The average person changes careers three times in their lives, often because they’ve reached a top payment level at a job or their current career is being phased out due to changes in technology and the economy.
If you find yourself looking to change careers later in life, it can be a very daunting proposition. Thankfully, there are a lot of great resources to help you successfully make that change.
Considering Changing Careers?
There are two main reasons people change careers: 1) They no longer feel passionate about their work or 2) they’ve entered a stage where salary caps or layoffs prevent them from making enough money to feel comfortable supporting their family.
If you’re in the first bucket, there’s no one besides you who can make the decision to change careers. It’s all in your hands because your question is really about where you place the value of your time and life. If you like to define yourself by your work and need meaningful work to be happy, then it may be worth considering a career change. If you like a job that ends on time and doesn’t keep you late, or one in which you don’t take the office’s concerns home with you, consider staying if your current job fits that mold.
Weigh the effect your job has on your happiness and fulfillment with the potential changes a new career can bring – both the good and the bad. This answer can only be determined by you.
If you’re in the second group, then it largely comes down to a financial decision. You need to weigh the career change in terms of making enough to survive comfortably. This means that your career choice will be somewhat guided by money, but just enough so that you only consider careers that put you in a healthy financial state. Because of the potential for economies to change and career values to decrease, money shouldn’t be the overall factor.
Once you’ve figured out how much you need to make, it’s time to pick a new path that helps you feel better and learn skills that lead to a long-term, viable career.
Choosing a Field
Do you need help figuring out where to take your career now that you find yourself needing a switch? Are you changing careers at 40 and unsure of what the market looks like or even the title of jobs out there?
Don’t worry; it gets better and easier very quickly.
The Internet has become a great tool for job-seekers and those looking for career shifts or educational opportunities. Your first step is to look for a career assessment. Career assessments will test you to see what your characteristics are and ask about what you’ve enjoyed or hated about past employment.
By comparing your personality and skills with different career environments, these assessments will help you narrow down your choices. Career assessment tools have proven to be very helpful and often provide you with a set of careers to consider.
Now, when you get this list of careers, your work isn’t done. Career assessment tools suggest jobs based on how you see yourself, since you’re the one answering those questions. Treat your career list as a set of recommendations and start to learn more about those career opportunities and any educational requirements they have.
Informational interviews – those in which you speak to someone about their job but aren’t applying for any position yourself – can be a great way to learn more and have another person assess if you’d be a good fit for a particular career.
These interviews can also be done with career counselors or even school counselors and administrators to help you pick the right field to pursue. Not only will they provide you with relevant information on training, but they can also point you to the right educational opportunities for building the right career change resume.
As you’re doing this research, one of the most important questions to ask is: “Do you see this career lasting for a long time or are there new technologies that may make it obsolete?”
Changing careers can be difficult at times, so you want to put yourself in a position where you are moving into a safe career with growth potential.
Building a Network
One thing to do when considering a career change is meet as many people as possible. You should also look to join career networking groups and associations for any job that you’re interested in trying.
Going to job fairs and mixers can help you connect with people who work in the field and can give you good tips on opportunities and required training. People working in the field can provide you with insight that a course may not. This can range from what is a good school to attend to desired qualifications that employers don’t list on job postings.
Your network is essentially a big research project that will help you determine if you’re a good fit for a career, what skills you have that can be transferred to it, and if you need to get new qualifications to pursue that career.
You never know. You may just meet a great mentor or someone who made the same transition you’re looking into. Many people are willing to help, so go out and ask.
Benefits of New Education
New training and education programs can help you find a great career and start earning more money soon. This is especially true if you’ve never attended a college before or if you never completed your degree.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for people with a bachelor’s degree is typically half of that for people who do not have a degree. The Labor Department also projects that through the year 2020, jobs requiring a college degree will see the biggest increase in new job openings.
Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to go back to get a standard degree from a university. You can also choose trade programs like HVAC associate degree options and still find yourself in those great industry projections.
The Career Action Plan
One relatively new tool for people considering a career change is the career action plan. The plans take the information you’ve already gathered on yourself and your potential careers and help you pick a path from where you are now to landing a job in that new field.
You’ll want to start with a list of your current skills and education. This gives you a baseline to compare and see how far you need to go. Next, add in the information from your career assessment. This gives you a look at your personality traits and potential careers to pursue.
Compare what you know and are interested in with these potential careers listed in front of you. Think back on those informational interviews and start narrowing done the field. Get it down to as few career-change options as possible.
Most of us will still have two or three to choose from and be somewhat stuck in picking. That’s perfectly OK. The action plan is here to help you compare those possibilities.
For each potential career, you’ll want to write down any education requirements it has. Next to these, note if you meet the requirement or if you’ll need to go back to school. For every item in which you need to go back to school, do some Internet research and see about how long it takes to get that degree, training or certificate.
Next, write down any other requirements to enter those jobs. Do you need better computer skills? Will you have to work out so you can lift equipment throughout the day? Does a career require a journeyman process in which you have to do an apprenticeship before you can strike out on your own?
Write down each of these items and then return to your previous research. You’ll want to find out how long each step takes and which steps must be accomplished on their own.
Building out all of these gives you a timetable for each career transition. This can help you make a choice. If you’re still stuck, consider comparing the cost of education or looking at what educational and training programs are in your area and provide night or weekend classes.
Matching Education to Career Plans
For many of us, going back to school is all about getting a degree, training or certification that turns directly into a career.
If you’re in this boat, have you considered going for a career training program instead of a four-year college?
Career training programs give you a direct line and set of skills for a very specific line of work. However, these programs aren’t just for teaching shop in high school or to learn welding. Some of the more common training and associate-degree programs include lab technicians for dentists and medical labs, patient-care technicians, insurance billing and coding, human resource careers, paralegals and trade services such as HVAC technicians.
These programs typically come at a much lower cost than four-year degree programs, especially given the increasing costs of tuition and higher rates for student loans. Training degrees are less expensive because you’re limited to classes related to your trade, you have fewer hours, and you typically go to school for fewer semesters.
Many trade schools also provide you with job fairs, internships and community partnerships in which you can test your skills and learn more while supervised.
You’re Not Alone
According to the U.S. Department of Education, more and more adults are going back to school. Their main goal is to add new skills and improve their resumes to help with transitioning careers.
This means that you won’t be alone in your classes. There’s no need to be scared of going back or embarrassed for being the same class as people younger than you. Everyone’s career is unique to them, so let your career choice be your guide.
Lots of people will be there quietly wondering how to change careers right beside you.
Even if you take online courses for training, there’s a very good chance that other people in your class are in your same situation. Just because you can’t see these online participants, don’t assume they’re all different and you’re all alone.
Try using forums and other services offered by training programs to connect. You just might find someone in the same position who needs a hand and some encouragement as much as you do.
Picking for Convenience
For those of us changing careers at 40, it’s hard to go back to a standard college or university. We simply can’t afford the time and cost. A university program just isn’t convenient for a full-time job and a new education.
Associate degree programs and other training opportunities often make more sense for older Americans returning to school because they offer a variety of online courses, late-night options and expanded hours for admissions, teachers and advisors.
If you combine this with the decreased time it takes to receive your training, it can be a big financial and time win. On average, HVAC training programs take under two years, ranging from 75 to 90 weeks.
This can be a great way for you to affordably transition to new work.
Now that you’ve looked at your options and made a decision about which career transition you may want to make, give yourself a minute to review your career goals. You need to make sure you’re setting realistic expectations for yourself.
Go back and look at your research. Review the skills you’ll need and changes you’ll have to make to transition into a new career. Write this list down and keep it with you.
These lists show us that career changes aren’t a quick and easy process, so we can’t expect the changes in our lives to be immediate. It’s also a good reason not to get discouraged if things start getting tough. All of this takes time, so make sure you allow yourself enough time to accomplish your goals.
Going back to school takes time, as does all of the research you’ll have to do to make a full career change. Acknowledging this change can help you keep your spirits high about getting a new job in a great new career that’ll take you farther in life than you’ve been so far.
Take the Plunge
If you’ve considered that career change for some time, landing here means you’re still looking for a reason to pull the trigger.
As daunting as it is, that time is now. Step forward and apply for that school training or new job in a field you can handle. It may come with lower pay for now, but once you become familiar and experienced, you’re going to have many new benefits.
Improving your skills and education will open many new doors. You might just land in that lucky spot where you’re bringing in more money and having a better work life from day one.
Reach out to your network and continue to seek out support as you make the transition. After you’ve landed and got on your feet, it may be time to look back and see if you can help anyone else considering a similar transition.