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6 Key Supports to Have in Place for a Midlife Career Shift


Changing careers is more common than you might think. After a time, the excitement and novelty of a job, or even an entire industry, can wear off and we realize we need a change. Perhaps new management or protocol/procedures help to push us toward the decision. Maybe, changing careers (often during our mid-30s to early 50s) is about chasing a dream, old or new; and who needs a better reason than that? For one reason or another, a lot of people decide at some point along the way to shift careers. It can be an exciting and ultimately rewarding choice, but it’s important to make the proper preparations before taking the leap. Here are a few key supports to have in place before making a midlife career shift.


(Photo Credit: gfpeck/Flickr)

1. Be certain this is really what you want.

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Just because midlife career changes are common, that doesn’t mean they’re easy. In fact, making this kind of huge change will take a lot of time and effort. So, make sure it’s what you really want to do before diving all the way in. Test the waters of the new career first if you can. If you think you’d like to teach, try substituting for a few weeks, for example. You can even volunteer in your prospective new industry if you’d like. Do whatever you can to try out the new path first, in order to confirm that this is really what you want to do. Then, you can carry that certainty with you as you work hard to make this switch happen, and that will make a bigger difference than you might think.

2. Build up your courage.

Changing careers doesn’t just take planning and effort, it takes a good dose of courage, too. Self-confidence will give you the energy and tools you need to take your best shot at getting this new career off the ground. Work on building yourself up in advance so that you can take on all of the challenges that will come your way. Network, prepare, embrace the parts of this that are scary, and then get ready to leap. Making sure you’re in the right place emotionally before beginning this challenge, and that you’re feeling courageous and strong, is key.

3. Make sure your family is supportive, and find other folks to support you, too.

It’s difficult to make big changes in our lives without having some trusted people to lean on along the way. You’re going to need some people to support you, as you work through changing careers. First of all, it’s important that your immediately family be on board with the decision. After all, this is going to impact them as well. If that support is missing, the stress of this change might bring more challenges than it’s worth. Also, lean on some friends and colleagues who understand what you’re going through and can support you. Maybe they went through the same thing at some point in their lives. Or, better yet, maybe you know some folks that are already working in the industry you’re hoping to move toward. Networking is huge – some of these folks might be able to help you professionally as well as personally. Use your resources.

4. Spend some time on self-reflection.

There are a lot of good reasons to change careers, but there are some bad ones, too. It’s always nice to feel that you’re running toward something rather than running away from something else. If you want to change careers because you dislike your current job, do some real soul-searching concerning what exactly you don’t like. You’d hate to find yourself feeling the same way in your next job as well. Transitions are the perfect time for self reflection. Carefully consider what you like and what you don’t like doing, what you’re good at and what you need to improve. Use what you’ve learned about yourself as an employee to make good decisions for the future.

5. Be sure you can afford it.

There are a lot of financial questions to wrestle with before deciding to shift careers, the main one being: can you really afford to do this? Be sure to be realistic about how much you can expect to earn during your first few years in the new industry, and be sure that you have the savings to cover the differential. In the interim, live within your means, and make a budget and stick to it. Be sure that this career shift is a plan that you can afford to carry out, and then be smart about preparing, financially as well as intellectually and emotionally, for the switch.

6. Be positive.

When preparing to change careers, it’d be wise to work on changing your attitude first. Having an excited and positive attitude can make a huge difference throughout the job search process and once you begin your new endeavor as well. Changing careers is scary and stressful – if those emotions show in your attitude, it’s not going to help you land a new job or rise up the ranks. Believe in your ability to succeed here, and make a point to put your best, most positive, self forward at every turn. A positive attitude is wildly helpful when working toward something new and difficult to achieve. Make it a top priority.

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