Can You Change Your Career Later in Life?

Think you’re too old to make a career change? Think again. World-renowned clothing designer Vera Wang was 40 when she gave up journalism to enter the fashion industry. And Ray Kroc was 52 when he stopped selling milkshake mixers and bought McDonalds, turning it into one of the world’s largest fast food franchises.

The idea that once you’re in your 40s and 50s you might as well stick it out until retirement is a common misconception that more and more people are proving wrong. With the global economic climate being what it is and the average age of retirement rising, the number of people working well into their 60s and 70s is on the up, too. Even if you’re 50 now, you could have 20 working years ahead of you. Are you sure you want to keep doing what you’re currently doing for another couple of decades?

Should you consider a career change?

It turns out that there are as many reasons why people change careers as there are people who make the change. Some of the common threads include:

  • Reducing stress: If you’ve climbed the ladder at your current job over the years, chances are you’ve acquired some heavy responsibilities in the process. Craving a break from those late nights and tight deadlines can be an important catalyst.
  • Learning something new: The brain is a muscle and, like all the others in your body, needs to be exercised. A nine-to-five in front of Excel spreadsheets isn’t going to excite you anymore if your mind wants to put your law degree to use.
  • Pursuing passions: The need for financial security early in life might have prevented you from following your dreams earlier on in your career. If that’s the case, you might find that now’s the time to take a risk and open that restaurant you’ve been dreaming of for years.

How to make the change

There’s no doubt that changing course after years in the same industry or position is daunting, but here are a few steps that can help make the transition easier:

  • Investigate your new career: If you’re changing tracks completely, make sure you know what skills and expertise your new line of work requires. Brush up if necessary: take a course or volunteer part-time to get you up to speed.
  • Use your network: Get the word out to old colleagues and friends that you’re looking for a change. Your experience and reputation are tools you should use to your advantage.
  • Be flexible: Pay cuts and different working hours might be things you need to consider. Weigh up the pros and cons of your old life and your potential new one. You might find that you’re willing to make a few financial and logistical adjustments in exchange for your happiness.

Changing careers later on in life is not unlike starting one for the first time: a little self-belief and perseverance go a long way. Make use of your experience and have courage. If you do, you may find that the rewards far outweigh the risks you’ve taken to get there.


Choosing the right medical aid is no joke, but we’ll leave you smiling.