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At What Age Is It Too Late to Change Careers?

Navigating the Myths of Career Transition: Age as a Catalyst, Not a Barrier


blocks with the words too young-old
Am I too old?

Thinking about making a career transition often sparks questions like, "At what age is it too late to change careers?" I’ve heard this question countless times, and every time I do, I am grateful for the opportunity to address it because in reality, there's really no definitive answer to this. The truth is career transitions can unfold at any age!  It’s time to dismantle the age-based myth surrounding career shifts and explore the nuanced considerations involved.


Understanding Career Transition


But first, what is meant by ‘career transition’? A career transition signifies a shift in one's professional trajectory or industry. This can range from moving from an accounting role to teaching or transitioning from the corporate sphere to entrepreneurship. For me, it meant shifting from a Physical Therapist role in the medical setting to a Coach role in the self-employment setting. Ultimately, it's about re-channeling skills and passions in a different context.


People contemplate career transitions due to dissatisfaction, the pursuit of improved work-life balance, or the need for personal growth. But apprehensions often hinder progress, and the fear of financial instability, fear of failure, and the fear of societal judgment can be big barriers. (That’s most often when folks hire me, to support and guide them through that.)


Age Is Just A Number


Ok, let’s address the prevalent misconception that career transitions are only ok for the young. The Physical Therapist in me loves some data, so here’s a piece: an American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) study revealed that over 80% of individuals who made a career change after the age of 45 were successful in their transition. This is huge! And definitively supports that a fresh start is achievable at any age. 


So now that we know that age isn't a barrier, I propose letting it be your catalyst instead. (A little mindset reframe - sorry, not sorry - I am a Coach after all!)  What if part of the reason you’ll be successful in transitioning your career is rooted in the fact that you have oodles of life and work experience and have some hard-earned wisdom to carry you through? 


Financial Considerations in Career Transition


I can’t have this conversation with you without also mentioning the financial considerations that can significantly impact any decision-making for this.  A clear understanding of one's financial situation is crucial before embarking on a career transition.


This could involve saving for the transition period and adjusting your lifestyle to accommodate potential income changes. 


Embracing the Learning Curve


spiral staircase
Commit to the curve

A pivotal aspect of career transition is embracing the learning curve associated with it. This may involve further education, credentialing or training. I have seen many folks get waylaid here because of a closed mindset regarding the need for anything under the heading of “going back to school.” 


For older professionals established in their current careers, it’s going to be important to view this instead as an opportunity for growth. With the right mindset, determination, and a commitment to learning, a successful career shift is far more achievable.


The Real Deal

metal words on shelf spelling out step by step

So, is there an age that's too late for a career change? The straightforward answer is a resounding NO.  Here’s what it’s really about: a successful career transition hinges on motivation, preparation, and a willingness to learn, not on your age. Whether in your 30s, 40s, 50s, or beyond, if you want a change from your current career lane, please know that it's never too late!


And I know it sounds cliche, but it’s also the God’s-honest truth: every endeavor for change begins with a single step. Contemplating a career transition can feel overwhelming. Ya gotta take it one step at a time. If you’re not sure where to start, then seek out those who've successfully transitioned and don't ever hesitate to ask for help. 


The Figurative (and literal!) Bottom Line


Never allow your age to deter you from creating changes related to your career. It's never too late to follow your desires, your instincts or your passion to a new level of professional satisfaction. My work in this area bears this out, day after day after day! 


___________________________________


Laura DuBois, PT, MS, NBC-HWC is a life coach and career coach based in Boston MA who specializes in supporting professionals through their career transition.

Thinking about a career transition and stuck like a deer in the headlights? 


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