CAREER CHANGE COACHING FOR PROFESSIONALS

  • HOME
  • PATHFINDER
  • MASTERCLASS
  • COACHING
  • BLOG
  • ABOUT
  • CONTACT
  • LOGIN
Naomi Rothwell-Boyd, May 13 2022

5 Strategies For Smooth Career Change at 40 in 2022

Making a career change at 40 can seem daunting. By the time you're re-evaluating your career at 40, chances are you've been in the same industry for a long time or been through a real mish-mash of jobs.

Either way, making a big change now feels like it's even more of a challenge than it would have been 10 years ago.

But it's not impossible. And if you're feeling like you're in a career rut, or just want to make a change for the sake of change, then it might be time to explore your options.

Uncover how to change your career today with our quick assessment quiz even if you don't know where to start - TRY PATHFINDER NOW

The Good News

It's actually not as hard as you think. It will be hard work, yes, but not hard to figure out.

So here are five interlocking strategies for career change at 40 that together will help you make the transition without too much disruption to life:

1) Assess your regrets to date
2) Get clear on your work/life balance needs
3) Identify your core values
4) Focus on your super competencies, ignore the rest
5) Leverage your network

Let's look at each in depth and how they build upon each other.

1) Assess your regrets to date

You will definitely have regrets. We all do. The key is not to dwell on them but to learn from them.

Consider your career regrets. We usually think about the things we didn't do – the risks we didn't take, the opportunities we let pass us by.

But just as important are the things we did do that didn't work out.

Move on and learn.

In order to assess your regrets, it is important to first forgive yourself. We all make mistakes. The key is to learn from them so that we don't repeat them.

Then ask yourself what you would have done differently if you could go back and do it again. This will help you identify the things that are most important to you in a career.

For example, if you regret not taking a certain job, ask yourself what it was about that job that you found appealing. Was it the work itself? The location? The people?

Once you identify what it was that you liked about the job, you can begin to look for other jobs that have those same qualities.

Or if you regret taking a job, ask yourself what it was that you didn't like about it. Again, was it the work itself? The location? The people?

Once you identify what it is that you don't want in a job, you can begin to look for jobs that don't have those qualities.

This exercise will help you get clear on what you want in a career, which is the first step in making a career change.

80 year old regrets

There's another powerful way to use regrets. Now that you've thought about your regrets based on your actual experiences, try also casting your mind forward and anticipating what you might regret when you're 80 if you were to continue your career on its current trajectory.

This is a powerful technique famously espoused by Jeff Bezos. When you're 80 years old and nearing the end of your life, would you still think you made good choices? What choices would you rather make?

This thought experiment can be a useful way to help you get clear on what's most important to you and make choices accordingly.

For example, if you're 80 years old and regret not spending enough time with your family, then that's an indication that you should make choices now that will allow you to spend more time with them.

Or if you're 80 years old and regret not taking more risks, then that's an indication that you should make choices now that will allow you to take more risks. Branch out, explore something that scares you.

Of course, we can't know for sure what we'll regret when we're 80. But this exercise can still be useful in helping us get clear on our priorities and make choices accordingly.

2) Get clear on your work/life balance needs

Work life balance means different things to different people. For some, it means working fewer hours so that they can have more time for their social life.

For others, it means having a job that is flexible and allows them to work from home to support their family.

And for others still, it means finding a career that is personally fulfilling and makes them feel like they are making a difference in the world.

Focus on yourself

There is no right or wrong answer here. What's important is that you get clear on what work life balance means to you.

Once you know what work life balance means to you, you can begin to look for jobs that will allow you to have that balance.

For example, if you value having more time for your personal life, you might look for jobs that are part-time or have flexible hours.

Or if you value having a career that is personally fulfilling, you might look for jobs that allow you to make a difference in the world.

Whatever it is that you value, there are likely jobs out there that will allow you to have the work life balance that you desire.

Tie it to your regrets

Your regrets could be the strongest indicator of what a better balance might look like. As someone who's now in their forties, you have the advantage of experience - regrets are just another form of that experience for you to leverage.

For example, if you regret not spending enough time with your family, then you might look for a job that is part-time or has flexible hours.

Or if you regret not having a career that is personally fulfilling, you might look for a job that allows you to make a difference in the world.

Once again, your regrets come from experience and can be a powerful way to help you get clear on what you want and make choices accordingly.

Uncover how to change your career today with our quick assessment quiz even if you don't know where to start - TRY PATHFINDER NOW

3) Identify your core values

Your age again becomes a strength when it comes to figuring out what "better" looks like. You've tried more things than a 30 year old and can draw from that knowledge. This makes it easier to figure out your core values.

What are core values?

Values are your personal principles, they inform the internal rules you use to dictate how you live your life. They guide the way you want to be treated and treat others.

Values form the centre of your personality and behaviour. So it's important to be able to define what they are for yourself.

How do they help?

I’ve worked with so many people who say “oh I think I might like a career in this industry over here, I think I’d find it really fulfilling”. And then when I ask - “ok, why would that be fulfilling?” - they have no idea.

Or they are completely uncertain whether it would be satisfying or if they just like the thought of it based on stuff they’ve heard recently.

They haven’t done the initial work to understand what their benchmark is. How are they going to judge if a change will make them happier if they don’t know what things usually contribute to making them happy in the first place?

This is where feelings of fear or being overwhelmed come from. People are scared by the idea of changing career because deep down they haven’t yet figured out what they want.

So of course they’re scared! They have no way to assess whether a new career opportunity is a good idea or not, so it’s all a guess. 

In contrast, the people who succeed in changing careers know exactly what is motivating them. They have a solid grasp on why a very certain set of circumstances and outcomes would be satisfying for them.

They understand their own personal values, their own why. They overcome their fear by knowing what they really want and therefore being able to judge if new opportunities are right for them or not.

Confidence comes from knowing your core values

Someone who knows that one of their core values is, for example, fairness, would feel confident avoiding an industry that treats people unfairly even though they have relevant skills for that industry and would be paid highly.

They would still be able to sleep better at night and wouldn’t waste years going into the wrong industry. 

The other person, who doesn’t realise that fairness is one of their personal values, would be seduced by the industry.

They would see the big salary and the fact they could probably get a job with their existing skills and think the choice is a no-brainer.

But then once they got stuck in, they would be worn down again in exactly the same way. They wouldn’t realise their mistake until it was too late. Soon enough they’d be miserable again. The money wouldn’t compensate for the meaningless of it.

This is because no matter the functional situation of a particular job, company or industry you work in, if your work doesn’t align with your personal values it will never feel right. 

You need to avoid being seduced by the things that aren’t important to you in the long run. It’s therefore so important you do this self-development and discovery upfront.

You must be crystal clear with yourself on exactly what your essential and non-negotiable values are. 

Just stop and think now - What’s most important to you? 

Knowing yourself is so important to making the right changes, otherwise they just won’t be sustainable, and you’ll end up feeling the same way again soon enough.

Wouldn’t you much rather be confident with your decisions? Can you imagine having crystal clear guidelines on what would work for you in the long run? Wouldn’t you love to be confident knowing what you really want?

Uncovering your values is the secret to unlocking what you want. You need to dig into what your values are. 

People often skim over this because it sounds a bit fluffy, but it’s really not. Values are core to who we are as people and knowing yours is a bit of a silver bullet for your decision making.

Uncover how to change your career today with our quick assessment quiz even if you don't know where to start - TRY PATHFINDER NOW

4) Focus on your super competencies, ignore the rest

Reaching your forties means you've gained tens of thousands of hours working, and this is a huge asset. You've spent years, often without realising, honing your subtle soft skills, or "competencies", in many situations.

Competencies are your truly transferable skills, the skills that stay with you forever regardless of what vocation or situation you find yourself facing.

For example, negotiating is a supremely valuable competency that helps in all walks of life, whether you're discussing the price of a car, or asking for a pay rise. And it's one that you've probably spent years refining without realising.

You need to focus on these super-competencies when making your career change. They are the skills that will see you through any situation and help you to excel. So make a list of all the competencies you have that you know are valuable, and focus on playing to these strengths.

Ignore the rest

You will be tempted to list out all the things you've done over the years. It would help pad out your CV and make your appear more experienced.

But a museum doesn't become world famous for all of the stuff it holds - museums need curating with almost everything being excluded except for the truly rare and exceptional pieces that will draw people in. You need to curate your experience to make yourself shine as a rare choice in the job market.

This means ignoring 80% of your experience and honing in only on your super competencies and the results you achieved from applying them. Your age means you have so much more to draw upon. You can afford to be more selective about what strengths you present and leverage in a job search. You therefore need to pick the right ones.

Don't try to be all things

Often the most successful people around are good at many things, not just one. But that doesn't mean they're great at all of them.

You need to focus on the things you're exceptional at, and not try to do everything. It's a common trap people fall into when career changing, especially if they've been successful in their current role. They see other opportunities and think "I could probably do that".

You need to focus on the things you're exceptional at. Career change is about starting afresh and finding a role that plays to your strengths. You won't find career success by trying to do everything, you'll find it by excelling in one or two areas.

Nobody cares if Serena Williams is a great cook. Nobody cares if Lewis Hamilton can carry a tune. Become famous for your best skills only and you will attract attention.

5) Leverage your network

This goes without saying, but it's even more valuable for changing career at 40. Your network is exponentially more powerful than when you were 25. Use it.

Back then you were untested, people didn't know if they could rely on you, they didn't know what you were like to work with. By now MANY people have experienced working with you, and so it works in your favour to find new opportunities through them.

Networking doesn't have to be scary

For some people networking comes easily, but for many others it's hard. But it's a huge tool for starting a new career at 40. If you find it tough, then focus on the things that make it easier.

For example, when I was career changing I made a point of going to events that would be useful for my new career path. It made sense to go to them anyway, but by attending with the express intention of networking it became much easier.

I also joined relevant LinkedIn groups and took part in discussions. It's a great way of getting your name out there without having to do any face-to-face networking, which can be tough for introverts.

There are many other ways to network, but the key is to make it easy for yourself. If you find it tough then take small steps and make it part of your routine. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Ask for help, not a job

The old saying goes "ask for money and you'll get advice, ask for advice and you'll get money."

For career change it should be - "ask for a job get advice, ask for advice and you'll get offered a job."

People love to help. You will be surprised by how forthcoming people in your business network and professional life will be when you ask them for help and advice. The key is to put yourself out there and be willing to listen when you ask.

Uncover how to change your career today with our quick assessment quiz even if you don't know where to start - TRY PATHFINDER NOW

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is 40 too old for a career change?

A: Hell no! There's always time for a change! Better is always better! Growth in careers is always worth investing in.

Q: What should I do if I want to change career at 40?

A: If you want to change career at 40, first consider what experience and strengths you have to offer, then focus on networking and building relationships. Finally, don't be afraid to ask for help along the way.

Q: What are some common traps people fall into when changing career at 40?

A: Some common traps people fall into when career changing at 40 include trying to do too much, becoming bogged down in the details, and not leveraging their existing network.

Q: What's the best way to ask for help when changing career at 40?

A: The best way to ask for help when changing career at 40 is to be willing to listen and put yourself out there. You can also consider joining relevant LinkedIn groups and taking part in discussions. 

Written by

Naomi Rothwell-Boyd

Previous 5 First Things To Consider When You Need A New Job in 2022
Next 5 First Steps For Changing Career at 30 in 2022