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How to Change Career Mid-Life: 6 Strategies for Success


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It’s only natural that our interests, passions and skills change over time, particularly when it comes to as important a part of our lives as our career. 

And, as we get older, and our priorities change, changing careers can become something we think about a lot more seriously – even if it does appear especially daunting at first. 

It shouldn’t be daunting, though, because changing careers mid-life isn’t the strange thing it once was. In fact, it’s pretty common. A recent Monster poll, for instance, found that 50% of respondents aged 45 and 65 have changed careers more than once in their lives. 

If you’re contemplating how to change your career mid-life, here are 7 strategies for success. 

1. Narrow down your choices

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re confronted with the sheer number of possible choices you could make when it comes to changing your career. A lot of people find that narrowing down which path they want to take in a career change is one of the hardest processes to master, and it’s no surprise why. 

Ultimately, the decision you make will usually be influenced by a complex blend of personal, environmental and financial factors like:

  • What you’re looking for in a new role
  • Why you want a new career
  • Your passions, interests and motivations
  • Your transferable skills
  • Your preferred industry to work in
  • The training you need to get started in that industry
  • How much money/time you have to invest in a career change

Creating lists – specifically pros and cons lists – can be a useful way to compare possible careers and find a fit that’s right for you. 

This article on Forbes has some great advice on how to narrow down your career change choices. 

2. Don’t be afraid of learning from mistakes

Making mistakes can be incredibly scary, but it’s often by putting our foot in it that we grow and progress mentally.

Recent neurological research has found that even just the act of making a mistake can actually help our brains to grow – regardless of whether or not we put any effort into correcting that mistake with future behaviour (although, you obviously should try). 

When you’re trying to move into a completely different career field, it’s natural that you’re going to make a few mistakes or screw ups along the way – putting the wrong industry acronym on your CV, or mispronouncing something in a job interview, for instance. 

Don’t get too hung up on those awkward mishaps – instead, acknowledge them, learn from them and move on. Your brain will thank you for it later. 



3. Be willing to learn new skills and knowledge

Unless you’re aiming to change your career to something you’ve already gained qualifications for, the chances are that you’ll need to study some form of qualification in your new field to be an attractive candidate to top employers.

Of course, relevant work experience and existing skills are important traits to have when you’re changing roles, but having a relevant qualification too will help to really position you as a strong candidate.

Fortunately, studying a professional qualification isn’t like it was decades ago. The growth of digital learning has transformed distance learning for the better, making it more intuitive, flexible and fast.

Digital qualifications can usually be completed anywhere with an internet connection, at any time of the day, making them very flexible and easy to fit around prior commitments, like day jobs and family.

Research the specific qualifications that your target industry calls for, identify how you’d like to study (face-to-face, digital or blended), and find some providers who offer what you’re looking for.

An easy way to find the type of qualifications you might need, and who offers them, is to research the leading professional body for your field. Every industry usually has a membership body whose job it is to maintain standards in that sector. These membership bodies will offer qualifications to ensure that people practicing in that field have the required skills and knowledge. Getting one of these qualifications can be a good way to prove to employers that you have the right skills and experience to excel in the role you’re aiming for.

Here are some example industries and the membership bodies that provide qualifications in them:

(To give you an idea of what learning providers might offer, at ICS Learn, we offer professional qualifications from AAT, CIPD, CIM and CIPS, and many more.) 

4. Identify your skills and polish them

Don’t let a perceived lack of relevant skills put you off from considering a new role in a different industry.

When you examine your skills critically, you’ll probably discover that you already have quite a few skills that you use regularly in your current role that you can apply to your new one. These are known as ‘transferable skills’: skills that you use in one specific role that you can readily apply to a different role, in different industries.

Common transferable skills you probably already have but don’t realise include:

  • Teamwork
  • Problem-solving
  • Communication
  • Strategic thinking
  • Time management

Think of the tasks that you’d have to perform in your old role, and then break down those into the individual skills that you needed for each one. That should help you to gain a good idea of which skills are transferable and which aren’t.



5. Don’t procrastinate

At the start of this article our advice was to slow down your thinking and not make any rash decisions, but you need to be careful that taking your time to think carefully about a situation doesn’t turn into putting off solid actions for another day – in other words, procrastinating.

Procrastinating is a very real danger when you’re thinking about life-changing decisions. We often procrastinate when we’re presented with a task that seems particularly big or complicated.

In our quest to make sure that our plans are successful, we’ll unconsciously delay putting them into action in favour of gathering just a few more possible roles to choose from, finding a few more qualifications you could study, or talking to a few more networking contacts.

It can paralyse your plans and stop you from taking action that (if you’ve been thinking carefully about the situation for a while) you’re probably more than ready for.

Some simple things you can do to reduce the amount of time you spend procrastinating are:

  • Segment big tasks into smaller tasks that are easier and quicker to complete
  • Create targets that form part of a wider timeline
  • Create incentives to encourage you to complete tasks

  • 6. Network

Networking is a useful way to share information and when you’re carrying out something as big as a career change, the more information you have at your disposal, the better. It’s also a great way to find out about promising opportunities in your field.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to networking. You just need an awareness of the basic principles, which are, essentially, that the more people you know, the more opportunities you might become aware of.

Some tips when it comes to networking include:

  • Revamp your professional social media profiles, like LinkedIn and Twitter and getting involved in relevant conversations and groups
  • Expand your network by leveraging the contacts of people you know to meet new people
  • Find reasons to maintain relationships with your contacts

Did these strategies help to make the process of changing career mid-life a bit less daunting? We hope so! Good luck finding a more fulfilling career.

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