All Articles / Career advice
All Articles / Career advice

How to make a career change at 40

It’s easy to get stuck in a career rut.

You’ve worked hard to get yourself to where you are, you’ve put in the hours of sacrifice and built yourself a good reputation and a salary to match.

The trouble is: you’re unhappy.

Your career no longer serves you and you don’t feel passionate about things the way you used to. Maybe you’ve reached the top of the tree and can’t advance any higher.

But, what about when it’s more than that? What do you do when you reach 40 and feel like the next step for you is a total career change?

Is it too late?

Nope. It’s never too late to do what makes you happy.

Change is never easy and a big change like this can be disruptive to your whole life and leave you wondering if you’ve made the wrong decision.

There are some things you can do to make the process a little easier on yourself.

Why making a career change at 40 is a good thing

Changing your career at 40 means you still have around 25 years before retirement.

If you take into account the fact that you may have been working in your current role for the last 20 years, you have the same amount of time again to build a new career. Even if you need a few years to study or to work and get some experience in a new field, you still have around two decades to be successful in a new job that you love.

We spend so much of our week working. Being somewhere that doesn’t make you happy can bring you down and leave you feeling stressed. This can harm your personal relationships and your health.

Being settled in a new career that you enjoy will feel like a huge weight off your shoulders and will help to improve these other aspects of your life dramatically.

Why do people change careers?

A survey carried out by Seek surveyed 1,000 Australians who had switched careers in the last five years.

The top 5 reasons were identified as follows:

  • Better pay
  • Too Stressful
  • Better Work-life balance
  • Wanted a new challenge
  • No longer passionate about the field

In fact, those that changed their job because the new one offered better pay found themselves better off financially as a result.

What makes it difficult to change jobs?

There could be any number of reasons why starting a new career at 40 is hard.

  • Financial responsibilities
  • Family responsibilities
  • Uncertainty
  • A lack of confidence in your abilities
  • The time it takes to retrain
  • Overwhelm at the idea of being “new” again

It’s also easy to let the opinions of others stop you from doing what you feel is right for you. There will be plenty of people who try to talk you out of the decision and tell you all the reasons why you should stay where you are. The truth is, this is a reflection on them and not you.
Be selective of whose opinion you take when it comes to changing jobs and only listen to those who are important to you.

How to make a career change

Write down your “why”

Is a new career going to mean you can spend more time with your children? Are you going to be able to make more money in your new job? If so, what difference will this make to you and your family? Will you be happier in a new role where you feel like you can truly make an impact?

If the answer to the above questions is a positive one, you’ll know you’re doing the right thing.

Keeping a journal, vision board, or even just a note of the reasons why you’re making the change. Having a visual representation of your “why” will help you to persevere if you ever feel like giving up.

Find the least disruptive way of doing things

If you need further education to change into another career, can you do this while you’re at your current job? This might mean taking classes in the evening or online.

What it does mean, however, is that you can still be employed and earning a salary while you’re learning. This means you’re less likely to put yourself in extra debt and be out of work while you study. Many would find making a career change an impossibility as a result.

The idea of simply walking out of a job you hate might feel so appealing. It’s also an impossibility for most of us. Instead, use the time before you leave to make sure you build a solid plan for what you will do after you’ve left. Give yourself a timeline for making the transition. That way you know you have a goal to aim for.

It’s also a good opportunity to build up some extra savings, especially if the new role you’re looking at pays less than your current job.

Do is sooner rather than later

How many years have you been thinking about making the change, but something always got in the way?
Now’s your opportunity to go for it!
Some ways you can take positive action towards reaching your goal are:

  • Finding a mentor (there are some great government programs post COVID) to give you advice, support, and a push in the right direction when you need it.
  • Discuss your decision with everyone close to you that will be impacted directly to see how they feel about the change.
  • Don’t wait until you feel motivated to make the change. Motivation is fleeting and waiting for it can mean you never decide to jump. Instead, give yourself a plan and a timeline to work towards, and keep working on it even when you don’t feel like it.
  • Surround yourself with like-minded people and look for stories of people who have done the same thing. There are plenty of people who will tell you all the reasons why you shouldn’t do this. Keep people around you who support your decision.
  • Don’t let analysis paralysis stop you from making the leap. The only wrong decision to make is not making one at all.
  • Do things that get you closer to your goal such as networking, signing up for classes, researching new opportunities, and volunteering.

Leverage your professional network

The reputation you’ve spent time building is a great start in finding new opportunities. It is also likely that the people you associate with are also as far along in their careers as you are. This means that they may have some influence in the given area you’re looking to move into.

If they don’t, they can at least pass you on to someone they know who is in a senior enough position to be of assistance. Don’t forget that it doesn’t hurt to ask around. Networking can feel like a painful and awkward thing to do but it doesn’t have to be that way.

As and when you see people you know, tell people about the changes you are making. They will no doubt be really interested in it and they will probably offer to help you if they can. Assuming that people aren’t looking for someone to help them will mean lots of missed opportunities. The worst anyone can say is thank you very much, but not right now.

Focus on skills you’ve already gained

No amount of knowledge is wasted. Changing careers doesn’t mean you should just forget the last 20 years. You’ll have picked up so many skills along the way that will transfer nicely into a different role.

The lessons you’ve learned and the experience you’ve gained will be incredibly useful in applying for new jobs.

A good exercise to do is to look at advertised roles in different careers and see what kind of skills the description is asking applicants to have. While your experience might not be directly related, there’s every chance that you have at least some of the skills they want.

Try thinking of examples where you have had to use those particular skills and don’t be afraid to get inventive.

The unique stories you have to tell will help you to stand out in an application and interview.

Use your resume and cover letter to sell yourself

Ugh, the dreaded resume. And yes, you do need to update it!

If you’re looking for new jobs, you’re going to need a new resume that highlights your significant experience. Ask a friend or someone who is good with words, to help you add value to your resume, so that it highlights your skills.

Try to keep your resume as succinct as possible, remembering not to be too specific about the in’s and out’s of the role. It might not make any sense to a hiring manager reviewing it who has never worked in your field.

If your resume denotes a long experience working in customer service and you’re looking for a move over into a marketing role, the cover letter is your opportunity to explain why.

You can use it to say how your career has led you to the point you’re at now and why that makes you the right candidate for the job.

That’s then your opportunity to confidently talk about how your career move is a good thing and proves you to be an asset to the company.

Studying online

Another way to enter a new career is of course to re-skill.

Studying as an older person can be really rewarding. You’re committed, you really want to do this and you know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel (a new job potentially). If you’ve always wanted to work as a bookkeeper but have been in an administrative position for years, it could be worth up-skilling so that you have a qualification to help you move into a new career.

With your work experience that you’ve had in the past, coupled with your new qualification, your chances of getting an interview are much higher. Monarch Institute offers Australia qualifications that can be studied online, at your pace. Check out the options here.


Changing your career at 40 is a daunting path to take.

You’re giving up everything you’ve known in the search for something new. It’s comparable to the end of a relationship.

But the good thing about changing careers at this point in your life is that you know what you don’t want to do now.

You also have the experience, skills, and wisdom that have come with a long career. These are going to be invaluable in helping you find a new job that you love.

If you’re keen to chat about your options, get in touch with a Course Consultant today on 1300 738 955.

Any questions? Ask away!