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Society expects us to choose our career path early and stick to this plan until retirement. These expectations are slowly beginning to loosen, however, with many disenchanted individuals switching their approach long after they’ve earned their first degree and entered the workforce. Increasingly, employees older than 40 feel validated in their decision to leave professions with which they feel uninspired. If planned carefully, such transitions can prove both manageable and rewarding.

Taking the plunge into a new career can be scary, even if you boast a range of transferable skills. This transition is that much more nerve-wracking if you’re 40 or older and accustomed to career stability. That being said, a new career is far from out of reach. Follow the steps outlined below to get on the path to a more rewarding career:

Determine Your Goal

After years of feeling pigeonholed into a narrow career path, options for change may seem limited. In reality, however, you can take your new career in almost any direction imaginable. To succeed, you will need to determine your end goal. While you may diverge slightly from this objective over time, the mere act of setting a goal will spur you to move forward.

Defining your goal may require extensive soul-searching. Reflect on your talents, your passions, and your career successes thus far. How can you transfer your greatest strengths into a new profession? What can you do to most closely align your passion with your work? These questions are not easily answered, but they warrant introspection. As a professional over the age of 40, you enjoy decades worth of insight, which could prove invaluable as you determine which direction to take next.

Articulate Why

Once you’ve identified who you want to be next and what you want to accomplish, you’ll need to determine why. This question is critical; few professionals enjoy fulfillment for long without believing that their efforts matter.

When the going gets tough, you’ll want to know why, exactly, you’ve opted for the challenge of switching careers. The sooner you articulate your reasons, the more inspired you will feel throughout a potentially challenging transition. Draft lists of reasons outlining why your current career is no longer an ideal fit—and how the next step will lead to a more fulfilling way of life.

The why of changing careers will differ dramatically from one person to the next. For some, this will center largely on compensation. Others may be eager to explore untapped passions or make a difference in their community. Identify what, exactly, has drawn you to your next career path.

Assess Your Resources

While you may initially assume that you lack the resources or support necessary to move forward with a career change, you may enjoy far more advantages than are immediately apparent. What’s more, many resources that currently seem out of reach can be attained with a little extra effort. The following resources could prove especially valuable as you seek your dream job:

  • Education

Do you already hold a degree in a subject related to your desired profession? If not, consider whether returning to school might help. Armed with a shiny new degree and up-to-date knowledge, you will emerge from your academic program feeling better prepared to take on the modern challenges of your chosen profession. Beyond refreshing your academic resume, you’ll want to determine whether any new certificates or licenses are needed to make your career change official.

  • Network

As an accomplished professional, you’ve likely already built a strong network. That network may be far more relevant to your new job than you initially suspect. Continue to expand your network, using current contacts to get in touch with those more closely aligned with your new field. Keep in mind that friends and family members can also provide valuable support and opportunities during this exciting time.

  • Finances

Career transitions can prove costly. Ideally, you will have built up sufficient savings over the years to fund your new journey. While you may lose income or need to invest in training, these costs could add up significantly to ensure not only a better salary but also a more fulfilling approach to your career and your life.

Do Your Research

Do you understand the realities of your new profession? Or do you carry an idealized view of your desired job? In-depth research may prove necessary as you determine whether a career transition is actually in your best interests. Thankfully, in the internet age, you enjoy exceptional access to career information. Read up on your desired job, examining a range of sources to determine the potential benefits and downsides. Networking will also help you in this endeavor; often, the most valuable insights arrive during candid conversations with current employees. Also, find out if you need a graduate degree in order to make the career change. Do your due diligence to understand everything you need to know about what is involved.

Take a Calculated Risk—And Take the Plunge

Detailed research is important, but at some point, you’ll need to take a leap of faith and hope for the best. Don’t succumb to the cycle of procrastination that keeps so many professionals stuck in jobs they dislike. If necessary, develop a detailed transition plan featuring baby steps that you can take as you strive to achieve your ultimate goal. With each accomplishment, you’ll feel that much more confident—and that much more capable of pulling off a major career change.

Continue to Evolve

Don’t be too disappointed if your second career doesn’t prove as rewarding or as exciting as expected. In today’s workforce, it is common for professionals to change paths multiple times. Think of your ‘failed’ career exploration as an opportunity to build new skills and get a better sense of your ultimate goal. The more open you are to change, the more capable you will be of embracing exciting new opportunities—regardless of your age.

A new career path is well within reach after your 40th birthday. With a little intuition and a lot of hard work, you can move into a profession that checks off all the boxes while granting you the fulfillment you’ve desired all along.

Are you ready to make your move? Let Post University give you the academic help and personal support you need to pursue the career of your dreams. Learn more about our career-building online and on-campus programs today.