How to make a career change at any age
No matter what age you are, changing careers can be one of the most challenging and rewarding decisions of your life.
Changing careers at 20
Maybe you fell into a job after school and are only now starting to realise it's not something you can see yourself doing for the long haul. Or perhaps after spending the last four years at university, you're only now realising that your 'dream career' isn't all it was cracked up to be.
Whatever your situation, you might be feeling guilty or even irresponsible for considering a new career path so early in your working life. But contrary to what your friends or even your parents might say, your 20s are actually a great time to change careers.
In your 20s you've got time on your side. If you want to go back and get a qualification in a completely different area, you can. You've still got your whole career in front of you, so it's better to find out what you really want to do now, rather than waiting 10 or 20 years to follow your passion.
Plus if you're in your 20s, chances are you don't yet have other commitments such as mortgages or children to consider. And if you're still living at home, returning to full time study is a financially-achievable option at this stage of your life.
Having less commitments also means you're able to consider more radical career changes that require moving interstate or even overseas. Maybe now's the time to pursue a musical career in Sydney or teach English in South Korea.
If you're worried about the money you've 'wasted' on your previous studies, you shouldn't be. Staying in a career you hate just because you spent $40,000 on a degree isn't going to help you in the long run. Plus, depending on your new field of study, you might be able to get some credit towards a new qualification.
But even if you choose to go in a completely different direction, you can take the soft skills you've learnt during previous study or work – such as time management, team work, and communication – into your new career.
Changing careers at 30
By now you probably thought you'd have your life together. But what if your best laid plans didn't turn out the way you hoped?
If you're thinking about starting a new job in your 30s, take the time to think of what transferable skills you've developed in your current role that you could take with you into a new industry. Skills such as leadership, project management, and critical thinking are highly valued in almost any workplace.
Another option to consider in your 30s is a move sideways. The traditional view of a career is like a ladder – you slowly climb the rungs until you reach the top. Today however, your career is more likely to resemble a winding road, curving up, sideways, and sometimes even down until you reach your desired destination.
So before you decide to leave your company altogether, consider if you could move to a different department that might suit your interests and career goals better. The best part about this type of career change is that you'll likely be able to keep your current salary and benefits while starting afresh in a new field.
If you know you hate your current role but have no idea what you want to do, you're not alone. Remember that there are many other careers out there that you might not even be aware of that could be perfect for you.
The only way for you to discover them is to start exploring. Join a group of other career changers and ask them for ideas, see if you can shadow someone in a career you're interested in, take a personality-career quiz, or try out a short course in an area you're thinking of studying. Every new experience will tell you more about what you like and don't like, helping you uncover what you're really passionate about.
Changing careers at 40
By the time you're in your 40s, it's likely that your priorities may have changed. Maybe work-life balance is more important than income now that you have a family. Or perhaps by now the kids have left home and you've got the time to reevaluate your career.
If you're considering a midlife career change, you might be concerned about 'throwing away' 20+ years of experience in your industry. But the truth is, these skills will mean you're highly valued by employers.
By now you're an expert in your area and would be an asset to any team. If you can show potential employers you're passionate about the industry and you know how to help solve their problems, you're well on your way to establishing yourself in a new industry.
The other benefit of being a more 'mature' worker is that you've no doubt built up a substantial network of peers. Make sure you reach out to these networks when you're looking for new opportunities, as the old adage 'it's not what you know but who you know' still stands today for a reason.
But what about getting a qualification? Most people at this stage in life don't have the time or money to go back to full time study. But the good news is you don't have to. These days there are flexible study options including online, part-time, micro-credentials, and short courses that can get you re-skilled quicker and more affordably than ever before.
Changing careers at 50
If you're in your 50s, you might think the ship has sailed on a career change. But don't despair – it's never too late to learn something new. Plus, with the retirement age increasing to 67 in 2023, you could still have nearly 20 years of work ahead of you, which might seem like a life sentence if you're stuck in a job you hate.
At this stage in your life, it's time to put yourself first. Think about what you've always wanted to do and then go out and do it.
If you want to do a complete 180 and change careers entirely, you'll probably need some formal training. A qualification will not only give you the skills and knowledge you need to hit the ground running in your new career but it will also help build up your confidence. This is especially important if you're feeling apprehensive about starting out in a new industry.
By this time in your career you will have honed your skills, had many experiences and gained a wealth of knowledge in your chosen field. Why not share your skills and expertise with others? Becoming a teacher, mentor or career advisor can let you use your existing skills in a new way.
If you're still worried about starting a new career at 50, then consider this. While you might be starting over in a new role, you'll bring with you maturity and years of experience, making you a far more attractive candidate to an employer than a graduate straight out of university. Plus, with so many varied skills under your belt, you'll be well placed to quickly progress up the ranks in your chosen field.
How TAFE Queensland can help
TAFE Queensland can help you change careers at any age. We offer a range of industry-recognised courses that can help you retrain and get started in your new career sooner. With part-time and online study options and a range of funding and payment options available, getting started in your new career has never been easier.