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It’s Never Too Late: Changing Careers at Midlife

Personal Perspective: Pursuing dreams after 40 can be frightening.

© Ground Picture | Shutterstock
Source: © Ground Picture | Shutterstock

It’s never too late to learn. That’s what I continually tell myself and I also make it a point to tell it to my clients if and when they contemplate a major change in their lives. They may be considering returning to school or looking for a new job. The job may be a step up in their current field — which would be a challenge for them — or they may be looking to reinvent themselves in a totally new field.

A study by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) found that “In any given year, there are between one and two million older career changers.”

I have disclosed to some clients that social work is my second career. I tell them that my first career was advertising and marketing and that I got tired of selling pancake syrup and margarine and sought to do something more meaningful with my life. I tell them that I was 38 years old when I went back to school to get my master’s in social work. And I let them know that when I returned to graduate school, I was terrified, as it was the first time I’d been in a classroom in 16 years.

What I don’t tell them is that I chose social work because of my own experience in therapy, that I became fascinated with how therapy works. I don’t tell them how ill I was during the gap between when I left my first career and when I entered graduate school. When they ask me how did I find grad school, I don’t announce that I earned a 4.0 GPA. I say that it was hard and a great deal of work, but a rewarding experience.

I'm much happier than when I was working in a corporate environment selling processed food products. We didn’t know then what we know now. I have this recollection of one of the female managers wearing a grey skirt suit with a white blouse and a red floppy bow tie with black pumps. Even back then, I swore that would never be me. Even though the reason I left was due to anorexia, I’m glad I never looked back.

The same study by AIER states that people who attempt a career change over 40 are successful and much happier due to the change.

Benefits of a career change can include the following:

1. Pay growth for women peaks at around age 44.

2. 90 percent of career changers reported feeling happier, less stressed, and successful overall.

3. 50 percent of successful career changers saw increased pay.

4. 72 percent report feeling like a new person after their career change.

Many of my clients are at a crossroads in their life. They may express the desire for a major change, yet they can’t seem to make the leap. I encourage them, telling them they will most likely never feel 100 percent ready and they have to trust themselves and their abilities and desire.

Sometimes that isn’t enough. A lot of people fear change. People are creatures of habit and routine. A post by Gustavo Razzetti suggests several reasons why people fear change:

  • Uncertainty feeds fear.
  • Accepting life’s impermanence makes us suffer, too.
  • Our fear of failure also feeds our aversion to change.

If you are thinking about reinventing yourself, I encourage you to take that leap. You can do it and I think you will be glad you did.

Thanks for reading.


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