Are you really too old to change careers, or is it something else…

Like not wanting to start from scratch, not wanting to make less money, not wanting to go back to school? Let’s tackle those concerns today. And, let’s talk about ageism.

I’m going to reality check the concerns I hear most often from my clients who change careers in their 30s, 40s, and 50s so they can find a meaningful career WITHOUT sacrificing life goals like buying a house, starting a family, or sending their kids to college.

Concern 1: I don’t want to start from scratch.

You won’t. You won’t start at zero. You will use what you know in new ways and YES you might need to fill in some skill and education gaps, but that’s not the same as starting from scratch.

In fact, coming from a different background or education can be a huge ADVANTAGE. Instead of being ashamed of your background, you can learn to use it as your competitive edge.

If you’re not convinced, you’re listening to an entrepreneur and career coach with a BA in history and an MFA in acting. I am living proof that you can change lanes and use your background to your advantage. My clients do this, too.

Concern 2: I don’t want to make less money.

Choosing meaningful work does not mean settling for less money. In fact, it often leads to making MORE money.

Depending on the gap between where you are now and the career you transition into, you might need to prepare for a window of time where you earn less to ramp up into your new career, but that is absolutely something you can plan for and do.

Concern 3: I don’t want to go back to school.

Great news – you probably don’t have to. In the 12 years, I’ve been supporting people through career change, less than 5% end up going back to school for a degree.

It’s most likely that you DON’T need another degree

Focus on what you already know and can do (not just formal education, but also who you are and how you operate). You have gifts and strengths that you take for granted because they come naturally to you and you assume that everyone can do them, or that because they come quickly to you, you shouldn’t get paid well for them.

Be open to bridging education gaps with options like seminars, boot camps, or certificate programs, but you probably won’t have to go back to school.

Concern 4: I’m too old.

You’re not too old to get hired, you’re not too old to learn new things, you’re not too old to do great work.

My client Jon started out with the “I’m too old” fear. We worked together to figure out what his Homecoming career was, he approached an organization he knew about doing this work for them, and they created a job for him because they were so impressed with what he had to offer. Don’t overcomplicate it. It can be that easy.

But let’s also talk about ageism. Ageism is real and in your 40s and 50s, you will probably encounter it in some way. You can let that prevent you from trying or navigating that. Usually, you just need one job. That’s one YES. So you find where you’re valued and go get your YES.

Your biggest problem is not your age. Your biggest problem is that you don’t know what you want and how to communicate your value. You have more experience and skill to draw from than you give yourself credit for. Put your focus on getting clear on what you want and communicating your value to the people who will appreciate it, and you will be surprised at how much easier things get.

So can you make a successful career change in your 30s, 40s, and 50s? Absolutely.

Laura Simms is an expert in meaningful work who challenges conventional wisdom by asking people to ditch their passions and start with purpose.

If you have too many passions, zero passions, or can't seem to combine your passions, try her purpose-first approach to find a career you love.  


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