Pursue Your Passion: Changing Careers at 30, 40 or 50

By DeVry University

Think it’s too late to change careers? Think again. More and more Americans are paving new paths later in life. In fact, studies show that nearly half of all workers have made a dramatic career change, at an average age of 39.

There are many reasons why you might think about changing careers. You may have discovered a new opportunity that you weren’t aware of or that didn’t exist when you were starting out. Maybe life circumstances have impacted your decision. Or perhaps you’ve simply developed a passion for something new.

If you’re not currently satisfied in your career, changing careers at 30, 40 or 50 is not only possible, it is also an exciting, empowering and realistic option. Is it time to pave a new path for yourself? Read on for some helpful insights and tips as you prepare for your next move.

Why Change Careers?

In a recent survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a group of Baby Boomers reported holding an average of more than 12 jobs between the ages of 18-52. And according to a group surveyed by Indeed, 49% of employees reported making a total career change.

They did so for several reasons, including a desire to:

  • Qualify for a better salary or benefits
  • Continue learning
  • Move forward or seek out more opportunities for fulfillment
  • Feel challenged or satisfied
  • Be more flexible
  • Earn more paid time off

Though a first glance at this data might lead you to believe these were young people trying to find their ways on their career paths, the average age of respondents for this survey was actually 39. In fact, 83% said they planned their career change ahead of time, deliberating for an average of 11 months before making a move. Fifty-eight percent of respondents were even willing to take a pay cut in order to switch careers, potentially indicating that job satisfaction, learning and advancement are all important factors for people of all ages.

When employees are changing careers at 30, 40 or 50, they’re often already settled in their roles. They’ve worked in the industry and developed a solid skill set. Their reasons for changing careers may include burnout, unhappiness or simply coming to a plateau. In these cases, they may be looking for something with more challenges or a career that helps them make a bigger difference. They may also be looking for a more lucrative career path.

Changing Careers at 30

Often, age and the place you’re in will be major factors in your decision making. In your thirties, you might still be in the early stages of your career. You’ve had enough time to get to know your chosen industry and may have even been promoted. You’ve also likely had a little time to process your experiences and determine whether or not you are happy.

When changing careers at 30, the desire to make a move may stem from the realization that your first chosen career might not have been the right one. Sometimes the field that seems most interesting in theory doesn’t work out as well for our personality and preferences in reality.

Family circumstances can also become a factor. Whether you’re in a new relationship, have recently become a parent or are balancing other family commitments, you might be realizing that your current role doesn’t have the flexibility or benefits that you need for your future.

Changing Careers at 40

Forty can be an exciting phase in your career – which can also make it a good time to consider your next steps. You’re not ready for retirement, but you are also not a newbie. And your financial situation and personal life are likely in a more stable place right now than they were ten years ago, which can help open your eyes to new possibilities.

With the experience you’ve accumulated thus far, you might even be looking towards a future in entrepreneurship. And if you think 40 is too old to completely start anew, think again. Recent research from the Harvard Business Review showed that the average age of a successful startup founder was 45.

Changing Careers at 50

When making a career change at 50, you have likely found something you are deeply passionate about – and it’s never too late to pursue it. In fact, it just might be the change you need to be truly happy.

At this point, it’s also possible that your salary or advancement options have plateaued and you’re looking for new ways to grow. Perhaps you’ve been considering taking your experience and venturing into a more lucrative industry – or maybe you simply want to pursue a master’s degree to advance your education in your current field. Don’t hesitate to dip your toes in the water and see what opportunities are out there. You have many years ahead of you in your career, and you deserve to spend them doing something that is both fulfilling and rewarding.

Driving Factors for Change

Getting by or having a job that simply pays the bills but doesn't give you satisfaction might be a livable situation, but it's not often a happy one. Job satisfaction can have a direct impact on quality of life, so employees are often motivated to make a change when their current role isn’t making them happy. In fact, Indeed points out that 81% of the respondents who changed careers did so because they felt unhappy in their previous job or industry.

Here are some more reasons why people may choose to initiate change:

  • A feeling of not being challenged. Being challenged makes the workday more enjoyable because you're constantly growing and increasing your skills. Once you feel like there's nothing more to learn, it can be less rewarding to stay on a stagnant career path, even if that career has high security and good pay.

  • Older children may mean more freedom to change careers. When you have a young family, changing careers might seem like too much to take on. But for many parents, the age where children start to become more independent is also an opening to venture into new professional and personal growth.

  • Dual income partners who can help financially. If both you and your partner are employed, you might find yourself more financially sound and therefore able to take time away from work as your advance your education or pursue a new career path. This financial freedom can be key in allowing you permission to take a chance on a future you'll love.

  • A calling for a dream career. Some people might not go after their dream careers when they are just starting. You might choose a career path that's stable or that has a higher income potential. But as you get older, you may realize your dream career is more achievable than you first thought.

  • The drive to build your own business. Many people dream of building their own business. Whether you start a business in the same industry you've been working in or pursue a completely new idea, paving your own path can be both exciting and rewarding.

Planning for a Career Change

It’s no surprise that planning and preparation are key to success when changing careers at 30, 40 or 50. If you're considering a career change, there are several factors to keep in mind.

The first question to ask yourself whether you really want to change careers. It's possible that you've just hit a rut at your job. Sometimes, advancing your skills in your current industry can help reinvigorate your momentum.

If, however, a career change is in fact what you want, there are several steps you can take to plan your next move:

  • Do your homework. You may have chosen a career path based on a passion for that field, but you still have more to learn. Read articles, listen to podcasts and network with other professionals in that industry to better understand what skills you need in order to achieve your goals.

  • Understand the financial aspect. Every career offers different opportunities. Make sure you understand the earning potential for your new role and how long it will take you to achieve it. You can find job information and salary potential for many career paths from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • Further your education. If you're moving to a career in a new industry, you may need to obtain an advanced degree or more education in that field. Take some time to explore your options – and be sure to choose an accredited school.

  • Make a financial plan. Whether or not you’ve planned for education expenses at this point in your life, you may need to consider it now. The good news is that many employers are willing to help you cover the costs. Consider this fact as you plan to make your next move.

  • Develop a solid plan to map your progress. It may not be possible to quit your job and start a new career today. But it’s important that you take the time to map out the best way to achieve your goals so that you can find success. Building a career plan is a great place to start.

Take the Next Step

Changing careers is exciting and, thankfully, today’s world offers many options to explore new and different paths while maintaining the security of the job you currently have. Online education is an appealing option for many professionals who are thinking of pursuing a new career. Whether you enroll in classes full- or part-time, you can keep working while simultaneously planning for the future and balancing current family obligations.

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