Careers advice

Am I too old to change careers?

Worried you’ve left it too late to change careers? You almost certainly haven’t.

It can build up slowly, or one day a switch just flicks – you need a new career.

Changing career trajectory at any age can be daunting, but often worries older employees more than those newer to working life.

But are you too old to change careers? Here’s our take.

Is it ever too late to change careers?

Unless you’re eyeing a much belated debut for the ABs, our answer to this one is a resounding no.

It sounds cliche, but it really is never too late to change careers. Here’s why:

  • You’ll have heaps of transferable skills: the longer you’ve been employed, the more transferable, or soft, skills you’ll have picked up. Employers value these attributes hugely, especially when it comes to more senior or management roles, and you can lean heavily on these in your applications.
  • Your experience should give you confidence: as an experienced employee, who’s likely been through a number of applications and interviews before, you’ll naturally have more confidence than first-time job seekers.
  • You have a network to draw on: another benefit of being in the game longer is you’ll probably have a large network of professional contacts to draw on. These folk can provide anything from guidance about your intended career change to actual opportunities they’ve seen that might suit you.
  • You have a financial cushion: as we’ll see below, changing careers can involve a sideways, or even backwards step. However, if you’ve worked for a while, you’re more likely to have the financial base to take a paycut in order to do something you love.
  • It can be really good for you: if you’re feeling stale in your current job, a change can be as good as a rest. A new direction can invigorate you and reignite your love of work.

You need to know how to translate your transferable skill set to a new job.

What to consider when changing careers

So no, you aren’t too old to change careers. However, it’s important you don’t dive into a career change at any stage without a solid plan behind you.

In particular, think about

1. Having a destination in mind: it’s easy enough knowing you’re not happy where you are, but quite another knowing where you want to go. It’s important that you have a clear direction, as this will help you target your transferable skills, or complete any necessary upskilling. If you’re struggling to work out where to go, careers counsellors and recruiters can help with this.

2. Not changing more than you have to: when changing careers, a stepping stone approach is often best. For example, retaining a similar role and changing industry sector is one thing, moving into an entirely new field of expertise is another. So think carefully about how to tackle your overall objective in bitesize chunks.

3. Taking a sideways, or backwards, step: it’s not often that you change career AND move up the employment ladder. Most people take a step to the side, or even a pay cut, when doing this. This is something you need to be financially and psychologically prepared for.

4. Talking to those around you: your other half might be somewhat annoyed if you come to them out of the blue and say you’ve quit your long-term job. It’s important to be open about your thinking with anyone who might be impacted by it – and your family and friends can also offer advice on how to go about changing careers.

Your network can be a great resource when weighing up a career change.

The best midlife career changes

People often ask about which careers are best to move into if you’re eyeing a big change later on in your professional life.

While we can see the logic in common suggestions like project management (because you have experience) or teaching (because you can draw on your real world experiences), these are useless if you have no interest in these sectors.

The best career changes (at any time in your life) are those which:

  • Align with your reasons for wanting a change: boredom, starting a family, chasing a lifelong dream – there are many reasons for wanting to change careers, and the new job has to fulfill your criteria.
  • Allow you to draw on your transferable skills: this will seriously bolster your chances of landing a role in an industry you’ve not worked in before.
  • Are worth it: changing careers can be stressful, and harder work than staying put – but ultimately can provide you with the job satisfaction you’re currently lacking. If you’re willing to put in the work, the results can be a game changer.