Embrace the Next Chapter: How to Make a Career Change at 40

Rod Danan


November 16, 2023

If you’re thinking about a career change at 40, you’re not alone.

It turns out that 39 is the average age that US workers switch to an entirely new career. And the good news is that it’s usually for the best. Research from the AIER shows that 87% of workers who change careers at 45 or older report feeling happy about their decision.

So how do you go about making a career switch that could change your life for the better? Join Prentus as we equip you with myth-busting truths, valuable benefits, and proven strategies for changing careers at 40.

Let’s dive in.

What is a career change?

A career change is a transition from one distinct profession to another.

When you change jobs (but not your career), odds are you’ll be using a familiar set of knowledge and skills. But with a career change, you’ll be developing new skills and exploring opportunities in different industries.

One in 4 job seekers are looking to change their careers entirely in 2023, via StudyFinds.org

This is why it can be so intimidating to make the switch. After all, changing careers at 40 may mean leaving a comfort zone you’ve been operating in for decades. But as many mid-career professionals have reported, there are plenty of compelling reasons to make the leap.

Looking for help as you navigate your career change? At Prentus, we offer career changers a set of tools and resources designed to speed up the search, keep you organized, and alleviate some of the anxiety that comes along with switching careers.

You’ll benefit from:

  • Community : Forge connections with a diverse network of peers and industry insiders.

  • Employer network : Open doors at companies that value your unique skill set.

  • Job tracker : Keep tabs on opportunities, deadlines, and dates with smart tools that streamline your search.

With cutting-edge AI tools at your disposal (including an AI resume generator and career coach), we make it easy to search, track, and apply for jobs with minimal effort.

Benefits of changing careers at 40

Initiating a career change at 40 is a transformative journey that lets you turn the page and start anew. Let’s explore some unique advantages this change can bring:

  • Expertise and experience : With two decades of work experience, you’ve built a valuable skill set. This experience equips you with a treasure trove of transferable skills, setting the stage for a smooth transition into your next career.

  • Discovering new passions : It's quite common for career changes to be motivated by a misalignment between profession and passion. Exploring a new career path later in life can reignite your professional enthusiasm, especially considering that more than half of the workforce feels dissatisfied in their current jobs.

  • Improved work-life balance : Are you searching for a role that offers more flexibility, or one that cuts down on commute time? A career change might be the answer to achieving a better work-life balance. Case in point— 48% of employees would leave a job if it prevented them from enjoying their life.

Work/Life balance is important to 72% of US Employees, per Zippia.com

  • Better financial prospects : Many people think about career changes when they sense their current salary doesn’t reflect their value. Around 50% of 45+ year-old career changers report higher earnings in their new roles.

How to successfully change careers at 40

1. Think about why you’re changing careers

Career changes may not be as difficult as you’ve been led to believe, but they aren’t something you want to put yourself through more times than necessary. To make sure you make the right decision, start by taking a long, critical look at your current career.

Here are some guiding questions to help you out:

  • What do you like about it? (e.g., good pay, flexible hours, social culture, etc.)

  • What do you dislike about it? (e.g., lack of growth opportunities, uninteresting work, etc.)

  • What passions do you have that could be pursued in other roles?

The goal is to find a career that you’ll love and stick with, so it’s important to recognize both the negative and positive aspects of your existing career (and your goals). Use these insights to start brainstorming roles that will give you the perfect combination of enjoyment and reward.

2. Pinpoint your transferable skills

At 40, your catalog of transferable skills is a gold mine for potential employers.

Soft skills like problem-solving, collaboration, and organizational skills are widely sought after in all kinds of industries and fields. Hard skills are often role-specific, which means they’re less transferable (unless you’re transitioning into a related role). That said, it’s important to recognize the hard skills you have that are still transferable and could be assets in a different kind of job.

The most in-demand skill for workers in 2023 is Management, via LinkedIn Learning

With this in mind—assess the skills required by your targeted roles. Start by making a two-column list of hard and soft skills you have and hard and soft skills you need (for different careers). This direct comparison identifies any gaps you should fill and highlights the skills you can transfer.

And remember—harnessing your existing skills is a proven strategy for success. The AIER Older Workers Survey found that professionals who successfully transitioned into a new career after the age of 45 reported 50% average skill overlap, while individuals who found less success in their career changes reported 14% average skill overlap.

3. Expand your skill set

Are there any major hard or soft skill gaps you need to close before you're ready to apply? Whether it's coding, problem-solving, or communication skills, taking the time to expand your skill set can pay off.

Via the American Institute for Economic Research

Consider various avenues for professional development. As we can see from the above graph, 35% of successful career switchers pursued a professional certificate, while others pursued hard and soft skill development tailored to their new careers.

Here are a few strategies for continuing education and skill development:

  • Enroll in online courses through platforms like EdX, Coursera, and Udemy.

  • Take advantage of free resources like YouTube tutorials or Skillshare classes.

  • Enroll in unaccredited courses at local colleges or universities.

  • Pursue advanced degrees or certifications.

  • Attend professional seminars and workshops.

4. Revitalize your resume and online presence

Revamping your resume and optimizing your LinkedIn profile is a must before a career change—both need to be retargeted to the type of job and industry you’re now pursuing.

To optimize your LinkedIn profile, familiarize yourself with keywords related to your new field and incorporate them into your profile. To optimize your resume, opt for a functional format that highlights your transferable skills and experience.

Not looking forward to revamping your resume and LinkedIn profile? Let Prentus take care of it for you.

Our AI tools collect information about your skills, experience, and career preferences to help with all kinds of employment tasks—generating resume bullets, writing LinkedIn profiles, and even practicing interview questions.

5. Explore new career opportunities

Speaking of job postings—delve into the latest listings and use online job hubs, guaranteeing you engage your network for fresh opportunities. Target positions that align with your interests and strengths.

To keep this process organized, use the Prentus Chrome Extension to save jobs from online job boards or the Prentus Job Board directly to our Job Tracker, so you never lose track of promising opportunities.

You use Prentus to track important dates (e.g., interviews, coaching sessions, etc.), key tasks, interview rates, and contact information. You’ll get alerts and summary emails about new opportunities and upcoming deadlines, so you never miss a beat.

6. Network, network, network

Networking is essential when shifting careers later in life, as opportunities often emerge through connections. 15% of career changers found establishing a professional network opens multiple doors, with the right introduction potentially unlocking your next career move.

Here’s how to expand and use your connections effectively:

  • Attend industry-specific events like seminars, conferences, and networking meetups to connect with potential mentors, colleagues, and employers.

  • Dive into online communities and discussion groups. Use platforms like Prentus and LinkedIn to engage in and contribute to discussions, and connect with industry leaders.

  • Volunteer your skills to gain visibility within your desired field. By offering your time and expertise to relevant causes, your commitment won’t go unnoticed.

7. Practice interviewing

If you’ve been at your current job for a while, your interview skills might be a bit rusty. Now’s the time to sharpen them up. Start by learning an interview framework to deliver well-rounded responses more consistently.

 The most popular is STAR

  • Situation : Describe the context you were in.

  • Task : Explain the goal you were trying to achieve.

  • Action : Share what steps you took to reach that goal.

  • Result : Highlight the measurable impact of your work.

This is a great way to nail behavioral questions by giving your interviewer all the key details in a logical order.

You should also practice answering interview questions—either by yourself or with the help of a coach.

Prentus offers AI mock interviews where our AI Career Coach will pose questions related to the job role and evaluate your responses. This is a great way to get comfortable with the interview process without the cost of hiring a coach.

Chart a new career course at 40 with Prentus

Your professional experience is a powerful asset that can pave the way for a successful career change. It’s a chance to recalibrate your career to fit the person you’ve become, with the bonus of potentially finding greater job satisfaction and work-life balance.

At Prentus, we support career changers with an active community and powerful tools for finding and tracking jobs, optimizing your resume, and practicing for interviews. Ready to write your success story?

Create a free account today.

Rod Danan is Founder & CEO of Prentus. He has built digital products before using software developers and learned what to look for in candidates. Feel free to email him at rod.danan@prentus.co with questions.

The all-in-one career success platform to get from learning to earning using the power of AI, community, and you.

Chat with us here or on social

© 2023 Prentus. All rights reserved.

The all-in-one career success platform to get from learning to earning using the power of AI, community, and you.

Chat with us here or on social

© 2023 Prentus. All rights reserved.

The all-in-one career success platform to get from learning to earning using the power of AI, community, and you.

Chat with us here or on social

© 2023 Prentus. All rights reserved.

The all-in-one career success platform to get from learning to earning using the power of AI, community, and you.

Chat with us here or on social

© 2023 Prentus. All rights reserved.