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An older career changer sits alone in a dilapidated classroom. Is It Too Late to Change Careers

Is It Too Late to Change Careers?

Job descriptions are constantly adding new skillsets as requirements, and now even an entry-level position may ask for an undergraduate degree. Even with formal education and years of experience, you may find yourself asking, “Is it too late to change careers?” Thankfully, with a range of online programs and opportunities for personal development, it’s never been easier for the average person to make a career change.

Why So Many People Want to Change Careers

Even successful people may be looking to change careers for circumstances out of their control. After a peak of over 22 million job losses between February and April 2020, unemployment still hasn’t returned to pre-COVID levels, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Though many workers were still performing at a high level, research shows that many businesses folded or just couldn’t keep up with payroll because of COVID’s impact on the economy.

But outside of the realm of COVID-19, many older workers are shifting to self-employment or part-time work, according to BLS. In addition, many people are working longer in general. Even if you’re not one of these workers, maybe you want shorter hours or a higher salary. Sometimes, you’ve just gotten tired of working for the money and want to pursue your dream job instead.

When Is It Too Late to Change Careers?

While there is no exact career-switching handbook, it is never too late to change careers. It may even seem daunting to change careers at 40, but there are far older job seekers who aren’t letting age slow them down. BLS projects the labor force of individuals between 65 and 74 years old to grow by 4.5 percent, and the labor force aged 75 and up to grow by 6.4 percent.

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Even taking age out of the equation, it’s typical to have an unusual career trajectory. BLS began a long-term survey in 1979 that most recently interviewed its participants between 2018 and 2019. The survey found that workers born from 1957 to 1964 held an average of 12.4 jobs from ages 18 to 54. As you can see, people are making significant career changes throughout their lives, and so can you.

Why Changing Careers Could Be the Best Option

There are plenty of good reasons to plan a major career shift. Some reasons include wanting more job satisfaction, a higher salary, a better work-life balance, a chance to pursue your passion, or just wanting a new challenge.

More Job Satisfaction

A 2019 Gallup poll shows that 56 percent of workers are in bad or mediocre jobs, based on job satisfaction criteria tied to characteristics that strongly impact workers. The poll also found that 79 percent of workers in good jobs report a high quality of life, compared to 63 percent in mediocre employment and only 32 percent in bad jobs.

These statistics show that job quality is an essential element to people’s overall happiness, and if you feel trapped in a lousy job, you probably can attest to the truth of that finding. A new career path can help you stop worrying about going to a job you hate for low pay and instead make your days more fulfilling.

A Higher Salary

The national mean salary is $56,310, according to BLS. This might be more than you make yearly at the moment, but it doesn’t have to be. An entry-level software developer, for example, makes an average salary of around $63,492, according to PayScale. There are several positions in tech where you would earn more than you do in your current career.

And in this field, you can often launch a successful career without much formal education. All you need is to demonstrate a certain skill level, and a hiring manager will give you a chance. There are plenty of other options for a relatively fast career shift, and a high salary is a possibility when entering the right field.

Better Work-Life Balance

If you’re spending so much time at work that you can’t enjoy your life, then a high salary may not be enough to make up for the time you’re missing. Instead, you might want to switch to more self-paced work on your own time, or you might want to find a job that requires less commitment.

Many fields, from copywriting to software development, now have a sizeable freelancing market. In fact, according to research from freelancing platform Upwork, 28 percent of freelancers do their job as a full-time source of income. There’s significant financial backing in the industry, and you can make a living on your terms.

Pursue Your Passion

You don’t need any stats to see how unfulfilling it can be to work in one situation when you desperately want to be doing something else. Maybe you feel stuck in your current job for financial reasons or because of a sense of loyalty to those around you.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can always make a major career shift to a field that interests you more, with a bit of online education. It is never too late to change careers, and even if you feel like you might not succeed with your career change, it’s better to take the risk to pursue your passion than it is to wonder what could’ve been.

A New Challenge

Lots of people don’t feel challenged at work. You might even feel like you can do your dull and repetitive job with your eyes closed. You can go from a job that makes you feel like a worker drone to a more fulfilling one.

There are plenty of online courses where you can pick up new skills before diving back into the job market. If you want to push yourself into a new field, you have software engineering, UX/UI design, web development, and many more options.

Unhelpful Misconceptions About Changing Careers

Several misconceptions keep people from deciding to pursue a career change. Many people think that they may have to start at the bottom of their career ladder or that no one will hire them, but that’s not always the case. As we mentioned before, many older workers are still actively job hunting, and it is common for people to go through multiple jobs in various career fields throughout their lives.

Experience from multiple industries can help you develop several transferable skills that recruiters will appreciate. A properly formatted resume with all of your skills is the key to ensuring recruiters take note of what you bring to their position.

Things to Consider Before Changing Careers

There are a few factors to consider before pursuing a career change. For example, you may wonder if you’ll be able to take care of yourself as you make the transition or if you have the right qualifications to enter the field of your choice. 

  • Make sure you can financially support yourself during the transition: It’s good to have a bit of money saved before you quit your current job to pursue a new one. You want to make sure you don’t struggle while you try to earn a new job.
  • Ensure you have the right qualifications for your field: Though you may think you need an undergraduate degree to pursue just about any job nowadays, there are many exceptions. Whichever new field you choose to pursue, be sure to look at job listings for relevant skills that make entry-level jobs easier.
  • What’s your station in life: If you need additional training or education to pursue your new career, things can get trickier. It may be more challenging to attend a formal training program with young children or with other pressing obligations, but it’s not impossible. It’s good to consider your commitments before selecting the right program for you.
  • What’s your end goal?: If the end goal for your career switch is to land a position in data analytics, that looks very different from the path you’d need to take to become a web designer. Be sure to plot out your new career path before committing time and money to training that may not be helpful.
  • Think carefully if a career change is the right move: A lot of your current dissatisfaction could simply be the result of a bad work environment. Before you commit to learning a new skillset and transitioning, take the time to think if you really are in the wrong career. Perhaps, you can find options within your current field that will make you feel happier and more fulfilled.

Best Careers to Start at 30

A man in his 30s looks forward to starting a new career in a courtyard at sunset. Is It Too Late to Change Careers
It may seem daunting to begin a new career at 30, but it can be the beginning of something great. 

There are plenty of great careers to start in your 30s. Many of these jobs don’t require a degree. All hiring managers care about is that you can do the work. Not only can you develop the hard and soft skills you need for these fields in just a few months, but you can do so from the comfort of your own home with coding bootcamps and online courses.

Software Developer

We’ve already covered the standard salary for entry-level software developers, but that pay is partly due to the demand for new developers in the field. BLS projects that the number of software development jobs will grow by 22 percent by 2030, significantly higher than the average growth rate of 4 percent across all jobs.

Data Engineer

According to the Dice Tech Jobs Report, the demand for data engineers grew by 50 percent in 2020. This position offers an attractive entry point into the data science field, as many job openings on LinkedIn only attract a few applications after weeks of being live. This field requires many tech skills, but it’s a more straightforward path to employment than many other disciplines.

Full Stack Software Engineer

Several coding bootcamps have started full stack software engineering courses to give people a path into the tech industry. The range of options in this field means that you can find a bootcamp that fits your needs at a price and schedule that works with where you are in your career journey.

UI/UX Designer

Those eying to become UI/UX designers have a solid range of course or bootcamp options. Most software developers and engineers have varying skills or interests in design, and companies needing a robust online presence to gain an edge on the competition are hiring. This field grew by 24 percent in 2020, according to Dice.

Cloud Architect

Many businesses are using cloud services to scale their businesses seamlessly. For example, companies can now subscribe to more space from trusted brands like Amazon and Microsoft instead of maintaining server rooms. According to Dice, this field grew by 16 percent in 2020.

Guide to Changing Careers Successfully

The hardest part of changing careers is often getting started. This guide will give you a roadmap to finding happiness in a fulfilling new field. Of course, there will be plenty of speed bumps during major career shifts. However, keeping your goal in mind will help you stay motivated during the hard times.

Step 1: Take Stock of Your Skills and Interests

If you’ve decided that you want to switch career paths, you need to find out which route is best for you. You don’t have to be ready to move into your dream career immediately. Make a list of hard and soft skills you already have and all the interests that you’d like to pursue. There are also interest inventories online that can help you narrow down your preferences.

Step 2: Do Your Research

We’ve covered a few in-demand job options in this article, but maybe you’re not interested in tech. Search the Internet for jobs that might fit your interests and current skillset. You can even browse sites like Indeed.com or LinkedIn and see which job listings use the terms you’ve mentioned in your interest inventory.

Step 3: Find Out the Hard Requirements

If the field you choose to transition to generally requires a level of education that you don’t have, you may have to go back to school. However, make sure to do proper due diligence before you take any drastic steps as things are not always what they seem.

The gap between what employers ask for and the actual qualifications of the working force in a field can be staggering. Many people working in fields where job descriptions consistently ask for a bachelor’s degree don’t have degrees, according to a 2017 study from Harvard Business School.  

For example, while 67 percent of job postings for production worker supervisors required at least an undergraduate degree, only 16 percent of actual supervisors had a bachelor’s degree in 2015. 

Step 4: Put Together a Plan

Making your career roadmap is helpful in multiple ways. You’ll know exactly how long your career switch will take, and you’ll know which steps you need to take to make it happen. Focus on the skills and certifications you need to acquire before applying for jobs in your chosen field.

Step 5: Get an Education

Now that you’ve chosen a field and learned about the requirements, you can start thinking about the training or education you need to get. If you have your sights set on the tech industry, a coding bootcamp is perhaps the best option to get the training you need fast. 

Many bootcamp programs give you access to a career development adviser or career coach to guide you during the initial phases of your career transition. This career guidance will prove invaluable during the job search.

However, you can also take online coding courses. Online training courses from platforms like edX, Coursera, and Udacity are a great alternative to supplement your skillset with particular skills that you believe will help you transition to your new career.

Step 6: Get Some Experience

Once you’ve gotten the required education or training, it’s time to get some experience under your belt. Freelance work in your new field will help you sharpen your skills while also giving you a chance to interact with clients. This step can also help pad out your portfolio if that’s important in your new career.

Step 7: Acquire Certifications

After you’ve gotten some professional experience, it is time to see if there are any certifications you need for professional advancement in your field. Some careers, like cyber security, require certifications before you can even start working in the field. Others require no certification at all, but having one can boost your profile with employers. 

Step 8: Apply for Jobs

Now that you’ve gotten the education, experience, and certifications you need to get a job, it’s time to start applying. As we mentioned above, many postings that ask for degrees don’t reflect the present-day education standards in the field, so don’t be shy about applying for any position you think would be a good fit. Every rejection, whether before or after an interview, can teach you something.

Step 9: Research Your Prospective Employer

If you’ve gotten calls back for interviews, make sure to research the company before accepting an interview invitation. It is important to learn if this is a place you’d want to work at. Also, take this opportunity to prepare your answers for common interview questions. 

If you’re interviewing with multiple companies, schedule interviews with companies you’re less excited about first. That way, by the time you meet with your dream company, you’d have had plenty of practice and, hopefully, would have been able to rid yourself of some of the anxiety.

Step 10: Impress the Recruiter

The last step before you reach the finish line is to impress the recruiter during the job interview. By acquiring experience, education, and certifications, you’ve come a long way. However, this is not the time for complacency. Before you step into that interview, make sure that you are prepared as you’ll ever be and ready to make an impression. 

The Bottom Line

If you are dissatisfied with your current career, it’s never too late to change, despite what people may tell you about a midlife career change. So go out and look at what’s possible for yourself. Career changers have plenty of career options and plenty of education and training alternatives to pursue them.Before getting started in your career transition, do plenty of research, set your career goals, and draw a detailed career plan. The key to success is having the determination and courage to stick with your plans through thick and thin. Once you start your dream career and experience professional and personal fulfillment, you’ll be glad you took a chance.

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