A Guide for Career Change at 40 

Covid-19 raised a lot of important questions for many people. At H-Training we have heard many of these within our career coaching work and they are worthy of further consideration. In our experience people want to know the following:  

  • What happens when your work no longer reflects your values?  
  • What do you do when your job is no longer aligned with what you want or need from life?  
  • How do you move laterally when your career pathway has been linear all along?  

For most professionals working nearly two decades in one area, a career change at 40 is daunting. 

This article provides an in-depth review of the current trends in the Irish job market, unpacking what you need to know in order to make the best decision around your career change. We will look at the current hiring and releasing conditions, you need to know when faced with the prospect of a career change at 40.  

There are many benefits and challenges for anyone considering a change, particularly important at this point in their career. This process can be exhilarating and provide you with the opportunity to inject new life into your career before applying practical steps for getting started.   

Changing career pathways in 2023 

Many workers reported staying in roles due to a range of factors. These included  

  • uncertainty created by the pandemic 
  • feeling burned out, new priorities and values 
  • resistance to the idea of giving up remote working.  

The pandemic in many ways contributed to a trend of mass resignation referred to as the Great Resignation. Emerging from a period of significant restriction and stress – with much of the workforce juggling home-schooling, caring for older relatives, service disruptions and working from home – it makes sense that workers began to prioritise work/life balance.  

LinkedIn data indicates that three in five Irish professionals intend to change roles in the next twelve months. This is attributed to the search for better wages, flexible working conditions, different management structures, and enhanced work culture, along with burnout and stress.  Coupled with data from the CSO, the indication is that more than 1.4 million workers were thinking about an alternative career pathway last year. LinkedIn data from 2023 indicates 59% of Irish workers are considering a job change this year. Layoffs across tech and multinational companies have limited people acting toward the end of 2022. This against a backdrop of a hiring decline of 12.7% from last year makes the market more competitive. 

Considering a career change at 40 

Whatever your reasons for leaving, a career change is a big decision. There are so many factors which will encourage you to stay in your comfort zone; you might feel as though you are abandoning your area of expertise, relationships, professional network and reputation. 

These concerns are compounded by practical considerations like the challenge of establishing yourself in a new career, financial responsibilities and the impact of the change on your personal life. And still, the prospect of staying in a role you dislike or are no longer aligned with may be overwhelming.  It’s important to consider your circumstances before deciding.  

Advantages and disadvantages of changing career at 40 

There are benefits and challenges in approaching a new career at any age. If you are considering changing career at 40, it’s likely this has been informed by your feelings over time.  

The reasons for a career change may be to enter a more desirable area, or simply away from your current role. In any case, it represents a need that is not being met perhaps purpose, finance, working conditions, or social factors are lacking. It’s important to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of a prospective career change. 

Advantages 

Transferable skill set 
  • Whatever the differences between your desired career and the one you’re in now; it’s likely that you have developed transferable skills and experience which can be marketed to a new industry. Although technical skills are essential in accomplishing specific technical tasks, transferable skills are the competencies that allow you to complete tasks well. For instance, a skilled project manager would have the competency to effectively deal with employees and processes despite a gap in technical expertise.  
Improved mental health and wellbeing 
  • The CIPD notes that one in four people experience mental health issues at some point in their lives, with adverse effects on employee well-being and may contribute to long-term absence from employment. Several studies have reported increased levels of burnout in the period surrounding the Covid crisis. While you can experience “frenetic” burnout from being overwhelmed and overworked, you may also develop burnout from “boreout” by feeling under-challenged or not stimulated enough by your work environment. As such, a work environment which does not align with an individual’s wants or needs may impact their overall well-being. While changing career can be a difficult transition which creates anxiety, work that is experienced as satisfying, meaningful, and contributes to personal growth is linked to better mental health.  
Enhanced career resilience 
  • When people experience a disruption or change in their careers, they need to engage with learning and personal development to progress. This contributes to enhanced reflection and information-seeking skills, strengthening career resilience, and in turn more positive career self-management behaviour. This generally reshapes a person’s ‘career plot’ to promote the feeling of being in control and having the ability to adapt.  As such, the literature suggests that attempting to resolve dissatisfaction with current career will have far-reaching benefits in terms of increased job satisfaction, achievement of organisational objectives and better career outcomes. Ultimately, changing career may give you a new sense of purpose, providing the opportunity to lead a life that more accurately reflects your values or career objectives.  

Disadvantages 

Financial cost 
  • There may be a tangible financial cost to changing careers; whether it’s having to take a lower salary to break into a new industry, additional travel costs or paying for childcare to support alternative working hours. There is a dreaded unknown around financially adjusting to moving into a new area. At 40, you’re also more likely to have financial responsibilities which require careful consideration. It would be recommended that you create a plan around covering your mortgage or rent, bill payments, childcare, healthcare and savings to ensure that these costs are mapped out. 
Competing responsibilities 
  • When facing the decision of whether to change careers at this point in your life, it is understandable that you would weigh the competing responsibilities. Perhaps you have children, a mortgage to pay or care for a relative. Changing careers may require additional training, education or time to establish yourself, this may compromise your ability to deliver on existing responsibilities. Successful career transition may also rely on the support of a spouse, partner or parent, which may require them to take time off from their own work or provide additional financial support. When there is a spouse or partner in the picture, career progression or movement will affect them, and consultation is required. Although these practicalities are an important consideration, making them the defining consideration is a mistake.  
Starting fresh 
  • The challenge of establishing yourself in a new career is daunting – moving out of an area you consider yourself an expert in, finding time to learn new skills or undertake training, and even getting to know the landscape of new stakeholders – all very challenging. Particularly along with the practicalities of life that are likely to run parallel to your career. This said you have undoubtedly demonstrated resilience in the face of challenges throughout your career.  

How to change career 

There are several steps which are suggested to simplify the transition for you before you ever reach out to that recruiter or respond to that job advertisement.  

Clarify and understand your intention 

Spend time reflecting on why you are unhappy with your current career path. Create a list of the reasons for leaving Is it that your current role requires out-of-hours work, or do you feel there isn’t the progression you had hoped for? 

Invert these to clarify that the role you are looking for has a more definitive work/life balance, has a more emerging management structure or is seeking someone for a leadership position. Expand on this to highlight things that would attract you to a new organisation or industry. Take time to evaluate this list; can you change things within your current position to align with what you are looking for? 

Research opportunities 

If you’re not sure of your desired destination, identify your opportunities using a variety of resources; engage with your professional and social networks, LinkedIn, Glassdoor and other career resources to research what opportunities are open to you. 

Consider career coaching or career guidance to get support around career choice and transition. Perhaps you’re already aware of what you would like to move into and would like to make a progression plan. 

If so, utilise these resources to map out your existing competencies and what would be required in this new role. Having these discussions can also identify entry points into organisations and clarify your competitive advantage in approaching them. 

Capitalise on your skills 

Another useful step in transitioning to a different career is to identify the ways in which skills from your current career can be transferred to a new area. Pinpointing these effectively within a CV or application format is likely to satisfy the competencies of a role in a different area. The table below outlines a range of transferable skills: 

Communication Listening Coordination Analytical reasoning 
Project management Technological literacy Dependability Initiative 
Data analysis Research Critical thinking Attention to detail 
Budgeting Collaboration Leadership Problem-solving 
Delegating Sales Public speaking Establishing rapport 
Report writing Planning Empathy Time management 
Organisation Actioning buy-in Management Record keeping 
Negotiation Conflict resolution Decision making Teamwork 
Mentoring Persistence Synthesising Adaptability 

If you have identified a desired role, consider the competencies being assessed. What elements from the above table demonstrate these? Having identified several of these, use concrete examples to comprehensively outline how you have embodied these skills.  

If you have not yet identified a pathway out of your existing career, it may be beneficial to identify the most applicable skills from the above table. Reflect on which of these you enjoy most, and which have delivered outcomes for you. Outline concrete examples of how you have incorporated these skills and the key results of this. 

Being able to market your “soft skills” will place you in a stronger position to change careers, as employees with strong transferable skills tend to have the capacity to go beyond the scope of their role to deliver results. Evidence suggests that investment in soft skills will account for higher productivity in the workplace. These skills are not only important from an economic perspective but also more significant due to the increasing reliance on automation for repetitive technical tasks. 

Build experience 

In seeking new opportunities, it’s important that you can identify commitment and knowledge of this new area. It is anticipated that there would be a gap in knowledge, given your experience in a particular area in your career to date. 

There may be part-time courses available which provide introductory training or accreditation in elements of this new area. It’s important to start this preparation once you have made the decision to change careers, as this will inform your suitability for an interview when that desired role arises. It’s unlikely that you will have time to build a history of commitment to the area before the application date closes. 

It would be recommended that you identify one or two gaps in knowledge which can be targeted with education, training, internship or volunteer work. Even taking time to develop a functional understanding of these areas will be beneficial in applying for the desired role. 

Prepare for application submission and interview 

online job interview between a woman and a man for a career change at 40

Having identified a desired role or area, the focus must now shift to the specific hiring process of the organisation. This can be particularly challenging, given that applicants may only have experience with a specific type of application and interview process.  

Application form development is a crucial part of successful recruitment. Unlike the traditional CV submission, in an application, it’s likely you will be required to present your history and experience in a way that specifically addresses the competencies of the role being applied for. If you feel you require additional support with this, H-Training offers an application development service to assist you in creating a strong application which makes a distinct impression on the recruiting panel. 

Competency-based interviews have become one of the most widely used techniques within the hiring process.  The competency-based interview assesses whether the candidate has the requisite knowledge, skills and attributes for the post. We have previously written about interview preparation but feel free to reach out to us if you require further assistance in preparing for your interview. Additional resources are available for Emotional Intelligence Assessment and Corporate Group Interview Training

Conclusion 

Having discussed prevailing factors in the Irish job market and factors which are relevant to the idea of a career change at 40, it is hoped that readers will have more of an insight into what career change might look like in the current Irish job market.  After outlining the benefits/challenges relevant to professionals considering a change in career, it has summarised a series of practical steps to simplify this process. 

Let H-Training Help You Change Careers 

With career change being a focal point among clients accessing H-Training services the team are alive to the sense of conflict.  Clients who have been in the same organisation or role for several years often find it difficult to locate a jumping-off point or plan around this transition. These concerns are communicated with a real sense of urgency given considerations like age, financial situation, competing responsibilities, and lack of training or experience. 

H-Training provides a range of learning and development services, including career guidance for adults and career coaching, application form development, interview coaching, competency-based interview support and corporate group interview training. If you need assistance in career planning or progression, feel free to contact us

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