Steps to Change Your Career Path at Any Age (With Benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 10, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

People often change careers throughout their lifetime, many even more than once for several reasons. Changing your career can seem overwhelming, especially if it might involve going back to school or upgrading skills. If you're thinking about changing your career, knowing the essential steps can make the process easier and even end in greater job satisfaction. In this article, we provide important steps to change your career path at any age, offer several common reasons you may decide to change careers, and reveal some benefits of changing careers.

Steps to change your career path at any age

Whether you're changed your mind about your career choice after you've graduated from post-secondary education, midway in your career, or nearing retirement, there are some helpful steps to change your career path at any age. Changing careers can often require changing your lifestyle, like going back to school, getting new skills, or upgrading your practical experience. Even if you're in your 30s, 40s, or your 50s, having some helpful guidelines can make the experience more fruitful and even more enjoyable. Here are some steps to guide you through a successful career path change:

1. Be confident about your decision

The first step in changing careers can often be just becoming comfortable with your decision. Wavering about your decision can often make the process harder and less productive. If you really want to make a career change, it's often more helpful to be confident in your decision. Doubts may occasionally come up, especially if you're later in your career. Consider finding ways to keep a positive mindset, such as continually reviewing all the benefits a career change might offer and the reasons you chose to make a career change. A positive attitude can often make the process easier.

2. List the pros and cons of your current career

Deciding what you like and dislike about your current career can often provide useful information about the type of new career you might like. Consider starting a journal in which you can document your daily experiences in your current job and how they affect your job satisfaction. Possibly, there are ongoing situations that you might like or dislike, interactions with colleagues, management, or clients that you find difficult or even satisfying. These types of journal entries can often help you notice recurring themes and help you determine whether these situations are fulfilling.

3. Evaluate your skills and experience

Take your current skill set into consideration, including both hard and soft skills, like excellent communication and time management. A realistic accounting of your knowledge and practical experience can help you determine what types of skills you currently have and the various careers that might align with these. This process can also show you whether more education or job skills might be necessary for a career change that involves a different field.

4. Determine whether changing careers is workable

You might consider looking at whether starting over in a new field is financially feasible. Upgrading or changing skills can often be costly and time-consuming. Depending on the field you're considering, it may include getting an entirely new degree or taking extra courses.

Going from a sales job to working as a paramedic, for example, requires a completely new skill set that typically requires more schooling. You might consider if you have the time and financial resources to make this change, especially if you've got a family. This might be the time to consider whether the long-term benefits outweigh short-term risks.

5. Decide what work makes you happy

Consider asking yourself if money was not a factor, what type of work or hobby makes you the happiest. With this in mind, you can look at careers in these areas. When you also consider your experience, it can often help highlight potential new careers.

Job satisfaction is often the most important consideration for people, so if your current skills and experience don't match the careers you're considering, possibly upgrading is still the best path if it might make you happier. Consider speaking with people you know and get their opinion about your strengths and what professions might align with these.

6. Consider remote work

Many jobs are changing to offer remote opportunities. For some people, this might be an excellent opportunity to consider if this is an option with their current employer. Maybe this type of change can offer a new perspective on a current job and entice them to stay. It might also be an option to consider while looking for new opportunities, as the time spent commuting to work might be used to look for an alternative career path.

Related: 9 Benefits of Working Remotely (With Tips for Remote Work)

7. Do your research

Once you've narrowed down your new career options, it's often beneficial to do some in-depth research into each option. Consider speaking with professionals in the same lines of work who can offer you advice that might further narrow your new career options. Maybe there are people you know in these fields, or check out your school alumni association. Consider checking local job boards like Indeed for career information, job trends, average job availability, and average salary expectations.

8. Develop a plan

Good action plans typically start with setting your objectives and timelines in which you intend to reach your goals. If your new career requires going back to school, include this in your timeline. If it requires upgrading your experience, decide how long this might take. Possibly it might mean joining various networking groups that only meet monthly, for example. Maybe it requires additional funding, so you may have to consider how long this might take to cover these extra costs. Realistic goals and timelines can often lead to a more successful transition.

9. Rework your corporate image

Many employers look at various factors when deciding on the best candidate for a position, such as resumes, volunteer work, or social profiles. Before applying for new jobs, consider changing your resume, cover letters, and social profiles to better align with your alternative career path. This can be important if your current experience doesn't precisely match the new position you're wanting. When changing your resume, you might consider soft skills and experience outside of your work, like hobbies that provide valuable skills that can be beneficial to your career change.

Related: How to Write Career Change Resumes (With Example and Tips)

10. Use your connections

Once you have the certifications, skills, or necessary experience to change careers, networking can be a powerful tool. Consider reaching out to business, social, and friend contacts who might know professionals who can help. They might know about positions or offer advice on where to look. If you're considering a position as a firefighter, for example, maybe call firehouses to arrange a visit and speak with the fire chief, or firefighters who might have valuable advice. Starting as a volunteer might also present opportunities for full-time work and help you decide if the job is a good fit.

11. Regularly update your progress

To help you from becoming overwhelmed, it's often helpful to create daily or weekly lists of items you want to accomplish on your way to reaching your end goal. Checking these items off can give you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction and help motivate you, especially if your timeline includes getting a new degree. You might consider using a spreadsheet to log your accomplishments or even a notebook that can detail each milestone and note those you've already achieved.

Related: How to Develop Career Ideas (And When to Consider a Change)

Why people often decide to change careers

Statistics Canada reveals at least 25% of people with a degree are likely to change careers throughout their lifetime. That number is growing as more people are seeking a better work-life balance. Other reasons might include a more positive work environment, greater autonomy, better pay, more flexible hours, or a preference for different hours, like night shifts, for example. Often people are looking for a career that includes more or better benefits, like prescriptions drugs, a pension plan, life insurance, or more vacation time.

Perhaps some are unhappy with the corporate culture, don't get along with their colleagues or boss, or possibly, some are just no longer interested in their current career choice. The reasons someone might decide to change careers at any age are often personal, so they can vary. Regardless of the reasons, changing careers can be exciting, especially if you have an informed plan and tips on how best to make the move.

Benefits of making a career change

For someone looking to change their career path, no matter their age or how long they've been with their present employer, there can be some benefits. When making such a big decision, it's often necessary to understand the pros and cons of the situation. Here are some benefits that a career change might offer you:

  • Expand your experience and skills

  • Reduce your stress and increase happiness

  • Increase your salary or benefits

  • Allow you to do something you're passionate about

  • Improve your work-life ratio or offer more flexibility

  • Allow you to move somewhere you've always wanted to live

  • Potentially increase your opportunities for advancement

  • Allow you to get a degree

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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