Changing Careers over the Age of 40

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Sometimes we go through a life of long steady employment in a career that’s done us well and given us a stable living, given us access to a wonderful pension, medical plan and possibly other benefits like dental coverage or even stock options in our company; yet despite all this, we just get bored, we want change and despite the fact that we’re nearing middle age, we crave the adventure of something new and unique for us.

When a hunger like this hits, it’s often wise to at the very least heed it carefully and give your options some serious thought. One useful way of doing this is to weight the benefits and negatives of your choices. Thus, if you’re thinking of switching careers despite the fact that you’re nearing the “hill” of middle age, here are a few basic pro’s and cons to consider -you should also try adding some of your own, specific to your particular life circumstances.

Pro’s

1. Change is Good!

To be honest, the emotional benefit of suddenly lighting out from the usual and diving into a whole new field can not only be deeply exciting, it can also give you an enormous confidence and even health boost. Regardless of all other factors, the sheer adventure of suddenly switching careers at such an unexpected age can get those endorphins flowing and these have known positive benefits to health.

2. You’re starting out All Over Again, but with more Experience

Starting out in your early to late 20’s with your first career options, you were still just a young and inexperienced employee (or potential employee) looking to build experience and without much practical knowledge of how to manage all the shifting tides of the business world. Now, at the age of 40 or older, the case is presumably different and you’re both wiser and more experienced. While you’ll still have plenty of learning to do in the new position you choose, this practical experience is deeply valuable as a leverage weight that can give you faster access to excellent opportunities than was possible for your 20 something younger self.

3. The Career World is becoming more Flexible and You’ll be Adapting with it

Let’s face it, the modern career world is becoming far more flexible, shift prone and fast moving than it ever has been in modern history. In many ways, the days of a stable decades long career followed by a lifetime pension courtesy of one single company are gone in many industries, and they’re slowly disappearing nearly everywhere else. By clinging to the one thing you’ve been doing for decades and clinging to your current career, you’re failing to hedge your bets by evolving and adapting. This could result in some serious trauma if a sudden layoff decides to arrive. By jumping out on your own into a new career direction in your near middle age, you’re taking matters into your own hands and learning to adapt on your own, better planned terms. In essence, you’re building the mental tools needed for dealing with the modern world.

 Cons

1. Risky Business

The risk of suddenly shifting careers at the age of 40 or later is unavoidable. While you can manage this risk through careful planning, research and preparation, you can’t get rid of it completely. If you were doing well in your previous career and had yourself a well secured benefits plan as well, the possibility of replacing it with something that’s not quite as stable or financially secure is something to carefully consider. Ultimately, however, through careful planning and a good plan of attack you can at least mitigate this risk.

As an additional risk mitigation step, be sure not to burn all your bridges behind you as you set out on your new career adventure. Instead, at least try to locate some likely prospects based on your new career choices before leaving your old work life.

2. Negative Emotional Effects

Let’s face it, we’re human and even the most adventurous among us are going to face the possibility of some serious emotional ramifications to sudden life changes like shifting careers completely at near middle age. While the adventure and excitement of doing this has its own deep and very real benefits, there will come a point where you might also suffer from depression, anxiety and plenty of fear, particularly if you haven’t gone from one career straight into another offer -you’re leaving your current employment to actually hunt for something new.

Again, your salvation will come from careful planning and advance preparation. The more you do this instead of just leaping away from your long term job and into the career hunt, the less likely you are to stare failure in the face.

3. Will People Think you’re Employable?

The older we are when moving into new careers, the less likely we are to be taken seriously as a serious hire. This may depend, especially if your previous career gave us a lot of recognizable and recognized valuable experience that also applies to your new employment prospects, but in many cases, new employers are more interested in young new employees that they can mold to their preferences more.

However, one way to reduce this risk dramatically is by preparing in advance and giving yourself a high level of saleability through the cultivation of deeply useful skills that are very difficult to learn or specialized but also applicable in many career fields (legal experience in a field like patent and trademark, for example)

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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