9 Steps To Change Your Career Path at Any Age

By Jamie Birt

Updated November 17, 2022 | Published January 3, 2020

Updated November 17, 2022

Published January 3, 2020

Jamie Birt is a career coach with 5+ years of experience helping job seekers navigate the job search through one-to-one coaching, webinars and events. She’s motivated by the mission to help people find fulfillment and belonging in their careers.

Related: How to Change Industries or Careers With No Experience

In this video, Jenn, a certified career coach, shares advice for making a career change including the best way to address it on a job application.

There may come a time in your life when you decide to change careers—perhaps even more than once. Career changes happen for several reasons, but when they do, it’s advantageous to be strategic. A researched, thoughtful career change will likely lead to greater job satisfaction.

In this article, we explain why someone might change career paths and how you can plan your next career move.

Why people often go through a career change

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is no consensus on how many times the average person changes careers. However, we do know switching careers, as well as occupation and industry, happen often.

Common reasons for wanting to change your career include:

  • Stress reduction

  • Flexibility

  • Salary increase

  • Opportunity for advancement

  • Feeling of appreciation

Related: Updating Your Resume for a Career Change

How to change your career path

If you’re considering changing careers—whether you’re in your 30s, 40s, 50s or 60s and older—here are nine steps to guide you through a change in your career path:

1. Take a personal inventory

Start a journal. First, consider your reactions to your current job and how they impact your job satisfaction. Write down recurring themes, notable events and how they make you feel. Ask yourself tough questions like, “What is it about my job that I do or don’t like?” Answer them, then read your answers. From your own notes, you’ll begin to see a picture of what job satisfaction looks like for you.

During this time, you’ll also want to take a personal inventory of skills, values and interests pertinent to the work you enjoy. Consider times you’ve been successful and think about what you were doing—be it a job, volunteer situation, internship or something else. Determine what skills contributed to your success and how they can apply to various roles you might be interested in.

Read more: 8 Ways To Find Your Passion

2. Decide if you want to change industries

While you are discovering more about yourself and what fulfilling work means to you, you should also define in what way you want to change career paths. For some, switching careers might mean starting over in an adjacent industry or a completely new one, while others may seek a new occupation within the same industry.

Example: Monica, a multimedia advertising sales representative for a television network, might lean on her sales skills to get a job as a donor relations manager for a home health care nonprofit. Monica would be using applicable occupational skills to change industries from broadcasting to health and personal care.

The donor relations manager that Monica replaced, Natalie, used her financial and administrative experience from being in the role to secure a job as a controller for a hospice service. In this example, Natalie stayed in the health and personal care industry, but changed occupations.

Deciding what’s best for you means using your personal inventory to decide what types of occupations and industries best meet your needs.

Related: How To Change Your Industry in 6 Steps (With Tips)

3. Brainstorm careers

To become more informed on your career options, brainstorm the jobs and industries that may be a good fit for your skills and values. If you’re finding it challenging to find a career that fits your needs, ask others in your professional network. You can also seek guidance in the form of career counseling, where you’ll likely learn more about your personality and how it fits into today’s evolving workforce.

Using resources at your disposal like Indeed, you can brainstorm potential careers and make a shortlist to research. Taking this preliminary step before diving into thorough research will help you narrow your career focus.

Read more: 10 Best Jobs for a Career Change

4. Research potential job matches

With your career shift narrowed down to a few potential job types, you’re able to begin more extensive research. One way to learn more about a field of interest is to conduct informational interviews with people in that field. Talk to people you may already know or browse your college alumni association.

Additionally, you can use employment projections from the BLS to discover the fastest-growing job fields, and Indeed Salaries to browse top-paying jobs and companies by industry.

5. Make an action plan

Creating your action plan means defining a clear goal and milestones to complete it. By this point, you’ve done all the research and should be able to narrow your career change to a specific occupation. It’s time to consider what it will take to get there.

Think about things like education and certification, skill development, attending networking events and seizing opportunities to practice within the specific industry or field. Write down what steps you plan to take and a timeline to completion.

6. Rebrand yourself

Before you start applying for new jobs, you may need to undergo a bit of personal rebranding. It’s important that any candidates looking for a job use resources like a resume, cover letter and social profiles to create a personal brand that makes sense to employers. This may be even more important during a career change because your existing experience may not clearly align with your desired goals without a little thought and planning.

Consider how your existing experiences make you a better candidate for the role you are applying for and use that to make a powerful personal statement about why you are a good fit across your resume, cover letter and any business networking sites. Remember to also update any business cards, personal websites and contact info to reflect your new brand.

7. Use your network

Be mindful of what industry and position you want to work in as you select contacts to reach out to. Reach out to professionals you trust to put in a good word and keep you aware of opportunities. You can do this on the phone or via text, or even a referral email or note on social media.

Additionally, seek out opportunities to job shadow, volunteer or intern. This will help you decide if the industry or field is a good fit and give you the experience to make you stand out from other job candidates.

8. Consider educational resources and develop new skills

If you’re considering moving into a field that requires a degree or certifications, you may need to seek additional education beyond your current work experience. College courses, continuing-education classes or even free online resources can help deepen your understanding of your new potential career.

If you’re employed, find opportunities at your current job to gain the skills you need to make a career change. For example, a marketer who wants to move into finance may ask for control over the marketing budget to gain skills regarding working with ledgers. Seizing opportunities like this is helpful, but only if you remember to apply those newly gained skills to your resume and cover letter.

Read more: How To Write a Hybrid Resume (With Template and Example)

9. Stay motivated by tracking your progress

To keep yourself motivated in your career-change plan, consider using a spreadsheet to log milestones as you make your way toward a full career change. Sometimes, changing your career can take time. By tracking your progress, you acknowledge all the small victories along the way—and that can make you feel a greater sense of accomplishment as you successfully make the switch.

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