Top tips for changing your career after 40

Changing careers can be overwhelming at the best of times, but it can be particularly daunting after 40. Career coach Leah Lambart shares her best advice for overcoming the main obstacles.

Overcome your fears

For many people unable to make the career move they’ve always dreamed of, fear is what prevents them from taking action. There are many fears associated with career change – of the unknown, of rejection, of a financial hit, the fear of loss of status, of making a mistake, of what other people will think. These are real fears and you need to overcome them before you can take the necessary steps to make a career change. Speaking to a career coach, mentor or experienced career changer can help you both acknowledge and address these fears so you can start moving in the right direction.

Take a skills assessment

Before you go out to market you need to be able to identify, understand and articulate your key transferable skills and how you can apply them to your ideal role or industry. This is a really important exercise to complete before you start talking to people in your new industry, and most definitely before you attend any formal interviews.

Just because you’re starting out with a new career doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch. We often have skills gained in our previous jobs and from life that will stand us in good stead in a new career. Brainstorm with a career coach or friend to get a list of your transferable skills, as well as a list of skills you may need to develop further before you start applying for a different role.

Complete a values assessment

Another crucial step is to get clear on what is most important to you at this particular time. Our values often change as we get older and particularly after we have a family. What was so important in your 20s may be vastly different from what is important in your 40s. By completing a values assessment, you can then map out what factors are critical to your next role: money, status, work-life harmony, creativity, flexibility or managing people.

Map out the key criteria for your ideal role

Prior to commencing your job search, it’s really beneficial to map out what you want from your next role, including all of the following:

  • Skills you want to use.
  • Strengths you want to use.
  • Values.
  • Location.
  • Organizational Culture.
  • Type of people you want to work with.
  • Salary range.
  • Ideal industries or interest areas.

If you map these out before you start job searching you’ll know what you might be compromising on if you do get a job offer. Too many people accept a job for the money or the location without really thinking through whether their other needs are met.

Prepare an impressive resume

Recruiters spend an average of eight seconds reviewing each resume when shortlisting. Your resume needs to be formatted in a current style and highlight your key transferable skills, experience and achievements. It should be tailored for each role and should include keywords that would match the selection criteria in case the first screening is completed by an e-recruitment system.

Create a complete keyword-optimized LinkedIn profile

LinkedIn is one of the most powerful professional online networks and is used by 90% of recruiters and employers to identify suitable talent. In my opinion, LinkedIn is an absolute must-have if you are planning on relaunching or changing your career. Having a complete LinkedIn profile that’s keyword-optimized for your ideal role, and a healthy number of connections will increase your likelihood of being found on LinkedIn as part of any keyword search by a potential employer.

LinkedIn is also a fabulous research tool and a great way of reconnecting with ex-colleagues, old friends and anyone else who may be a likely advocate.

Master your interview skills

Interviews these days are typically a competitive process and there’s no room for ‘just winging it’.  You need to master your interview skills by understanding the key competencies of the role and being able to provide examples of how you have demonstrated those competencies and how effective you’ve been.

You need to research the organisation thoroughly, understand the position descriptions and key competencies required, know how to answer general and behavioral interview questions, anticipate likely questions, and prepare detailed responses – practice, practice, practice!

Interviewing can be a daunting process, especially if you haven’t interviewed for a long time. If you take the time to prepare well, you’ll be far more confident on the day.


Research suggests that over 80% of jobs are filled through relationships and referrals rather than being advertised. This rate is even higher for those who are returning to work on a part-time basis or after an extended career break.

You need to brainstorm your networks and tap into them long before you start preparing to return to work. Make a list of your contacts and use LinkedIn or the phone to reach out to them for a coffee.

Get out of the house and talk to people about what you’d like to do next. This will build your networks and your confidence as you get into the habit of talking about yourself again in a business sense.

If you work through these steps, you’ll be doing all the right things to navigate a successful career change that is aligned with your values, skills and interests.

Written by Leah Lambart, founder of Relaunch MeLeah is an experienced career coach offering specialized return to work coaching programs through her business, Relaunch Me. These programs are tailored for the individual but may include career counseling, interview coaching, LinkedIn coaching and job search coaching.

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