Changing Careers After 45, What You Need Know

career May 20, 2021
Mature black woman working on laptop

I've made a few significant pivots in my career out of both necessity and choice. However, when I reached 50, I decided to make a more radical career change because I wanted to do work that I enjoyed and was meaningful to me.

Of course, it shocked my colleagues that I was giving up an executive-level position in academia along with the income and prestige that accompanied my job. But if you've been lying in bed at night staring at the ceiling, can’t seem to focus when you get into the office or feel your work challenges creeping into your personal life as I did, then it's probably a sign that change is necessitated.

While I'm not suggesting you follow my path, I want to encourage you that it's never too late to make such a move. Whether it's into your own entrepreneurial venture or a complete career change, you can make the shift successfully as so many others have before you.  After all, given the average person changes jobs 10 to 15 times throughout their career, it's only natural, and probably about time, for you to make a shift.

If you're like most women in their 40s, you have an increased sense of confidence in what you've accomplished over the years. This is particularly true if you're at the height of your career ladder. So now is a great time to leap.

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In addition, if you have no intention of retiring at 65, wouldn't you rather spend the next 25+ years of your life doing something you love, and that brings you joy?

Change is scary at any age, but I firmly believe the status quo can often be worse than leaping into the unknown. So, if you're in your 40s or 50s and wondering what to do, here are a few things you need to know to make the shift. 

Start a Side Hustle

If you're exploring the idea of entrepreneurial life and don't have the luxury of leaving your full-time job just yet, start doing what you love before or after work and on the weekends. You'll not gain some insight into what it means to work for yourself, but you'll satisfy your desire to do work you really love. You'll also gain experience and build credibility in your new field that you'll be able to leverage should you decide to leap full-time.

Tap Into Your Network

Here's where social media can be used to your advantage. If you're seeking to change careers or industries, seek out colleagues, former business associates, supervisors you remain friendly with, and friends who are working in positions, companies, or industries that interest you. Learn if they're hiring, information about the work culture, and your skills and experience would be of interest to the organization. Who you know still matters, and you can use social media to tap into your vast array of connections.

Update Your Skills

Unless your new career or venture requires a degree or certification, don't take on the time or expense of more education. This doesn't mean you don't need to bring your skill sets into the 21st century.  I'm not ashamed to admit that my kiddos knew more about Google docs, Google Drive and Dropbox long before I did.  Technology seemingly moves at the speed of light, so if you need to update your tech skills, it's an easy fix. 

Take Stock

Women are notorious for undervaluing their skills and abilities, particularly when they come naturally. However, keep in mind that your skills and abilities didn't always come naturally to you. They were honed and developed over time. Now is not the time for humility. Instead, you need to show off your confidence, any accolades you've received, and any contributions you've made in your current company or your community. Paint a picture for your potential employer showing how your experience will fit in perfectly with the company. Also, learn to leverage your knowledge into your entrepreneurial venture. Remember, even if you're starting something new, your skills and experience are most likely transferrable.  

Seek Support

We all have blind spots. Those places where we don't know what we don't know. This is "unconscious incompetence," one of the four stages of competence.  The best way to uncover these blind spots is through coaching and mentorship. Seeing a mentor in your new field or industry of choice will give you inside information that you'll be able to use to your advantage in the job search process. Similarly, a career coach can support you in gaining clarity on what you really want to do and explore, how to mine and leverage your skills and experience, crafting a timeline to leap, and helping you avoid wrong turns and detours that may take you off track. 

Do The Math

The number one reason women don't leap at the height of their careers is money. While you may have a great amount of confidence and experience, you most likely have a great amount of financial responsibility. Kids in college, aging parents, mortgages, medical expenses, and lifestyle choices may make it feel like you have to stay put or that you have few to no options. That's not necessarily true. Take stock of your expenses and figure out how much you need to cover your lifestyle and what expenses can be cut. You may also want to evaluate your lifestyle and figure out what's really important to you. For example, if traveling is more important than luxurious furnishings, you may want to change where you're spending your money.


Changing careers after 45 is not without its challenges. Options aren't limited, but age/gender bias, unfortunately, maybe at play. But I want you to lean into whatever fears you may be having because you got this! There's truly never a bad time to change careers; the key is just finding out what you really want to do.

If you need help identifying the meaningful work you're meant to do in the world without sacrificing everything you've worked for, going back to school, or losing your income, then learn more about what's holding you back and then get access to my proven framework that will get you from where you are now to where you want to be.

Remember, at midlife, the only move that matters is your next one!

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