Changing your career at 45+ years old? Yes, it’s possible!


In today’s job market, we no longer expect to have a job for life in the same way our parents did. Employers now see regular job changes on a CV as something positive. It shows that you are brave to change jobs and have a willingness to learn and adapt.

Changing jobs in your mid-40s is perhaps not something that worries you. But what if you entirely want to change your career direction?

You’ve only got through phase one of your professional life

A career lifespan is about 45 years, assuming you work from the age of 22 to 67. In some cases, you might want to, or have to, work for longer. So when you’re in your mid-40s, you are entering the second half of your career.

You can view your career in two phases:

  1. From the age of 22 to 45, you lay the groundwork for your career and gain experience.
  2. From 46 until your pension, you reap the rewards from your hard work from the first half of your working life.

By the time you enter this second phase, you’ve already had a few employers and gained plenty of experience. The question is, did you make the right choices for yourself in phase one? Or have you or your circumstances changed so that your decisions in phase two are no longer a good fit?

You have at least 20 years of working life ahead of you in your mid-40s. So it’s worth reflecting on your career so far and making a plan for the future.

Do you need a career shift or a completely new direction?

For effective career management, reviewing how things have gone so far is essential.

Ask yourself:

  • Did your career develop the way you planned it?
  • What was your idea of success in your career 20 years ago?
  • How do you define success today?
  • Has your definition of success changed?
  • Where do you stand now?

These answers can help you decide whether you need to make some necessary adjustments to your career or opt for a complete change. Here are a few more questions that can help you decide:

Reasons why you might want a complete career change

Perhaps the answer to the above questions is that your career hasn’t gone as planned or that it’s no longer a good fit for you. Maybe you can’t get to where you want to be in your current career, or you don’t actually like what you do.

Other reasons for changing your career could be:

  • You want to learn new things
  • You want to follow your passion and interests
  • You want a less stressful career
  • You want to slow down
  • You want to feel fulfilled at work

As you have at least 20 working years ahead of you, it might be worth thinking about changing careers. This is, after all, no longer frowned upon.

Simple questions to get clarity on your new career

So perhaps a new career is something you’d like, and you’re willing to put the work in. But you have no idea what this new career should be. Maybe this is the hardest part for you. How do you even begin to find out?

To start, ask yourself some questions to get clarity on what type of job suits you now:

  • What is important to me in my work? What are my values?
  • What motivates me?
  • What are the skills that I enjoy using the most?
  • Which issues are close to my heart?
  • In which environment do I thrive?
  • Who do I like to work with?

Embrace your strengths in your search for your new career

When you’re not clear about what new career you want to pursue, do a skills audit. See what your skills are, what transferable skills you have, and what new things you need to learn. You might need another qualification and go back to school to study. Getting clarity on your current transferable skills and other strengths is a critical step in your journey towards a fulfilling new career.

Your strengths could, for instance, look like this:

  • You have a certain amount of work experience.
  • You can be flexible if your children are older.
  • You have learnt to remain calm during stressful situations.
  • You are a good mentor.

Complete an honest reality check on your lifestyle before changing your career

This is not to say that you should throw away your old career without thinking about it. You also need to consider your current situation. There are many financial and practical questions to ask yourself:

  1. How much do you need to earn to have the lifestyle you want?
  2. Will your new career be able to support you in those needs? And can you afford to support yourself during a transition period?
  3. Will you need to take a pause from work to retrain, and can you afford it?
  4. Do you have time, and are you willing to put the effort in to retrain?
  5. What does the job outlook look like for your new career? Is the job market for this job expected to be good?
  6. What is the demographic profile in your new career? How would you feel working in that environment?
  7. How long will it take you to establish yourself in your new career?
  8. Do you have the support you need to change your career?

Answering these questions should help you decide if your new career is right for you.

Stay strong and focused while you unlock your new fabulous career

Now, it’s time to use your network to find your next job. Be active on LinkedIn and let everyone know what you’re looking for. But make sure you have realistic expectations. It might take a little while to find the job that suits you. So be patient and don’t take rejections personally. 


Marie Dewulf is a career clarity coach and work-life harmony coach. Using a proven framework she developed over 18 years, she helps:

  • perfectionists & pleasers who feel exhausted, stressed and stuck at work
  • expats who feel lost, insecure and want to get their career back on track
  • professionals who are frustrated, bored or unmotivated and want to get clear on what’s next.

She coaches in English, French & Dutch. If you want to know more about her, please have a look on her website.

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