Changing Careers: Is It Too Late?

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Doubts about career choice can happen to even the most ambitious go-getters. Perhaps your dream job from two decades ago is not even remotely the same as your dream job now. It can be scary to realize that the road you’re on is no longer the road you want to be on, but don’t despair — you’re not alone.

People who switch careers are becoming more and more common as the job market is changing with the times. Decades ago, it used to be that you went to school with a certain job in mind, got hired by a company to do that job, and possibly stayed with the same company until it was time to retire. Opportunities to move into another field were rare, and often would have amounted to professional suicide.

These days, we like to branch out more and use all the skills we have to offer. Very rarely will you have a position that is in complete isolation from all others, and it is inevitable that as you proceed through your professional life you will develop interests in fields other than your own. As it turns out, the job market is on your side. Companies are now looking for people who can not only do their chosen job well, but who have the ability to overlap somewhat with others on the team, to help create a more cohesive whole. Whereas you used to not have a chance unless you had the exact degree and experience that a particular job required, now things are a little more flexible. Companies may still want you to have certain qualifications, but the parameters allow for a greater range of applicants who could bring something unusual to the position. Passion and evidence of an ability to innovate are becoming just as important as where you went to school or which company hired you first.

It is perfectly understandable that something you started out doing may become less interesting to you as you discover other things that are out there. Logically speaking, it’s pretty ridiculous to assume that every 18-year-old kid knows exactly what she will want to do with the rest of her life right then and there. We are complex people with constantly evolving strengths and interests, and it is very unlikely that what suited us in high school is the same thing that will suit us in our 40s or 50s.

Online job boards can help you get an idea of what it will take for you to make the switch. Search for ads in your field of choice, and see what employers are looking for. You might be surprised at just how much you’re already qualified for, especially if you have a college degree in any field. You may also be able to get an idea of salaries available for someone coming from your professional background into this new environment. Even if you are not interested in all the job ads you see, you can still write to the employers and test the waters, risk-free.

The hardest part of changing careers is self-doubt. You may convince yourself that no company will want a novice of your age, or that you’ll never be as good as those already doing the job, but these are not fair assumptions. It is likely that a lot of the skills you use in your current job will carry over into any other office, and your years of experience in general will speak volumes about your potential. Diplomacy in dealing with people, knowledge of computers, and a respectable work ethic are things that almost all companies are looking for, and it’s likely that they’re things that come automatically to you by now. Add to this the fact that you are wise in the ways of the world, and you’re in with a running chance. It certainly doesn’t hurt to send out a few resumés and see what happens. Companies are no longer necessarily looking for the young person who will stay with them for fifty years. Workplaces are more volatile than that these days, and what modern employers really want is the person who can do the best job, regardless of age.

If you want to change careers, no matter how late in the game it is, there’s really no reason not to give it a shot. More and more people are making the shift from one career path to another, or to multiple paths that may lead down any number of exciting roads. Be brave and trust that your ambition and will lead you in the right direction. After all, you did it once, so there’s nothing stopping you from doing it again, especially now that you have so much more life experience to build from. If you don’t at least try, you’ll always wonder what might have happened if you did.

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