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How to Start a New Career in Midlife (With Examples for Your 30s, 40s, or 50s)

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Unemployment is on the rise, and with widespread uncertainty, many experienced workers have found their jobs—and the industries they work in—under threat. If you’re in this situation, or perhaps you just want to try something new, you may be ready for a career change.

career change at 50
Starting a new career in midlife has some challenges. (Image source: Envato Elements)

The question is, how do you successfully find a new career and update or create a resume that helps you transfer your existing skills to a new role? In this guide, I’ll show you how to find a new career, along with expert tips on getting your resume noticed.

Common Reasons for Starting a New Career

One reason for switching careers at 30, 40, 50, or even older is because of unemployment, but it's not the only reason. For example, you might have held the same role for a long time, but might no longer feel fulfilled by the daily routine of your job. Or perhaps you've already paid off your mortgage and raised your kids, and you're thinking more about your long term impact and legacy. 

Whatever your reasons for thinking about a midlife career switch, the following tips on how to change jobs will help you succeed: 

Switching Careers at 30+ - How to Get Started

career change at 40
Plan before you start actively looking for a new career. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Here are six issues to think about when contemplating a midlife career change:

1. Identify Your Ideal Role

A key task when starting a second career is to figure out what role you're looking for. You may already know what you DON'T want (anything that didn't work for you in your current or recent role). But take some time to figure out what matches your interests and abilities so you can find a job where you'll thrive.

2. Check Your Network

When starting a new career at 50, 40, or even 30, a good starting point is to check your existing networks to see what opportunities already exist. The people who know you and who you're connected with can introduce you to people with available job roles, giving you a headstart when you're ready to apply. 

3. Stay Open

If you're contemplating a career change at 40, or any age, stay open to roles you might not have considered initially. You never know if a seemingly unusual role might be the perfect fit for your new career aspirations.

Jessica Millett, Recruiting Manager at Future State, says: 

"Recognize that you can honor your experience and the skills you've obtained while embracing a 'beginner's mindset'- the two are not mutually exclusive. Don't let the fear of the unknown and the fear of performing poorly at a new skill stop you from taking on a new challenge."

Millett adds:

"Appreciating the learning journey allows you to extend grace to yourself as you learn and set realistic expectations that will fuel your growth rather than discourage your progress. I recommend reading "Learning to Learn and the Navigation of Moods" by Gloria Flores as a great place to start."

4. Check the Requirements

Any career switch may mean adapting to new requirements. As you start to look for new jobs, identify any skills gaps between your past roles and your future one. You might need training in some new areas, and you can get started on that while you're looking.

The good news is that there are a lot of places offering free online courses. So, if you're between jobs and managing your finances, these are a great option for improving your skills. 

That said, don't let the perception that you're lacking some skills stop you from applying, says Jessica Millett:

"Studies have shown that women and underrepresented groups apply to jobs only if they meet 100% of the qualifications – let's break that trend. You don't have to be perfect, to be the perfect fit, so bridge what you've done to what the role is asking for in a way that helps the hiring team see the connection. First, read the job description and the company website to find ways to describe your past roles and skills using their 'language.' Then, modify your resume and cover letter to 'paint the picture' of how you have learned and excelled at similar tasks."

5. Be Realistic

There's one possible down side of a second career: you probably won't be at the same seniority level as you've been used to. That might mean adjusting your salary expectations as you make the move.

On the plus side, your existing experience will count for a lot when working with a new team. So, hopefully that'll lead to opportunities for promotion. 

6. Be Aware of Age Discrimination

One issue that can affect older workers is age discrimination. Virginia Jeyapal of career services firm Shadow Management Consulting says:

"The stereotype of an older worker being too ‘expensive’ or too ‘old’ still exists. Age discrimination is rampant in some professions and career levels more than others. Executives face slightly less discrimination as the move up in position/title. An older CEO or vice president does not feel as much age discrimination as an older sales representative or customer service professional may face."

The Best Resume Format for a Career Change

how to change jobs
It's important to know how to format your resume if you plan a midlife career change. (Image source: Envato Elements)

When making a career change at 50 or younger, there are several resume formats you can use to get recruiters' attention. These include:

  • A reverse chronological resume. This lists job roles and experience from the most recent to the oldest
  • A functional resume. This concentrates on your ability and skills rather than the timing of job roles.
  • A hybrid resume, also known as a combination resume. This combines skills and job roles. 

For older job-seekers planning on starting a new career, a functional resume works well because it allows you to highlight your transferable skills. Or, use a hybrid resume to highlight the skills you used in different job roles. 

Virginia Jeyapal says:

"When changing careers, you can still leverage your former career skills, experiences, and accomplishments. Most of your former experience can still add value and is not considered time wasted. The strategy is to highlight skills that are transferable and showcase the value and competencies you bring to the organization."

7 Tips on Refocusing Your Resume For a New Career

starting a new career at 50
If you're making a career switch, you likely need to refocus your resume for your new career. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Starting a new career at 40+? Here are some tips on updating your resume to make the best impression on recruiters:

1. Include a Professional Summary

When thinking about how to change careers in midlife, it's worth knowing that some of the key terms relating to your resume have changed. In particular, what used to be called a "resume objective" is now called a "professional summary". As the name suggests, it's an overview of your career, and it's the first step in getting your resume noticed.

2. Highlight Your Skills

As mentioned earlier, transferable skills are important when contemplating a career change at 30 or older. Include these in a skills section just under your professional summary. Recruiters will be able to see at a glance if you've got the right mix of skills for a new role.

Virginia Jeyapal advises:

"A transition resume should show the hiring manager that you have worn many hats in your former career. Clearly demonstrate your adaptability, flexibility, and willingness to train and learn. For example, if you were in sales and transitioning to human resources, you can play up your relationship building, team collaboration, and leadership skills. Include your sales achievements (percentages, quotas) and attribute them to our outstanding relationship building and leadership strengths. Employers still like to see that in every role you were in, you outperformed and exceeded expectations."

3. Let Recruiters Know You're Upskilling

That said, don't let missing skills put you off starting a second career. If you're working on skills that relate to your new role, add them, and let recruiters know you're working on them. This will let them know you're aware of job requirements, adaptable, and willing to learn, which are all good qualities in a potential new hire.

4. Show Relevant Education

If you've got educational achievements that are relevant to your new role, make sure they're included in your resume. But you don't have to include the dates of your education, to avoid being the victim of ageism. Virginia Jeyapal also suggests:

"Avoid dating yourself by including graduation years or career highlights that are over 10-15 years old. Consider if this early experience is even relevant to your current goals. Instead, showcase your most recent career highlights and experiences and summarize your employment history beyond that time frame in a ‘career note’ or a ‘early experience’ section. Hiring managers care about your recent big wins and accomplishments and often feel that anything done 15 years ago does not add value to today’s market."

But if you've got recent relevant training under your belt, by all means include it. Again, willingness to learn and adapt looks good to recruiters.

5. Showcase Your Accomplishments

When making a career switch, let recruiters know what you've achieved. When creating your resume, list key accomplishments under relevant job roles. This will show the breadth of your skills, making you a good prospect for a career change role. As Michelle Aikman comments on Glassdoor

"As long as [your experience] gives the employer enough information to understand it, it opens the door for you to talk about that experience...It might not be recent, but is still relevant."

6. Include Volunteer Experience

Many older workers have relevant volunteer experience under their belts. Not only does this showcase your values and interests, but it can also provide extra skills and accomplishments to make your resume more interesting. One caveat: don't include every volunteer gig you've ever had; just the ones that have some relevance to the role you're applying for. 

7. Use a Resume Template

If you're considering a career change at 50, it may be awhile since you've prepared a resume. One way to make the process easier is to use a resume template. Envato Elements has thousands of well-designed resume templates that'll help you create the perfect resume quickly and easily. 

Learn more about creating resumes in the following articles:

Managing a Career Switch - How to Submit a Resume

starting a new career at 40
For the most part, the days of mailing in your resume have passed. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Once you’ve created your resume, here are some tips for submission so you can get started with your second career. 

  • Make sure you've two versions of your resume. You need a PDF (or Word document) to send out by email, and a plain text version for online submission. 
  • Upload your PDF resume to LinkedIn, as potential employers will check you out there. You can also add it to job websites.
  • If you're submitting on spec, rather than applying for something specific, make sure you send it to the right person so someone actually sees your resume.
  • Add a cover letter if you're applying for a specific role. It's another chance to appeal to recruiters. 
  • Don't be afraid to follow up after sending a resume. It'll show that you're really interested in the job. 

Resume Examples for a Career Change at 50

how to change careers
Choosing the right resume is important. Give yourself a headstart by choosing a good resume template. (Image source: Envato Elements)

If you're looking for the perfect resume template when switching careers, check out the examples below:

Learn More About Creating Career Change Resumes

A career change at 40+ doesn't have to be difficult. To learn more about creating the perfect career switch resume, check out the following guides:

Create Your Career Change Resume Today

In this guide, you've had tips for starting a new career at 50 or younger. You now know how to change jobs with the perfect resume, and how to create that resume quickly and easily with a template. Good luck with your job search!

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