Sometimes people are forced to change careers in middle age, but often they choose to do it. A job that is less demanding might be attractive for an aging worker, but so might a job that feels more fulfilling. As baby boomer concerns over retirement savings mount, working longer might not be an option; but that doesn’t mean that you need to work more years at the same job.
What to Know About Midlife Career Changes
There’s really not an age limit for changing careers. Just look into the biographies of Dr. Seuss, Colonel Sanders, and even Betty White for inspiration about people who began or invigorated a career at an age when many people would just retire.
These are some of the top reasons for changing careers in middle age:
- A majority of people in their fifties and sixties say they plan to do some sort of paid work until they are at least 70 years old.
- If you plan to make a change, it might be now or never. Changes seldom get easier when you get older.
- Why live with regrets? If you have the resources and always wanted to travel to craft fairs to sell your pottery, work for a nonprofit, teach, or write a children’s book, there’s no time like the present.
- You are forced to change jobs because your current job is becoming phased out in your area.
While most career experts say that a good midlife career change is certainly doable and may be positive, it’s also important to make that change in a deliberate matter. This means carefully and pragmatically considering your own resources, interests, and capabilities.
Before Making That Change, Test the Waters
If you aren’t independently wealthy and especially, if you rely upon your current income for short-term needs, it’s a good idea to test the waters before making a dramatic career change in midlife. There are many ways to do this:
- Try to moonlight at your planned career while keeping your current job to see how it goes.
- Call potential employers to find out what they look for in employees.
- Take a class at your local community college or job bank.
- Volunteer, try an internship, or find a mentor.
- Speak with a career counselor or career coach.
- Take some online aptitude tests.
Top Jobs to Consider for Midlife Career Changes
Some folks decide that midlife is a good time to start a business. This may be a good idea if your new business is based upon your past work experience, interests, passion, or even hobbies. However, lots of folks would just like to change jobs, and they still prefer to work for an employer. Of course, some benefits of seeking employment may be benefits and certainty.
These are some of the best jobs to consider for a midlife career change:
- Teaching: Many public school districts have alternative certification paths that reduce the time it takes t become a teacher. You may also be able to work as a teaching assistant to gain experience and a paycheck while you learn. If you have the right experience and/or education, you might also be able to find a position at a community or technical college.
- Training: This is similar to teaching, but it focuses more on on-the-job training for adult students who are usually being paid to be in your class.
- Insurance/financial/real estate: Typically, these professions only require certain licensing requirements, and they don’t require a degree. If you like to serve people, these can all be very rewarding and flexible jobs to transition into in middle age.
- Medical professions: It’s tough to become a doctor in midlife, though it’s been done. Nurses, medical techs, dental assistants, and even physician assistants might be examples of quicker jobs to get the education or training for.
- Business consultants: If you have already had a successful career in a competitive field, you can bet that there is a market for your consulting services. You might enjoy helping other people succeed. At the same time, the pace may be easier than trying to run your own business.
- Managing or working at a nonprofit: You might actually learn that your current skills transition very well to a nonprofit organization. The biggest benefit is simply enjoying your work more because it supports a cause.
Balance Realism and Optimism for Your Middle Age Job Change
Older workers can make successful career changes. Typically, it’s best to base the choice upon realistic expectations, some previous exposure to the job, and at least a pinch of pragmatism. Otherwise, just start exploring options and go for it. Really, there’s no time like today to start doing some research about attractive opportunities and good ways to make the transition. Sometimes, a midlife (job) crisis can be a great opportunity to enjoy a second, third, or forth career.