10 Brutally Honest Truths About Changing Your Career in Your 40s

Changing careers means taking risks and being willing to fail.

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Updated May 28, 2024
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Changing career paths in your 40s can be daunting. The proverb about old dogs and new tricks is outdated, but there’s still a kernel of truth to it.

It’s relatively common to make a switch in your 30s. But after that, the longer you wait, the harder it can be to start anew. It’s difficult, but it is far from impossible.

Here are 10 truths about changing your career path in your 40s, along with how to recharge your professional life and grow your wealth.

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Responsibilities outside the job can feel overwhelming

nenetus/Adobe stressed mature businesswoman looking worried

If you're changing career paths in your 40s, there's a good chance that life is hectic. Maybe you're married, have children and a house, are providing care for an older relative, or are involved in many other things.

Simply put, there might be a lot on your plate already that makes transitioning into a new career tougher than for someone younger who does not have those commitments. But that doesn't mean you should give up.

Have open and honest conversations with your loved ones about your goals and how you plan to achieve them. Their support can help you get over the rough patches.

Self-doubt can plague you

Krakenimages.com/Adobe man looking stressed and nervous with hands

Changing careers is not easy at any age, and it can become more difficult as time passes.

Embarking on a new career path in your 40s (or later) can be particularly challenging if you encounter many setbacks or obstacles along the way.

Don’t let doubt sabotage your dreams. Having faith in yourself can help you overcome the challenges and speed bumps ahead.

Giving up a thriving career is a big risk

Kurhan/Adobe anxious man

Fear of the unknown is one of humankind's most common emotions. Giving up a career for the unknown is a justifiable worry, especially if you've been in your current field for a long time.

It's normal to have reservations about your ability to succeed or to worry about how the change will impact your finances and lifestyle. You might also be concerned about what others will think.

Ultimately, the decision rests with you, but take solace in knowing you are not alone in your concerns. 

Just about everyone who changes careers feels fear of the unknown at some point — including those who overcome such worries and find great success after making the switch.

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You might need more schooling and skills

simona/Adobe adult woman at home working

Starting a new career might require additional education, training, or certification. This can be difficult to balance with other responsibilities, such as those involving family and friends. Obtaining the necessary qualifications for your new field will take time.

You are not the first person to face this challenge. Keep the goal in sight, and remember why you're embarking on this adventure.

You might have to start again from the bottom

Photographee.eu/Adobe workers brainstorming in office

Changing careers often means going back to the bottom of the ladder. This can be challenging from a mental and emotional standpoint, especially if you're used to a certain level of status and respect in your current field.

While this can be frustrating, it's important to remember that everyone starts somewhere. Hard work and dedication can quickly lead to advancement.

You'll have financial concerns

JustLife/Adobe young couple having financial problems

Pursuing a new career might mean taking a pay cut, at least in the short term. This can be especially difficult if you need to pay a mortgage, finance your children's education, and save for retirement.

It is important to have a financial plan in place before making the leap. Be prepared to make sacrifices if things do not go your way immediately.

You might face age discrimination

lightwavemedia/Adobe Colleauges gossiping with sad businesswoman in foreground

Age discrimination is illegal, but it is still out there. More than one-third of workers 45 and older believe they could lose their job within the next year because of their age, according to online recruitment services provider Zippia.

Employers may perceive older workers as less adaptable and tech-savvy than their younger counterparts, even when it's not true. That can make things more challenging.

If you feel as though you're being discriminated against, reach out to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

There's no guarantee you'll be happier

itchaznong/Adobe businessman in stress works with many paperwork

Changing careers can potentially lead to greater fulfillment and happiness, but it's no sure thing.

Your interests and passions may change. Priorities and values tend to shift over time. You must also consider how a career change can impact your personal life.

A support system is extremely useful here. It can also be helpful to seek out mentors or to join professional associations to connect with folks who are already in the field so you can get their thoughts about the career path.

Job opportunities might be scarce where you live

Kaspars Grinvalds/Adobe job application form on computer

There's always the possibility that your preferred profession is in short supply, or even nonexistent, where you live.

No sensible person would seek out the life of a farmer in lower Manhattan, for example. Fortunately, there's farmland a few hours away in Upstate New York if you're willing to relocate.

Similarly, while there are plenty of remote tech jobs you can pursue, the point is moot if you live in a rural area without reliable internet access.

If you want that new career badly enough, you might have to stay flexible and adaptable in terms of where you live.

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It might not work out

alot of people/Adobe fired businessman sitting on street

Switching to a new career can be rewarding and fulfilling, but it does not always work out.

Maybe there are no jobs in the field you are looking to enter. You can be passionate about acting, for example, but it might not be a practical career choice.

On the flip side, accounting might be a practical option. But if your heart isn't in it, why bother?

As painful as it may be to admit, ego can get in the way too. Being confident in your abilities is an excellent trait. Overconfidence is not. Recognize when something isn't working and know when to move on.

Bottom line

Olivier Le Moal/Adobe career opportunities button

Changing your career path after 40 can be challenging and complex. It requires careful consideration and planning, as well as a willingness to take risks and embrace the unknown.

But with the right mindset, support system, and strategies in place, it's possible to successfully navigate the transition, stop living paycheck to paycheck, and find fulfillment in your new career trajectory.

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Author Details

Will Vitka

Will Vitka is a D.C. area reporter and writer. He previously worked for WTOP, The New York Post, Stuff Magazine, and CBS News.