A Guide to Changing Careers at 40: Steps Plus Tips

Updated 8 April 2023

During your career, you may have experiences that make you question if you're in the right profession. These experiences might include acquiring new skills and learning about careers you never considered in the past. If you're in this position, understanding the steps to take when changing careers can help you begin this new journey. In this article, we discuss what a career change is, provide steps for changing careers at 40 and highlight a few tips to help you through this process.

Related: 13 Great Career Change Jobs (With Salaries and Duties)

What is a career change?

A career change is a shift from one position in an industry to another in the same or different industry. It may require training, certifications and networking with individuals outside your profession. There are several types of career changes, including:

  • Maintaining the same role and industry: This change involves keeping the same job title and performing similar job duties but changing companies.

  • Changing industries while maintaining the same role: This change involves having similar roles and responsibilities and using the same skills but changing fields or specialities.

  • Choosing a different role within the same industry: This involves seeking a position that entails different skills and responsibilities within the same field or speciality.

  • Changing roles and industries: This change involves switching to a different field and acquiring a position with different responsibilities and skills.

Related: How to Change Your Career at Any Age Plus Reasons for a Change

8 steps to guide you when changing careers at 40

Changing careers at 40 can be life-changing and challenging. Developing a plan, defining your goals and assessing your career options can help ease the process. Consider following these steps when changing careers:

1. Redefine your goals

You may have set goals for your initial career path. Some of these goals may apply to the career you want to pursue currently, while others may not. Redefining your goals may help you know where to begin searching for information on your new career. Consider these tips when redefining your goals:

  • Finances: Consider your current salary and evaluate if you're comfortable with the amount or want an increase. Look for career options in the industry that currently interest you and offer salaries that meet your requirements.

  • Timeline: Create short-term goals that address your career change and set a timeline for them, such as searching for requirements and training opportunities within a month. Set long-term goals, such as where you want your new career to be in the next five and ten years, to help you plan your trajectory.

  • Goal types: Set SMART goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. List these goals in a checklist format to tick each one as you achieve them.

  • Personal life: Set goals that allow you to maintain the lifestyle you want by prioritising the aspects of your life that are non-negotiable. For example, if you want time to pursue hobbies alongside your career, set goals that allow you to continue with these hobbies without affecting your career progression.

Related: SMART Goals: Definition, Template and Examples

2. Evaluate industry options

Evaluate your industry options if you're unsure about what career you want to pursue next. Think about your role and its applications in different industries. You can remain within the same industry to reduce the training you require for the career change or consider a similar sector where your roles might be similar and require little training. Selecting a different field might require a new set of qualifications. Evaluating your choices can help you look for suitable training opportunities to earn relevant qualifications for your chosen career.

3. Examine your qualifications

You may want to switch to a career that requires specific certifications or degrees. After selecting the industry you want to pursue, examine your qualifications. Find out if they're adequate to find employment opportunities or if you require additional training. Search online for the academic qualifications, skills and extra certifications employers look for in the field or role that interests you. Consider looking at job descriptions that highlight the primary responsibilities for these roles and compare them with your current responsibilities.

Related: Examples of Career Interests (Plus Definition and Tips)

4. Look for training opportunities

Once you decide the industry and role you want to pursue, begin looking for training opportunities. You may find them in universities, polytechnics or professional bodies. Approach colleagues in the industry that interests you and ask their advice on which certifications to attain. Perform an advanced search and consider the following items:

  • Cost: The costs of different certifications, degrees and training programmes may differ. Select one that meets your new career's requirements and your financial abilities.

  • Time: The time it takes to earn specific qualifications differs. Choose a course that fits within your timeline for career advancement.

  • Recognition: Select a recognised training programme for the industry you want to pursue. These include organisation-accredited courses or certificates.

Related: How to Plan for Your Career Future (And Factors to Consider)

5. Expand your networks

Expand your networks by searching for groups on social media. You can look for professionals who changed careers or groups specific to the industry you want to pursue. Search for social events within that industry and try to attend them. Introduce yourself to people and share your story with them. They may advise you on what steps to take. Ask your family members and friends to introduce you to professionals within your chosen industry.

Related: A Complete Guide on How to Build a Network (Plus Benefits)

6. Prepare your application materials

Begin preparing your job application materials to submit when searching for employment. Ensure to adapt these materials to the company by including information mentioned in the job description. Here are some examples of application materials companies may require:

  • Resume: This highlights the skills, academic qualifications and work experience relevant to the industry you want to pursue.

  • Cover letter: This outlines your career goals and explains why you're the right candidate for the role.

  • Personal statement: This explains your reasons for the career change and expresses your interest in the industry.

  • Letter of recommendation: This is a letter a mentor, advisor or superior writes on behalf of a candidate, recommending the candidate's characteristics and qualifications that make them suitable for the job.


  • The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Career Change Resume

  • How To Write a Career Change Cover Letter in 7 Steps

7. Begin your job search

Consider using job boards and recruitment websites to search for a job. Use their filter settings to search for employment within the industry you want, the type of job that interests you, such as full-time or part time, your experience level and your preferred location. You can also attend job fairs to learn about opportunities and network with professionals. Visiting company websites often may help you learn about job vacancies that you can apply for. You may also approach headhunters or recruitment agencies to help you search for a job.

Related: Your Online Career Coach: Advanced Job Search Tips to Get the Job

8. Draft a resignation letter

Draft a resignation letter when you're sure you want to change careers and industries. Submit it early to give managers enough notice to start the adjustment process and to show them respect and gratitude. Ensure to provide clarity and your reasons for resigning. Outline your next steps, including your plans for completing current projects. Maintain a positive and polite tone throughout the letter to ensure you conserve a good relationship with the management. They're important contacts who may help you in the future.

Related: How to Write a Resignation Letter for a Personal Reason

Tips for your career change

Here are a few tips to help you change careers:

Do your research

It's important to research the career you want to pursue to better understand what to expect. Consider using several platforms to learn about the new role. Listen to podcasts about changing careers or specific industry knowledge. Watch online videos of people sharing their career change experiences and discussing particular details of career choices that interest you. Read industry-specific blogs and blogs about switching careers to get extra advice. Search for part-time volunteering options to gain experience in the industry that interests you to help decide if it's the right choice.

Prepare for interviews

Interviewers may ask you why you chose to switch careers, especially if you opt to change industries. They may also ask questions relating to your previous experience and industry knowledge. Consider researching common interview questions in your chosen field and preparing responses. Practise these responses with trusted advisors and friends and ask for their feedback. Consult industry professionals and ask them if you require extra preparation for your interview.

Related: 55 Common Job Interview Topics to Prepare for (Plus Tips)

Be patient

A career change can be time-consuming. This depends on factors such as the time it takes to select a new career path, earn specific qualifications, form networks and find a job that meets your requirements. It's important to be patient throughout this process and focus on your short- and long-term goals to keep you motivated.


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