Switching careers is now seen as the exception, compared to previous times where tenure was the trend. Research by McCrindle found that school leavers today will have an average of 17 different employers in their lifetime, and older employees are spending significantly less time in roles than they did four decades ago.
So while the idea of either starting a new career at 40, 50 or beyond can be a scary prospect, it’s something many professionals do – and it’s possible with preparation and a plan of action.
In fact, as an experienced worker, you have a distinct advantage over those who are just entering the labour market. For starters, you’ve probably already built up a specific skill set and know the ins-and-outs of business operations from already working in several. You may think that taking on a new career could equal a setback in seniority and salary. However, this is where you can focus on your transferable skills.
Furthermore, you’ve likely had more experience with job interviews and have a better understanding of what sort of jobs you are now passionate about. Plus, you should have a strong sense of what your strengths and weaknesses are as an employee.
Here are some key steps to consider if you’re considering a career change at 40 or beyond.
Weigh up your career opportunities
While you may have already decided that you want to change careers, it’s important to have a set plan in place before you give up your current job. Firstly, think about what your goals are for your new career – including the values you want to uphold and what sort of work gives you the most professional satisfaction.
Keep in mind that progression may be slow to start off with, and you may even need to take a step back in terms of seniority. Consider the impacts of this (like having to take a salary cut or starting at a lower level) and try to make life adjustments that will make the transition easier.
Identify and strengthen your transferable skills
With plenty of experience under your belt, you already possess a number of valuable skills that most workplaces will appreciate and welcome. Soft skills such as strong problem-solving abilities, management and organisational skills are highly sought after by most employers.
Identify your key transferable skills and look for opportunities to build on them by taking on new projects at work or in your spare time. Also think about the achievements you’ve made with those core skills, as you can use them to sell yourself on your resume.
Upskill with formal education
Gone are the days when tertiary education was just for school-leavers. Nearly half of all university students in Australia are mature-aged, and of those, 67% work and study at the same time. These statistics show it is possible to begin working toward a new career while you’re still employed.
If your new career field requires specific skills or education, consider taking on a part-time university or TAFE course to give yourself a head-start before you leave your current role.
There are also great online resources and short courses, such as LinkedIn Learning, which provide certifications you can include in your resume to boost your appeal when applying for jobs.
Leverage networking opportunities
It’s all about who you know, as they say, and that’s true even if you’re going down a completely new career path. Chances are someone in your existing professional network, even family and friends, can offer some insights into your new profession or knows someone else who can – so don’t be shy about reaching out to see who can help.
Do your research to find out what networking opportunities there are in your area where you can get to know others in the industry and start building up your contacts.
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Find a mentor
No matter how much experience you have in your current field, you could be starting near the bottom in your new career. To excel quickly, it’s crucial to learn as much you can from professionals with experience in your new industry.
If you don’t know anyone personally who could act as a mentor, remember the internet is a great resource for connecting with experts and thought leaders who can offer first-hand advice about getting your foot in the door. Search for groups on social platforms that you can join to ask questions and gather insights about people’s experiences.
Learn to speak your new industry’s language
Look out for specific keywords and phrasing that’s often used in job postings and company websites in the sector you want to transition into.
When you apply for jobs or go to interviews, speaking their language will show employers that you’ve done your research and have a good foundational knowledge of their industry.
Scope out job opportunities
Before you dive head-first into your new career, research the current jobs market to see what skills are in demand and what roles pop up regularly in job listings.
Also consider how jobs in the industry will change over time, as transitioning to a new career is a long-term process – and it’s important to have the right skills under your belt when it’s time to start applying for jobs.
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