Is 40 too late to start over?
I hear this question a lot. They surface from aspiring career changers I coached over the last couple of years. I even heard this question surface numerous times in my own head.
A year prior to turning 40 I felt a mixture of boredom, burnout, and disconnectedness from my career. And if I’m being really honest with myself, those feelings existed in different forms and intensity levels across the three to four years before that.
Ten months shy of my 40th birthday, I decided to quit my comfortable corporate senior role and a career I spent over fifteen years building to go all in on something new. I became a career changer and started working on building my company, Pelora Stack, as a first-time entrepreneur and career coach.
Now I get to use the skills I gained from my previous experience and my own lived experience as a career changer to help womxn who are working towards their own career changes. An overwhelming amount of my clients are in their late 30s or 40s. Their doubts, fears, and limiting beliefs are generally consistent with how I felt before I made my own career change.
- Am I ready to start all over at 40?
- I’m scared. Do I really want to start over at 40?
- It took so long to reach this point in my career. It feels like I wasted all that time if I do something new.
- I’m (insert age) and I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.
- I’m not sure if I have enough experience and skills to do this the right way.
- I think I aged out of tech. Can I really compete with people who are younger than me?
- I want to do something entirely different, but I don’t think my skills will transfer.
- I’m afraid that if I don’t do something now, I’m going to regret it when I turn 50.
- I’m so overwhelmed and don’t know where to even begin.
After coaching numerous clients in their 40s, one key takeaway is that this decade in your life is an optimal time for a change. Here are five reasons why.
1. Knowledge and perspective
This one is listed first intentionally. The best part about changing careers later in life is that you’ve accumulated so much knowledge and perspective to guide your decision. You know how things work in a company. You know how decisions are made. You know that things don’t happen overnight and take time. You know that anything with a big reward requires an investment in time and focus. You understand the risks involved. You lived and learned.
2. Transferable skills
One of my favorite career change stories is about an advertising executive who quit his job in his late 40s to pursue his passion for craft beer. To learn more, he did an internship at an NYC brewery. I can’t imagine how much courage and confidence it took for him to go from his executive role (with the executive salary) and become an intern at 48!
Over time he learned the craft, started a brewery, and created a line of craft beer. Even though he worked in a different industry, he transferred the skills he gained in advertising to develop this cool brand and beer experience.
We can get discouraged by not giving ourselves credit for all the skills we acquired over our lifetime. Think about how the skills you learned in your youth helped you in early adulthood. Then the skills you learned in your youth and early adulthood were helpful when navigating your professional experience. The skills you gained in the past build upon one another and get repurposed when you change careers.
And in case you’re wondering, the beer brand that the former ad executive created is called SingleCut and the company’s mission statement is “mastery knows no shortcut”. I’ll let that last bit sink in.
3. Expanded Network
The number of people you know, interacted with, worked with, and know personally will expand each year. This is your network and social capital.
When I left my previous career to become an entrepreneur, I was able to get a running start. That’s because I had family, friends, past colleagues, communities, and other folks I developed a relationship with throughout my lifetime. They were people who offered to make introductions, amplified what I was working on with their network, asked me to be a guest on their podcast, offered to promote my brand on social media, provided resources that I didn’t know about, and the list goes on.
When you step out to do something new and make it known to people in your network, they will show up for you in a number of ways. The benefit of doing this in your 40s is that you have more people and offers to explore.
4. You know what you want (and don’t want)
Nearly all of my clients who are seeking a career change know what they want and what they don’t want. They show up with a target industry, role, title, salary, manager profile, company culture, location, etc. They are also firm on what they don’t want.
This list is derived from personal experience, people they talked to, things they witnessed, information they read, or stories they heard. The reason why they’re so firm and filled with conviction is because of time spent learning and self-reflecting on this for many years.
5. Personal motivation
The motivation to initiate and pursue a change is usually driven by something very personal and meaningful.
“I’m doing this to be an example for my children”.
“I’m investing in myself”.
“I want more for myself”.
“If I don’t do it now, I know I will regret it in the future”.
“I’m tired of working so hard and not making enough money”.
“I know I have a lot more in me to be successful by doing something else”.
This is what I hear when clients share the reason why they’re seeking a change. Time provides valuable perspective on what matters most and what your priorities are. This is what triggers action towards change.
To get started on your career change, begin by designing your road map and follow these 8 steps:
- Identify your goal.
- Clarify the motivation behind your career change ambition.
- Develop a list of actions or steps to take.
- Create a timeline.
- Compile a list of milestones that indicate when you made progress towards your goal.
- Create a list of people who can help you achieve your goal.
- Generate a list of resources you can refer to for information.
- Develop a back-up plan or route if things don’t go according to your well-laid plans. Just in case.
Your knowledge, transferrable skills, expanded network, clarity on what you want (or don’t want), and motivation is the leverage you have to make a successful career change in your 40s. It’s up to you to decide how you want to put it to work for future you.