineer who hates being on the computer, for example, it might be time for a change.
Identify Your “Dream Career”
If money was no issue, what would you be doing? Ignoring the obvious answer of “going to the beach a lot,” everyone has a dream career that they would love to pursue. How would you most like to spend your time if you weren’t tied down by financial responsibilities?
Depending on your dream career, going after it may not be a realistic option. However, identifying what your dream career is can help you gain insight into the types of work you enjoy and the work environment that you prefer.
For example, if your dream career is “author,” it could indicate that you enjoy working alone, creative thinking, story-telling, and a quiet work environment. If your dream job is “farmer,” you’re probably the type who likes being outside, doesn’t mind getting dirty, and works well with animals.
Write down a list of your dream careers, and then make a list of what appeals to you about that career. This list could be anything, from a large salary to flexible working hours, to lots of time off, to the day-to-day tasks you will be doing.
Use Your “Dream Career” Traits To Identify Possible Careers
Once you’ve identified the aspects of a career that you are seeking, take a moment to study your personality traits. You can use these traits to seek out careers that may be a good match. There are many books and online guides to help you do this, including the 16Personalities Test and What Color is Your Parachute?
Don’t narrow your options down too soon. Consider careers that you may have thought were out of your wheelhouse. You’d be surprised how many skills are transferable. Look at your current job in the context of these guides too, and see what skills can be transferred from your current role to a potential new one.
Research Your List of New Careers and Narrow It Down
Once you have a list of possibilities, it’s time to research and narrow it down. There are plenty of online resources that can provide insight into salaries, projected job outlook, employee satisfaction ratings, and even what day-to-day life is like in the role.
Your research will turn up surprising results. You may be surprised to learn, for example, that a nurse salary or an art therapist’s pay scale is more than you thought.
Acquire New Skills
Depending on the career path you choose, you may need to bolster your current skill set. These days, there are thousands of courses, schools, and boot camps available to help you level up your skills. Improving your skill set is something that you will need to keep doing for the rest of your life, so now is a great time to start.
Assess your skills and figure out where the weak spots are. Depending on the type of skill you need to improve, you may be able to find a community college course, an online program, or even receive mentoring from someone in your network. Think creatively! There are all kinds of ways to learn new skills.
Prepare To Make the Change
One of the most important things you can do while preparing to make the switch is to tell people in your network that you are planning to do it. You’ll be surprised how many people will want to help you. Additionally, you’ll need to update your resume and write some strong cover letters that can be customized to suit the positions you’ll be applying to.
Don’t forget to get your finances in order before you leap. This might require you to spend a few more months or even years in your current role before you switch. You’ll be better off making the change with some financial security a year from now than jumping into something prematurely and feeling pressured by money issues.
Making a career change mid-life can feel daunting and even scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Take baby steps, be honest with yourself about your goals and your expectations, and start planning well ahead of time.
Most importantly, seek out help from friends and people in your professional network. It’s much easier to make a job change with support than it is to go it alone.
Once you’ve made the preparations and are ready to take the leap, don’t let anything hold you back! Leaving a career that doesn’t fulfill you for one that does is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do in your life.