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Career Success

How to Make a Career Change at 40 and Get Unstuck

Written by Undre Griggs
Coaching To Help Professionals And Organizations Change Their Beliefs So They Can Get Results.
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There are plenty of people who successfully made a career change at the age of 40 or above:

The Duncan Hines cake products you see in the grocery store are a good example. Hines did not write his first food guide until age 55 and he did not license his name for cake mixes until age 73.

Samuel L. Jackson made a career change and starred alongside John Travolta in Pulp Fiction at the age of 46.

Ray Kroc was age 59 when he bought his first McDonald’s.

And Sam Walton opened his first Wal-Mart at the age of 44.

I could keep going, but I think you get the point.

If you have a sound mind and oxygen in your lungs, you have the ability to successfully make a career change.

In this article, I’ll look into why making a career change at 40 or later in life seems so difficult for you, and how to make the change and get unstuck from your stagnant job.

What’s Holding You Back from Making a Career Change?

There is a flood of amazing reasons to get a new career at 40. Heck, you could argue the benefits of making a career change at any age. However, there is something a little different about making a career change at 40.

When you are 40, you probably have lots of “responsibilities” that come into the decision-making process. What do I mean by responsibilities, you ask?


Responsibilities tend to be our fears and self-doubt wrapped in a bow of logic and reason. You may say to yourself:

I have bills to pay and a family to support. Can I afford the risk associated with a career change?

What about the friends I have made over the years? I cannot just abandon them.

What if I do not like my career change as much as I thought I would? I could end up miserable and stuck in a worse situation.

My new career is so different than what I have been doing, I need additional training and certifications. Can I afford this additional expense and do I have the time to recoup my investment?

The economy is not the best and there is so much uncertainty surrounding a new career. Maybe it would be better to wait until I retire from this company in 15 years, and then I can start something new.

If you have experienced any of these thoughts, they will only pacify you for a short period of time. Whether that time is a few weeks, a few months, or even a few years.


Since you know that you prefer to do something else for a living, you start to feel stagnant in your current position.

Your reasons for inaction that used to work are no longer doing the trick. What used to be a small fissure in your dissatisfaction in your current position is now a chasm.

Ideally, you never stay in a situation until that point, but if you did, there is still hope.

Tips To Change Your Career at 40 (Or Late in Life)

You do not have to feel stagnant in your current role any longer. You can take steps to conquer your fears and self-doubt so you can accomplish your goal of changing your career. The best careers to start at 40.

The challenge of changing your career is not knowing where to begin. That feeling of overwhelm and the fear of uncertainty is what keeps most people from moving forward.

To help you successfully change your career at the age of 40, follow these four tips.

1. Value Your Time Above Money

There is nothing more valuable than your time. You are likely receiving a pay-check or two every month that is replenishing your income. Money is something you can always receive more of.

When it comes to your time, when it is gone, it is gone. That is why waiting for the perfect situation to make a career change is a wrong mindset to have.


Realistically, you will never find the perfect situation. There will always be something that could be better or a project you want to finish before you leave.

By placing your time above money, you will maximize your opportunity to succeed and avoid stagnation.

If you feel disconnected when you are at work, understand that you are not alone. According to a Gallup Poll, only 32% of U.S. employees said they were actively engaged at work.[1]

Whether you think your talents are not being properly utilized, the politics of promotion stress you out, or you feel called to do something else with your life; the time to act is now.

Do not wait until you retire in another 10 to 20 years to make a career change. Put a plan in place to get new career ideas at 40. You will thank yourself later.

2. Build a Network

Making a career change is not going to be easy, but that does not mean it is impossible.

One benefit to being further along in your career is the people you associate with are further along in their career as well.

Even if most of the people in your immediate network are not in your target industry, you never know the needs of the people with whom they associate.


A friend of mine recently made a career change and entered the real estate industry. The first thing he did was tell everyone he knew that he was a licensed real estate agent.

It was not as though he thought everyone he knew was getting ready to sell their home. He wanted to make sure he was in the front of our mind if we spoke to anyone purchasing or selling their home.

You may have had a similar experience with a financial adviser canvassing the neighborhood. They wanted to let you know they were a local and licensed financial adviser. Whether you or someone you knew was shopping for an adviser, they wanted to make sure you thought of them first.

The power of your network being further along in their career is they may be the hiring manager or decision-maker.

You want to let people know you are considering a career move early in the process, so they are thinking of you when the need arises.

Let me put it to you in the form of a question: When is the best time to let people know you have a snow shoveling business?


In the summer when there is not a drop of snow on the ground.

Let them know about your business in the summer. Then ask them if it is okay to keep in touch with them until the need arises. Then you want to spend the entire fall season cultivating and nurturing the relationship. As a result, when the winter comes around, they already know who is going to shovel their snow.

If you want to set yourself apart from your competition, start throwing out those feelers before the need arises. Then you will be ahead of your competition who waited until the snow fell to start canvassing the neighborhood.

Learn more tips on networking here.

3. Believe It Is Possible

One of the greatest mistakes people make when they want to try something new, is they never talk to people living the life they want.

If you only talk to friends who have not changed their career in 30 years, what kind of advice do you think they will give you? They are going to give you the advice that they live by. If they have spent 30 years in the same career, they most likely feel the stability of career is essential to their life.

In life, your actions often mirror your beliefs. Someone who wants to start a business should not ask for advice from someone who never started one.

A person who never took the risk of starting a business is most likely risk-averse. Consequently, they are going to speak on the fact that most businesses fail within the first five years.


Instead, if you talk to someone who is running a business, they will advice you on the difficulties of starting a business. However, they will also share with you how they overcame those difficulties, as well as the benefits of being a business owner.

If you want to overcome your fears and self-doubt associated with starting a new career at 40, you are going to need to talk to people who have successfully managed a career change.

They are going to provide you a realistic perspective on the difficulties surrounding the endeavor, but they are also going to help you believe it is possible.

Studies show the sources of your beliefs include,[2]

“environment, events, knowledge, past experiences, visualization etc. One of the biggest misconceptions people often harbor is that belief is a static, intellectual concept. Nothing can be farther from truth! Beliefs are a choice. We have the power to choose our beliefs.”

By choosing to absorb the successes of others, you are choosing to believe you can change your career at 40. On the other hand, if you absorb the fears and doubts of others, you have chosen to succumb to your own fears and self-doubt.

4. Put Yourself Out There

You are most likely going to have to leave your comfort zone to start switching careers at 40.

Reason-being, your comfort zone is built on the experiences you have lived thus far. So that means your current career is in your comfort zone.

Even though you may be feeling stagnant and unproductive in your career, it is still your comfort zone. This helps explain why so many people are unwilling to pursue a career change.


If you want to improve your prospects of launching your new career, you are going to need to attend industry events.

Whether these events are local or a large conference that everyone attends, you want to make it a priority to go. Ideally, you want to start with local events because they may be a more intimate setting.

Many of these events have a professional development component where you can see what skill-sets, certification, and education people are looking for. Here you can find 17 best careers worth going back to school for at 40.

You can almost survey the group and build your plan of action according to the responses you receive.

The bonus of exposure to your new industry is you may find yourself getting lucky (when opportunity meets preparation) and creating a valuable relationship or landing an interview.

5. Notice You Are Disengaged

Since you are reading this article, you are likely feeling unfulfilled. When you are feeling unfulfilled, you will be disengaged. But if you are undecided, you are not ready to make the change that is needed.

Before making the best career change at 40, you have to change. If you are unhappy in the workplace, you have to want to do things differently and resolve to take action.


You’ll start making progress the day you decide to change. Therefore, don’t wish. You have all it takes to make things happen. You can start your career transition today by finding the best new careers at 40, marking your calendar, and being decisive.

6. Start Gathering Information

Knowing what you want to do in life is like having several versions of yourself. While you’ve never thought of it, many versions of yourself exist in you. You must discover them by eliminating:

Faulty thinking: This is a result of fear, experience, or limiting beliefs that dictate what you can or cannot do

Old identity: The responsibilities that you’ve identified with in your life start defining you even when they don’t fit.

While this might sound like a lot of work, self-discovery usually happens with expert help. You are the least effective person when it comes to self-evaluation. You need to identify your strengths, values, and social life.

Also, look at the people who understand you well. Dig into yourself by discovering what they see in you. Some of the questions that you should consider asking them to include:

  • Where do you think I’m most valuable?
  • What are my biggest strengths?
  • What am I passionate about?
  • What drives me?

If your current position isn’t fulfilling, these questions will clarify everything. For instance, if you aren’t using your strengths, you’ll feel ineffective. If your values and beliefs are opposite to your duties in the workplace, you’ll feel disengaged. Once you have all the information that you need, you can easily come up with an action plan.

7. Identify New Possibilities

While you might not have a new idea about your career in mind, you must craft a plan and explore. Identify small adventures that you’ve always loved. Write down as many ideas as you have.

For instance, if you are passionate about conserving the environment, consider conducting extensive research and communicating with other entrepreneurs in the industry.

Just like most things in life, this step is quite difficult to work on alone. You need to come up with many ideas that will allow you to experiment and discover more about yourself.

By including relatives, friends, and colleagues, you can access and utilize lots of resources. The people around you will always have ideas that would never cross your mind. You’ll complete this step once you’ve successfully crafted at least one adventure or experiment.

8. Try Your First Experiment

After crafting at least one experiment, it’s time to try it out. A common weakness of this phase is that experiments can continue indefinitely.

Since you’ll not have quit your current job yet, it will be difficult to find the time. You can avoid losing momentum by making your experiment a project. The project needs to have a couple of things in place. They include:

  • A defined boundary for easier management
  • A concrete and clear goal
  • A series of steps to ensure that you can complete the project

After scheduling time and allocating enough resources, start the project. Have a deadline and a clear goal. When you are finished, take some time off and reflect on what you’ve learned.

9. Run Several Experiments And Find A Way To Generate Revenue

This is one of the areas where you’ll spend most of your time. You have to try out many things to find the ones that you love. For instance, one of the career changes that most people make at 40 is freelancing or consulting. The process of becoming one of the best-paid consultants in the world include:

  • Having a side hustle – a manageable freelance gig
  • Realizing that you love working for yourself although your first gig didn’t pay well
  • Finding another freelance gig
  • Increasing the streams of income – finding different clients, markets and developing new skills
  • Developing a relationship with a client who offers you a long-term contract

This is a good example that can take different twists and turns. You might realize that you don’t like the industry that you’ve gotten into. Or choose to start a business instead of going through many business ideas and finding a profitable one.

You can decide to follow where these experiments will lead you to go back to the discovery phase. Come with new experiments and find ways to generate revenue. When you experiment, you’ll easily find work that is not only satisfying but also has a greater earning potential.

By experimenting, magical things start to happen. You become certain and fear loses its grip gradually. When you work on several projects, you’ll prove to yourself that you can do anything you set your mind on.

10. Be Present Online

When you want to make a career change, it’s important to reconfigure your online presence. Focus on fine-tuning your online identity to reflect the direction that you’ve chosen to take.

Tailor your profile to the industry and role that you want. Use relevant keywords so that clients in your industry can find you. Come up with a short and precise personal statement that includes your values, interests, and dreams.

Next, choose the outlets that make sense. Does your statement resonate with Instagram or LinkedIn? Polish your profile and get active for other people to notice you. Add relevant content to your social media page to keep your audience engaged.

11. Add Fuel To Each Experiment

Most people initiate a career change by working part-time building a new identity while earning a living with their old identity. This phase is known as the Bridge Experience.

It’s made up of a series of experiences and it can take several years. You might find yourself thinking of going back to your old career. However, you can easily speed up the process and motivate yourself when things get hard. You need to:

Find Support

It’s quite difficult to go through a huge transition in life alone, especially at 40. You might get discouraged, doubt yourself, and lose perspective. To avoid this, you need to find support. Look for advisors, role models, and a coach. Meet with them as much as you can.

Choose these people wisely. You should avoid including people who rely on your stability. While they always mean well, they can be impartial. The same applies to people who are always negative. Their negativity can cloud your thinking.

Find Time to Reflect

You’ll miss lots of opportunities if all you do is work and experiment. You need downtime for your brain to process all the experiences that you’ve been through.

Take a nap, go on vacation or take a walk. In most instances, new insights usually appear during idle time. Don’t let others think for you. You have a brain that needs to be used.

Final Thoughts

Whatever the reason, if you want to change your career, you owe it to yourself to do so. You have valuable insight from your current career that can help you position yourself above others.

Start sharing your story and desire to change your career today. Attend industry events and build a mindset of belief. Is it too late to change careers at 40? No! You have everything you need to accomplish your goal, you only need to take action.


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