How to Take the First Step Towards Changing Your Career (It’s Never Too Late)

You’ve had it with your current career path. You’ve assessed your priorities and decided it’s time to make a change. You have an idea of what you’d like to do next with your career. Everything’s looking good until a little voice pipes up in your brain, “But what if I’m too old to change careers?” Doubt creeps in. You start to question the plausibility of the switch, the reaction of hiring managers, maybe even your own ability to do something different.

Before you go too far down the rabbit hole of concern and worry, let’s take a step back and get some perspective. The first thing to realize is that you’re having a normal reaction to the idea of making a change.

Changing careers means going from something that you are familiar with to something that is an unknown. Things that are unknown bring up fear. It’s not that the change is necessarily dangerous, it’s just that fear comes up as a warning anytime we venture somewhere new, signaling us to pay attention and be alert. As a career change specialist, I can tell you that every client I’ve ever worked with has felt fear during the career change process.

While your fears may be taking the bent of being concerned about your age, if you drill down you’ll probably see that the real fear that is coming up is around the overall change you’re considering. This is normal, and there are a couple of strategies you can use to work through these fears.

Get More Information

You can take time to get more information about the career path you’re considering, which takes the unknown and makes it more familiar (meaning less scary). Talk to people in the field or attend industry events to get real world perspectives on what you’re considering. Often when my clients take this step they get a boost of confidence, because they realize that they are capable of doing the jobs that others are describing.

Start with small, test steps

Another helpful strategy is to break down career change process into smaller steps to hedge your risk. For example, if you wanted to become a teacher, you could take an initial step of doing some volunteer mentoring work with kids after school. Once you had that experience under your belt, you’d be more ready to move forward (if it’s a good fit). Or you’d be able to course correct without too much trouble if you wound up disliking this new type of work.

Lean on Past Life Lessons and Courage

One last technique is to think back to past times in your life when you were scared of a change, but you saw it through anyway. Draw strength and courage from these memories, and adopt any relevant lessons of what helped you before to your current situation.

Now that you know how to address the underlying fears that come up around career change, let’s look to your motivation by considering the big picture of the life you want to be living. When we focus on the short term effort that will be involved in a career change, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. In the moment it may seem easier to stay put, particularly if you get home from work and have the choice of expending energy towards your goals or watching your favorite television show. In the short term taking a break always sounds more appealing.

But let’s pause for a moment and take the long view. You only have so much time in your life. This, right now, is your shot to live it. If you stood at the end of your life and looked back, what would have mattered more to you? Feeling comfortable in the moment? Or taking some courageous actions that altered the course and meaning of your life for the better? Surely you’d prefer the latter.

The years are going to pass independent of your actions. If you had started five years ago, you would be somewhere different now. And if you start now, you’ll be somewhere different five years from now.

Remember that life is meant to be lived. And living well means stepping outside of your comfort zone every now and again. When you take those chances, you give yourself the opportunity to learn and grow, and ultimately to live a richer life.

You have the power to make choices about your career direction. These choices may not change your life overnight, but they really are yours to make. If you choose to stay put for valid reasons, that’s fine. But if you’re choosing to stay put because of fear or inertia, please re-consider. It’s never too late to change your career for the better.

By Alison Cardy

Alison Cardy is the author of Career Grease: How to Get Unstuck and Pivot Your Career. She is a career coach who specializes in guiding men and women all over the world through career changes.