How and Why to Change Careers

Making a career change can be scary especially later in life. See how people successfully make these transitions and improve their happiness.

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Why and How to Change Careers

There are a lot of good reasons to change careers, but it’s a big decision not to be taken lightly. Not everyone needs to start a new career even if you’re currently unhappy with your existing job. Many times, whatever issue you are having in a certain job can be solved with a new employer, talking with your boss, or just giving it some time.

But what if you’ve considered these options, and still believe a career change is the right choice, then it’s time to think through the impacts it will have on your life. Things like needing to go back to get more education. The impact on your earnings, and the need for savings until your earning power increases.

More importantly, start focusing on the positive impacts of changing careers. You have the opportunity to do something you truly love and make money at the same time. Maybe you will be able to shed some long hours and spend more time with your family. Or maybe you can start the business you’ve been dreaming about. And if it works out perfectly, maybe you will end up with a bigger paycheck in the end.

Related: Recession-Proof Jobs

Why Change Careers

  1. Passion

This is the answer to a lot of different things you might do in life. Some people are driven purely by passion and have gone down this path since the day they were born. It’s more common however for people to take a path because of some logical reasoning. Typically, those reasons are helped along by the adults in life when we were younger. For instance, going to college and getting a good-paying job are often the drivers conveyed by parents when graduating high school.

But that type of thinking can sometimes lead people into a career path that doesn’t align with a passion. And when thinking about a career, something you will live and breathe every day, being passionate is important. So changing careers later in life might be something to consider if you find yourself doing a job that no longer excites you.

  1. Stress and Burn out

Certain careers can certainly wear on a person more than others. Even though you may have a passion for something, doesn’t mean the stress can’t leave you looking for a career change.

Many times, you will see people who were extremely passionate about something like the law, find that the dream was better than the reality. Long hours, and big-time pressure can have negative impacts on a person’s life leaving them ready for a career change.

  1. More money

This one is an easy one to put on the list, but be careful before you make a change based solely on money. That’s often the mistake that leads someone into a career they don’t like in the first place. By putting money first, there’s a chance you’re missing out on the passion aspect of a job.

If, however, you’re lucky enough to find a job that you’re passionate about, but also makes the big bucks, then you’ve hit the jackpot. And yes, most of the time there’s a happy medium between passion and making enough money. Everyone needs to pay the bills, and if you’re switching careers from one that earned a high salary, you may have no options.

It goes without saying that things get complicated in this scenario. Unless you have some skill set that’s transferrable between industries, it’s going to be hard to make a comparable amount of money.

Many times, when you switch careers it’s necessary to take a pay cut at the beginning. You might not start at the bottom of the totem pole, but chances are you’ll need to do some more ladder climbing.

  1. Flexibility

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s nice to have flexibility in your work hours. Many companies, new and old, are beginning to offer more flexible work environments.

But some old school companies and industries just aren’t up to speed yet. If you find yourself stuck at one of these companies, and don’t see a logical change within the industry, it may be time to consider a career change.

Whether it be the flexibility to work more hours from home or work remotely all the time, there are all kinds of options out there. You may even be able to take your skills to the freelance market and earn a comparable living. Check out sites like Upwork, and you will see how large the demand is for freelance skills of all different type.

  1. Management

Let’s start by saying this problem shouldn’t require you to change careers altogether. Often a change of company or even transfer within an existing company can solve this affect a problem you have with management.

But sometimes the way management acts can be the final thing that pushes you over the edge. Maybe you’ve seen enough management at different companies to know it’s just not something you aspire to be like.

If you’re done with an industry in your head, then get moving as fast as possible. There are hundreds of great industries and companies you can work for, and it’s never too late to improve job satisfaction.

  1. Poor job prospects

Inevitable industries and companies get shaken up by new technology and job prospects can change. Look no further than many of the traditional manufacturing businesses in our country. It’s difficult, but a very real situation for a lot of people who simply cannot find work in the type of job they once earned a good living.

In this case, a career change is not an option, but a necessity. It may be hard, but trying to look at this as an exciting new opportunity is the best approach. Often you can find assistance to go back for more education at a trade school, community college, or traditional college. This really is an opportunity to think about things you enjoy doing in life, and what career you’d enjoy being in for the remainder of your working days.

Related: Fast Growing Trade Jobs in High Demand

  1. The Challenge

Maybe finances or burnout aren’t your motivations. Maybe you’re set when it comes to money, and just looking for something to challenge yourself. There are lots of people out there who get there rush off doing different things all the time.

Change is not for everyone, but for those of you who view it as a challenge, it’s plenty of reason to give a new career a shot.

  1. Values

Chances are you weren’t perfect when you settled on your first real job. Most of us were not, and some people find that the values of certain industries just don’t align with their current lives.

Maybe you find yourself in a sales job where tactics are a bit shady. Maybe you find yourself working at a coal company, but also have a bleeding heart for the environment. You can either stay at an existing job and try to change things or move on to a career that’s more fulfilling from the beginning.

Like passion, it’s important that you don’t feel like you are sacrificing your values every day when you go to work.


  • Increased job satisfaction
  • Do something you are passionate about
  • Take on a new challenge
  • Potential to make more money in long run
  • Better work/life balance


  • Decreased initial pay
  • Start at the bottom
  • Cost of additional education
  • Risk of not enjoying the new career

How to Change Careers

  1. Make a plan

Before you make any final decisions, get a plan together that includes a few key points. You need to clearly understand how much time and education this career transition is going to take. Match that up against any financial needs you will have over that period and make sure you have enough savings or income.

  1. List your true passions

Make a list of all the things you love doing and start doing some research. Sometimes you don’t realize there are good jobs out there in a field that closely aligns to your passions.

On the flip side, you might find your passions for bird watching just can’t earn you enough money. That’s where you might need to compromise between passion, and the need to make a certain income.

  1. Get Educated

Once you’ve figured out a career you’re interested in, it’s time to get the education you need. If you are changing careers, especially in mid-life, it may not be palatable to go back to school for long periods of time. Luckily there are paths to good jobs without a lot of schooling.

If that’s the case, you should investigate careers where you can learn on the job through an apprenticeship. This allows you to get an education while still earning money. Other options also exist with trade schools and community colleges that have shorter programs getting you back into the workforce more quickly.

The level of schooling you will need varies dramatically based on the career change you are making. Make sure the financials work out, and that you won’t be spending so much on the education, that you won’t be able to get a good return with potential job prospects.

Related: High Paying Certificate Jobs

  1. Build your resume

If you’re done with school or planning to try and find a job in a new field right after leaving your current job, then it’s time to get your resume together. It goes without saying that your resume is extremely important. It’s the one thing a hiring manager is going to see to make their initial assessment of your qualifications.

You need to do research on the industry you are entering to know what is expected and what might set you apart. Keep in mind that resumes can vary in the standard look and feel between different industries, so talk with insiders if possible.

You also have options out there today like online resume builders that simplify the process. The best resume builders are also going to give you pre-written bullet points by industry and job function. Given that you are entering a new career without experience, that functionality should come in handy.

  1. Find and Apply for Jobs

Once your resume is in order, it’s time to get out and find the job. There are several ways to search for available jobs, and you should explore many. From headhunters to online job search sites, you probably won’t have any trouble finding some job opportunities.

Making sure that you stand out to potential employers is the key, as most jobs are highly competitive these days. Given that you are changing careers, you may find yourself at a slight disadvantage in this stage. But that’s where having a chosen a path you have a passion for comes in handy. Most employers will take or highly consider a lesser experienced candidate who has a passion for doing the job. If you can convey that message through your resume, and then in subsequent interviews, you should be able to find a position in your new dream career.

Occupations with the Highest Rate of Career Transfers


How Age Makes an Impact

There’s no question that starting a new career is different based on our age. It’s a lot easier for most twenty-somethings to up and change careers than it is for a forty or fifty-year-old. Many people with over 20 years of experience in a field have a very hard time believing they can start anew.

But being older shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your dream career. There are record numbers of people in their 50’s and 60’s in the workforce. Combine this with the fact that many people are retiring much later than the standard 65 retirement age, and you have plenty of time to start a new and fulfilling career later in life.

Just keep a couple of factors in mind. You will want to be more mindful of the time and money you spend on education. At the end of the day, you want to prepare for retirement regardless of when you take that step. With today’s high priced educations, a person can easily get swamped in unnecessary debt. Make sure you do a cost-benefit analysis of any educational institution you decide to attend. Talk with real-life graduates who can speak to the job opportunities, and earnings potential after graduation.

Yes, anyone can make a change at any age, but the older you are, the more due diligence you should do.

Related: Careers to Start at 40

Schooling for a Career Change

We’ve talked a bit about schooling above, but let’s dive a little deeper into the key educational options. Again, the focus here is to find opportunities that won’t break the bank on the way to a great career and earnings potential.

Trade Schools

These are a great option for many people looking to start a new career. That’s because you can typically complete the program in less than two years at a relatively low cost. That’s not to say all trade schools are inexpensive, so do your homework to ensure you get a good return on your investment. You will also likely need a place to live while attending trade school since most do not have on-campus housing. Finding a trade school near you is often a necessity, or you may encounter a longer than desired commute.


Another educational opportunity that is on the rise in the United States is apprenticeships. Many industries and employers participate in apprenticeship programs where workers gain on the job experience along with some classwork. These are a great option if you can’t afford to be without a paycheck while going to school.

Community College

Community colleges have been around forever and offer a variety of different programs. Often these programs will overlap trade school and even sometimes work in partnership with apprenticeship programs. Regardless, they offer another generally affordable and timely way of re-educating.

Traditional College

If you are younger or are entirely dedicated to a career that requires traditional college, then this is a good option. Our only word of advice is to not overly committed to big-name and expensive institutions. While most of them offer wonderful educations, sometimes the payback just isn’t there when you look at the likely job opportunities after graduation. Invest the time and compare colleges and their cost against the potential return.

How Many People Change Careers Each Year?

Obviously, this isn’t a static number and changes in any given year, but it’s a large number. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates between 2016 and 2026 an average of 6.2% of the workforce will move to a new occupation annually. That’s approximately 10 million people. If that’s the number over a two-year span, you can imagine how many people change careers over the course of a lifetime.

In other words, don’t hold back on moving in a new direction because you think you’re alone. Plenty of people are doing it every day, so take a shot if your current career path isn’t working.

Helpful Tips

Start Networking – If you know the career you are looking to get into, start finding people you do the job. The last thing you want is to caught by surprise and find that you don’t enjoy your new job. After all, chances are you will have invested time and money to make the change. If you can connect with people in the field, maybe they can give you some valuable advice.

Try the Job – Take it one step further, and see if you can take a job for a test run. Maybe you can find a summer internship type job where you can get a feel for the industry. Having that knowledge in hand before spending the money on any schooling can give you peace of mind.

Talk to Others Who’ve Changed Career – Talk to people who have made a major career change to get their perspective. The reality is there are going to be positives, and most likely some negatives you just haven’t thought through. Until you live through a change like this it’s hard to understand all the potential impacts.

Start Saving – No matter what your reasoning, it’s always a good idea to have as much savings as possible. If you change careers, you’re entering unknown territory, and in that case, it’s important to have some financial cushion.

Think About Your Skills – Passion is key, but skills are important too. Make sure you have something to offer a profession beyond just loving what you do. Chances are most of you have or can learn a specific skill that will add value.

Bottom Line

Changing careers can be hard, but it can also be a fun and fulfilling experience. So many people go their entire lives never doing something they are passionate about every day. If you can find a way to make money doing what you love, it might be the best decision you ever make.

There are plenty of things you need to think seriously about before taking such a big leap. School, financials, job opportunities, and much more will go into a final decision. The tools exist to help you find the right solutions at the right cost if you are committed to making a career change.

Take a moment to let us know if you have made a career change in your life. What made the change easier, and was it worth it in the long run?


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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