Recent statistics claim that people change careers 5-7 times during their lifetimes, and an increasing percentage of the workforce is doing so after the age of 40. People decide to make midlife career changes for many reasons. Sometimes they just want to be in a field they like more. Other times, their current company is downsizing or has poor management with ineffective leadership. Regardless of why you’re considering making the change, ask yourself these questions before you turn in your resignation letter.
1. Why Do You Want to Change Jobs?
What is it about your current job that makes you want to leave? If you are simply no longer happy at the company, finding a new job in the same industry is likely a better fit, as you know you’ll receive comparable benefits and won’t need to learn a new industry. Nearly two-thirds of people claim they’d switch jobs right away, even if a new one wasn’t ideal, but this mindset often sets you up for disappointment. Less-than-ideal jobs usually mean worse hours, fewer benefits, or more boredom. You’d be in the same position again as soon as the novelty wore off. If you decide to change careers in your 40s, it should be because you are truly more interested in another industry, your skills are already a better match for the new industry, or because you expect you’ll have better advancement opportunities.
2. How Will the Change Affect Your Finances?
Money isn’t everything, but it is still important, especially if you have a family to support. Many people take pay cuts when they switch careers, which is fine if you can afford it, but not everybody can. If you aren’t making as much money, will you still be able to pay your mortgage easily? Can you keep up with your health insurance premiums? Factor in family expenses as well, such as sports the kids play or annual checkups for the family pets. Don’t forget about the compensation package, either. Will you still have strong benefits and retirement savings plans? Will you be losing vacation days you tend to use each year? Even if your career change will see you making more money or having better benefits, make sure the pay is fair when compared to the added responsibilities.
3. Will You Need Additional Education?
If you want to make a midlife career change, consider your current education, experience, and skills. When you have 10 or 20 years of experience under your belt, even if it’s in another industry, at least some of your skills are likely transferable and may even act as a stand-in for the formal training younger applicants are expected to have. What if you want to make a career change that doesn’t work well with your current skillset, though? In this case, you’ll need to receive additional education, which could take several years. In addition to the time constraints, you’ll also need to determine if you can afford additional education or if you’ll have time to study after you factor in work and family responsibilities. If ongoing education seems like it won’t fit on your plate, consider looking at careers that work with your current degree and skills instead.
4. How Is the Company Culture?
An interesting new career path and excellent salary and benefits package aren’t likely to be enough for you if you don’t like the company culture at your new place of employment. This means you need to consider your options carefully and research potential employers before signing any contracts. As you search, consider how much value the company seems to put on work-life balance above all. Will you still have enough time to manage family responsibilities, socialize with friends, and relax? Does the company’s diversity, inclusion, and ethics and values policies line up with your own personal values? What emphasis is put on communication? It is also important to think about how innovative the company is, what its recognition and reward culture is like, and whether it puts emphasis on collaboration and team support.
Between financial needs, family responsibilities, and retirement age being closer than you realize, switching careers after the age of 40 can be complicated. It is important to have a backup plan just in case the new career isn’t everything you hoped for. Consider whether you can go back to your old company if the new one doesn’t work out, or at the very least, enter into your old field of work. It is also important to have a strong savings account in case you find yourself without work during the change. Planning now keeps you from feeling worried and will allow you to focus on the things you need to do to make your switch a success.