Pulling off a career change can be complicated at any age, but it can be particularly challenging in your 30s or 40s. You are not starting with a blank slate anymore. You don’t have “your whole life ahead of you”.
No, you now come carrying baggage. Baggage like a mortgage and bills to pay and a spouse to please and kids to feed.
My own career change happened in my late 30s and I remember very well the years of anxiety and indecision that preceded it.
I knew I was headed down the wrong career path but it seemed like there was nothing I could do about it.
I couldn’t just quit my job because my family needed money. I didn’t have the time or the energy to go back to school.
And what about all the effort I’d already put into getting my degrees and advancing in my career? I couldn’t just throw that away, could I?
And what if I pursued something else and then I ended up dissatisfied in that career too? What if I failed? What would people think?
This was the running commentary produced by my lovely mind at the time and I hear these same anxieties echoed all the time from readers and coaching clients.
It can seem like such a hopeless, stuck place to be with no way out.
But the truth is that many people do end up finding a way out. Many people do pull off a career change in their 30s or 40s.
And here are three ways I needed to change my thinking in order to make it happen.
HOW TO PULL OFF A CAREER CHANGE IN YOUR 30s OR 40s
1. Think Forward Rather Than Backward
Reason #1 people stay stuck: You think that making a change means you have failed. You think back to the schooling you’ve already acquired and the sweat and tears that have gone into getting you where you are today and then you conclude that in order to prove to yourself that it was worth it, you have to stick it out.
But what if – instead of looking back – you looked forward instead? You have at least two more decades of working life left – maybe three, maybe four. Do you really want to be spending a majority of that time “sticking it out”? Or would you rather spend those decades doing something meaningful and engaging?
2. Think Long-Term Rather Than Short Term
Reason #2 people stay stuck: You know that there are jobs that are meaningful and engaging and that also pay the bills, but they all seem out of reach because you aren’t qualified and you can’t just quit your job and go back to school. Or you are worried that starting over in a new career will mean a major reduction in income.
Now, it is true that it’s often unrealistic to expect to shift to a different career with all the perks you want overnight. But what if you were thinking long-term rather than just the immediate future? We already established that you have decades of working life left. What share of those decades would you be willing to spend “in transition” if it meant an eventual shift to a fulfilling career?
Many people do one or more of the following in order to transition:
- Go back to school part-time, devoting whatever time they can given their other responsibilities
- Develop skills through shorter certification trainings (as opposed to getting another college degree)
- Switch to a less stressful “transition job” in order to have the bandwidth to pursue more education or begin self-employment
3. Think Better Rather Than Perfect
Reason #3 people stay stuck: You keep waiting for the perfect solution and unless it appears you are unwilling to take action. You won’t take any kind of action unless there are no obstacles, no sacrifices you have to make, and you have a 100% guarantee of 100% perfect results.
The problem here is that there are no perfect solutions. Any path to transition you choose is going to involve some obstacles, some sacrifices, and some hardships. So if you keep waiting for the perfect solution, you’re going to be waiting for a very long time.
But what if you were thinking in terms of better rather than perfect? What career criteria matter to you the most? And even more importantly, what matters the most to you in life?
Given what matters the most, is it best to stay where you are? Or would it be worth it to overcome the obstacles and hardships in service of something better?
WANNA LEARN MORE ABOUT GETTING ON THE RIGHT PATH IN LIFE?
If you are serious about career change and finding your path in life, you might be interested in my free video class. You’ll learn:
- The SECRET to creating a lifestyle that maximizes happiness and minimizes stress.
- The simple 5-step process for turning your life around even if it seems way out of reach and you have no clue how to get started.
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