Career Change at 40: Moving Into Your Next Stage

Written by Coursera • Updated on

If you’re in your forties, you’ll likely be coming into your new career with a set of established skills. You can use your work and life experiences up until this point as guidance toward your next steps.

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Although many workers in the United States who are looking to make a post-pandemic career change are members of the younger generations, according to a survey from Bankrate, about 45 percent of Gen X workers said they’d be looking for new employment within the next 12 months [1]. This indicates that the trend to shift career paths extends to workers in their forties and beyond.

Regardless of your age, you’ll typically follow the same key steps when you’re considering a career change:

  1. Assessing your current career

  2. Clarifying your career goals

  3. Researching potential careers

  4. Researching job listings

  5. Defining your course of action

In this article, we’ll discuss the process of changing careers in your forties. For a more general look at planning for a career change, read our step-by-step guide.

Changing careers at 40

If you’re in your forties, you’ll likely be coming into your new career with a set of established skills, as well as new lifestyle considerations that you may not have planned for when you decided upon your current path, such as family obligations or financial responsibilities. You can use your work and life experiences up until this point as guidance toward your next steps.

Let’s take a closer look at how you might assess your past to inform your future.

Decide what's next.

It's likely that your life looks different now than it did when you first started your career, and those changes may have led you to shift your work preferences over time.

To help you decide what’s next, get clear on your current preferences—what you’d like to keep doing, what you’d like to do more of, and what you’d rather not continue doing—and your lifestyle needs—your desired compensation, how many hours you want to work, and where you want to work. You may not be able to find the exact position you’re envisioning, but knowing what you’re looking for will help you to get as close to your version of perfect as possible.

According to Bankrate, Gen X workers seeking a career change largely prioritize flexible work arrangements and higher pay [1]. To help envision what flexible, high-paying jobs might be, take a look at these jobs with flexible hours, jobs for better work-life balance, and remote jobs that pay well.


Consider transferable skills.

Your forties are somewhat of a midpoint in your career, which could be a productive time to reflect on what you’ve done in order to decide what you’d like to bring with you into this next piece of your journey.

Transferable skills are the specific skills you use in your current roles that you can also apply to a new path, such as problem solving, teamwork, and organization. To identify some of your transferable skills, think back on your accomplishments so far. The sources of pride in your accomplishments reflect your values, while the actions you took in achieving your accomplishments reflect your skills.

As you consider your skills, think about how you might apply them to a new career path. And remember: your transferable skills can come from any area of life. For example, if you took a few years away from a traditional workplace to raise a family, you may have exhibited transferable skills such as negotiation, communication, and management throughout that time.

Learn new skills.

At this career midpoint, you have likely already built a solid foundation of skills. However, depending on the career change you’re seeking, it may help to enhance your current skills (upskill) or learn new ones (reskill) by taking additional training in your desired area of work.

There are many ways to upskill and reskill, for example you may enroll in a certificate program, take online courses, or build a project portfolio to demonstrate newly acquired skills that may not be apparent on your current resume. Read through the job requirements for roles that align with your desired career in order to determine the type of additional education you may need to feel secure in moving forward.

Career change at 40 with no degree

Some professions require a specific level of education in order to move into that career path, for example, medical doctors and lawyers. However, many companies are moving away from education requirements and consider candidates with a comparable amount of work experience in lieu of a degree.

Depending on the career you hope to move into, you may be able to rely on your transferable skills to get you there—even without a degree. If it becomes apparent that you do need additional education in order to attain your desired position, consider whether you can learn what you need through a professional certificate program. These tend to be quicker and more affordable options for people looking to build skills applicable to a specific career path. Alternatively, you can look into high-paying jobs that don’t require a degree.

Read more: Should You Go Back to School? 7 Things to Consider


Navigate workplace culture.

In your forties, you might have more adult responsibilities than your younger colleagues. As you move through your job search, consider what type of workplace support you’ll need in order to be successful during this next phase of your career.

Many companies offer flexible parental leave policies, retirement benefits like 401K matching, and wellness programs to encourage work-life balance. Organizations may also highlight Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and other networking and internal support groups that elevate the voices of employees with similar values to influence company culture and professional development.

By approaching your career change with a realistic perspective of your needs, you’ll be better able to recognize the types of workplaces that fit your desired lifestyle.

Next steps

Get job-ready for roles in project management, UX design, marketing, sales, and more with a Professional Certificate from world-class companies like Google, Meta, and HubSpot on Coursera. Join now to start exploring the next phase of your career.

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Article sources

1. Bankrate. “Survey: 55% of Americans expect to search for a new job over the next 12 months ." Accessed May 17, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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