Career Transitions You Can Make in Your 40s and 50s

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People like to say that “age is just a number,” but when you’re the one with an established career and a life filled with responsibilities, the prospect of letting all that go to pursue a dramatic shift in your work can feel like madness. However, you’d do well not to let your doubts hold you back. Many professionals who’ve successfully transitioned their careers have found they could apply the skills from their previous jobs to their new roles.

Here are some examples of viable career transitions for people in their 40s and 50s — maybe one of them will inspire you to get started on your own journey.

Corporate to teaching

We often think of teachers as being young and straight out of college, but the best people at inspiring the younger generations are often those who have the life experience that comes with age. This is a popular choice among those who feel ready to leave the “hamster wheel” of corporate America and pursue a more fulfilling path by helping the youth of today achieve their dreams.

In fact, even Teach for America actively encourages experienced professionals to apply for its programs, saying that “25.7% of 2018 corps members were in the workforce before joining,” and some for many decades before.

As a perk, the fixed career path of getting into teaching can be less daunting for those who feel unsure about how to navigate a new career ladder for the first time.

Public sector to corporate

It’s not so uncommon to hear of people moving from the corporate world into public-sector professions, but it’s far more unusual to see things happen the other way around. Yet, it’s certainly possible — especially for those who have reached leadership positions in the public sector.

For instance, why not apply the lessons you’ve learned as a director in nursing or in a leadership role at a school to the private sector?

However, those who have solely worked in the public sector for their entire career may benefit from working with a career coach to guide them through the process. Plus, an advantage of being in a minority position is that you can more easily bond with people who’ve made a similar shift to the one you’re hoping to do — this offers great potential for networking if you’re prepared to do some research.

Entrepreneurship to business development

The idea of quitting your job to start your own business is often glorified in the media, but what about doing the opposite? It might not be talked about quite so much, but it can also be a success. 

Some people opt to go down the path of contracting or having a business for greater flexibility as they raise a family or to maximize their income, but ultimately, decide they’d prefer to find a good fit in a company to take their career to the next level.

It might feel daunting to go through the job-hunting process when your resume and background is so atypical, especially in mid-life, but the skills required to achieve success in self-employment are often in high demand among companies.

Real estate

If you’d like a change of scenery and a career path you can really dig your teeth into and reap big rewards for being successful, consider becoming a real estate agent. It’s a career that involves interacting with others to sell and understanding the local market you’re selling in, both of which hold high appeal to many individuals considering a career transition.

Real estate is often a popular choice among those who may not have the right qualifications for other roles, because the only requirement for most states is to obtain your license.

IT to cybersecurity

The cybersecurity sector is growing fast, with information security analyst jobs reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to grow 33% between 2020 and 2030, which is significantly above the national average for all jobs.

This isn’t a career that absolutely everyone can transition to in their 40s and 50s — you’re going to need some technical knowledge to achieve success. However, for those who have already worked in other areas of IT, cybersecurity is the perfect area to consider if you’d like to try something a little different with great potential for earning and progression.

What’s holding you back?

The longer you stay in your comfort zone, the harder it becomes to break out. You might not think of your career as a “comfort zone” if you’re currently struggling with your job, but it’s certainly the option you’re more familiar with.

No matter which sector you’re coming from or what your experience looks like, it’s never too late to make a fulfilling and successful career shift in your 40s and 50s. Besides, the door will most likely be open to your old life if you ever want to go back.