Career change at 40

Responsibilities at 40

Changing careers after 40 is more common than you might think, and according to a survey commissioned by USA Today and the career guidance organisation Life Reimagined, almost a third of pre-retirees (40 - 59) plan to make a career change in the next five years.

At this age, the motivations for making a career change tend to be less about the money and more about a desire to do something meaningful.

Peterson notes that most people have a number of more serious responsibilities to deal with at this age, such as children in their teenage years or financial obligations.

“You may by now either be having teenagers or you’re running a business and you’re trying to keep up with your peers who may have gone ahead in leaps and bounds in their 30s and you may not have. And then suddenly you think, ‘Oh. I’ve only got ten years or so before I really should have put a whole load away for my 50s’, so it’s a slightly serious time.”

But, she also points out that on the up side; you have a lot of experience and wisdom to draw from, which can make the career change easier.

  • Wisdom and experience valued by your company
  • Desire to do something meaningful
  • More responsbility
  • Own financial obligations
  • Taking care of children or parents
  • Need for personal development

“You do know a lot of stuff,” she says. “You’re of great value to your business, or if you’re a worker as opposed to an owner of a business, you’re of great value to the company because you have a lot of experience by now and you can be given more responsibility.”

Career needs and confidence at 40

Although learning and gaining new skills and qualifications is important no matter what you’re doing, it’s especially valuable for those making a career switch, and Peterson notes that professional and personal development is important at this stage in your career.

“At this point, you really should have your masters or be looking at what else you can add to your professional qualifications. When was the last time you did some professional or personal development work?”

When it comes to confidence and attitudes, she points out there are two main things that change at 40. Firstly, you’ve gained a lot of wisdom from your parenting, managing and multi-tasking, which helps you feel more confident in your own abilities.

At the same time, though, you are also more willing to listen to and learn from others who are more experienced than you. This is can be a very positive thing when changing careers as it means you’ll be more open to learning new skills and gathering wisdom from those who have gone before you.

  • More willing to learn from others who are more experienced
  • A chance to gain a promotion or more authority at work

“Remember the resistance you had from your parents in your 20s and even early 30s? By the time you’re in your 40s, you’ve reconciled your childhood stuff. You’ve done that work and you’re looking at all the people around you,” Peterson says.

“You’re looking at the bosses and the CEOs, and they might be in their late 40s, early 50s or a bit older, and you’re thinking, ‘Oh, I get that there’s another degree of learning and wisdom and experience that I couldn’t see when I was in my 30s and thought I knew it all’.”