When you want to make a career change at 40, you'd be wise to choose a career that offers plenty of job opportunities and a decent salary up-front, so you won't have to lose much ground this late in life. Once you've identified a promising second career, seek out training while you're still employed, then prepare a resume that builds off your prior experience.
Depending on your needs and desires, you might choose your new career based on pay, job growth or your personal passion. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most new jobs as of January 2014 were as personal care aides, registered nurses, retail salespersons and home health aides. Jobs with the highest pay included various physician jobs, as well as petroleum engineers, architectural and engineering managers and air traffic controllers, according to BLS data from 2012. According to data published by CareerBuilder in 2012, jobs in social media, data storage, cyber security and financial regulation are among the top emerging jobs.
The other way to look at it: evaluate what you're passionate about and choose a career that enables you to follow your passion. In the words of life coach Barrie Davenport, "Find what makes you come alive. Then go live it."
To start your career, chances are you'll need more training. You might only need to brush up on computer skills, for example, or sometimes you may need a new degree. Look at community colleges, four-year colleges, trade schools and programs available during evenings or online that can allow you to ease into your new career while still earning a living. Also check with your state's labor department, where you'll sometimes find special training programs for re-training older workers. Some companies, such as CVS pharmacies, also make a special effort to hire and train older workers, reports Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., on the Quintessential Careers website.
Talk to people currently working in your new career and find out if they're available for job shadowing or apprenticeship, or if they'll take you on as an entry-level employee.
As soon as possible, start putting money away to cover tuition and living expenses while you train for and launch your new career. To pay for training, find out if you can tap your current employer's matching reimbursement program to get part of your training paid for. Also check with your state's labor department and your local community colleges to find out about grants and free training for older workers. If you're planning to attend college, you can also apply for traditional student loans, starting by filling out a free application for federal Student aid. There is no age limit for federal student aid.
The skills you honed in your first career can add depth to your resume when you use a "skills-based" resume instead of the chronological format. Create sections highlighting relevant skills near the top of the page, in lieu of a big work experience section. If you're applying for an advertising job after being a journalist, you might create skills sections such as "Communication" and "Writing and Editing," followed by bullet points that describe how these skills will help you in a job as an advertising assistant.
This type of resume also places a lot less focus -- or even none at all -- on dates, which can help to avoid being discriminated against by the much-younger manager reviewing resumes. As an older worker, keep in mind that you may need to apply for many more jobs than you did as a younger one, and that networking is often your best tool for finding a new job, suggests an article on the Utah Department of Workforce Services website.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Most New Jobs
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Highest Paying Occupations
- CareerBuilder: CareerBuilder’s Mid-Year Job Forecast Points to a Better Hiring Picture in the Back Half of 2012
- Utah Department of Workforce Services: Workers Over 50 - A Career Guide
- Barrie Davenport: How To Change Careers After 40
- Barrie Davenport: About
- Quintessential Careers: Approaches and Tactics for Older Workers Who Can't Find a Job
- Phillips 66: Employee Programs
- Federal Student Aid: Eligibility