How to Change Careers After 20 Years Into Your Career

Do you ever get the impression that the 30-under-30 listers and trendy young entrepreneurs are the only ones who fit the culture's idea of career success? Well, the fact is that you can just as easily change careers 20 years into your career.

Key Takeaways

Do you ever get the impression that the 30-under-30 listers and trendy young entrepreneurs are the only ones who fit the culture's idea of career success? Well, the fact is that you can just as easily change careers 20 years into your career.

You should work doing what makes you happy. There is no reason to think that you can’t change a career after spending two decades doing something specific. The fact is that many people change carers at this point in their lives and there's no reason you can't pursue your interests simply because you reach a particular age. 

In this guide, we will show you how to successfully change your career 20 years into your career.

In reality, changing careers or choosing a completely different line of employment in your later working years is not only conceivable but also more common than you may imagine. 

A recent survey by Monster found that 50% of participants between the ages of 45 and 65 have changed occupations at least twice.

According to, people usually consider changing careers at this stage because they may find that their current profession or skill set has become obsolete, while others may have physically demanding tasks that get harder as they get older. 

Yet, many others who have been working for this long in the same job may simply be tired of doing the same thing day in and day out and want to try something different. 

Click to learn more about Unmudl and Amazon Original Course
Click to learn more about Unmudl and Amazon Original Course

Whatever your motivation, you can switch careers 20, 30, or even 40 years into your career if you have the correct attitude. Don’t let age be a stumbling block to your happiness.

I am aware that this is more frightening for people in their middle years because it is difficult to picture leaving the place you've called home for this long and returning to a classroom to learn a new skill. 

But if you follow these guidelines, you'll realize that switching careers after 2 decades into your career isn't as scary or challenging as you might have thought.

Download Checklist " 10 Simple Steps to Smooth Job Change"

Changing careers after 20 years: the big picture

According to U.S. Labor Bureau statistics, the typical US employee has 12.5 jobs over his career and the average woman has 12.1 during her career.

 A similar EdX poll indicated that one-third of Americans had changed occupations at least once while graduating from college. 

Now put together these figures along with the always shifting employment market these days and it is safe to assume that many people are considering changing occupations for a variety of reasons right now.

Is it okay to change career paths 20 years in? 

The good news is that transferring to a new field and industry doesn't mean you start at the bottom of the career ladder if you have already invested 20 years in another career. 

Your two decades of experience still matter and can help you avoid entry-level roles even if it isn't in the same field.

Start by examining what you want to be doing and what kind of work would make you happy if you were thinking about changing your career path. 

If you're switching industries, you should probably look into the future of the new field as well. Then, learn how to construct a transition strategy to guarantee a smooth change of careers. Also, check out these ten essential career change tips if you feel you want to start a business.

Related: The ultimate step-by-step guide to figuring out how to change careers successfully

Half versus full pivot

A job that uses your same skills but in a different way can be your best option if your industry is downsizing or becoming obsolete, or if you feel ready for a substantial change in focus. 

You don’t necessarily have to completely reinvent yourself just to leave behind whatever that was bothering you in your last career. A technical writer, for example, might decide to change careers and work as a content writer, still employing their storytelling and communication abilities, but in a different setting.

Sometimes, however, this half-pivot strategy won’t work. This is normally the case when there is something so fundamental that is bothering you in your current career that it cannot be changed by simply switching jobs.

 We have a special Unmudl tips section later in this article to help you determine if you need a job change or a change of career at 40.

Focused male mechanic using spray paint on metal detail
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Make a plan for the career transition

Identify your dream job

20 years into your career your priorities have undoubtedly shifted. You are much more aware of who you are and well-intentioned parents, instructors, and school counselors aren't pushing you in the direction of a specific vocation. 

You are, at this stage in life, far more prepared to discover a job that you love and that fulfills you. So, what does your ideal profession entail? What would you be doing with your life if money were not an issue?

The following resources can assist you in discovering more about who you are and the occupations that most closely match your interests, talents, and personality:

  • 16 Personalities Test: 
    The level of happiness you experience in a given vocation can be greatly influenced by your personality. This test employs the 16 Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality types to provide you with a more in-depth understanding of your characteristics, preferences, strengths, and other personality factors that could affect your career decision.
  • 6 Best Podcasts for Changing Careers: 
    Podcasts that are focused on changing your profession can be useful, perceptive, and motivational tools that you can incorporate into short consumption bursts. These are great tools to have running as you clean the house or take a walk, and they're also great while commuting.
  • 7 Best Books for Changing Careers: 
    If you're thinking about changing careers in 2022, check out these books. Read our summaries of each book to see which one will offer you the best guidance at the particular stage of your career change process.
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: 
    Get accustomed to this great dependable tool because you'll need it for the following stage when you start looking more closely at various occupations. 
    It's also a fantastic place to start when looking at careers. It can be used to research the highest-paying professions, those with the quickest employment growth, those that provide on-the-job training, etc.

The next step after deciding on your ideal career is to devise a strategy for getting into it.

Unmudl Tip: To make sure your ideal job is feasible given your current obligations, you'll need to take into account practical factors (such as your regular expenses and the educational needs of your children, etc. Match that with expected earnings for the position you are applying for from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics site mentioned above).

Identify transferable skills

You must assess the skills you currently possess and the ones you still need to learn. It might be possible to switch careers in some circumstances without having to go back to college or university.

Make a list of all your skills and abilities. Ask yourself, what abilities and talents you have, and how you might use them in your new profession.

As an experienced worker, keep in mind that you're lucky. Some of the basic skills that all employers are looking for are transferable. You don't have to start from scratch as a new employee would. 

Your interpersonal skills, problem-solving capabilities, and aptitude for balancing jobs and managing personalities can all be very helpful if you have experience as a teacher but wish to transition to human resources, for example.

Determine the new skills you need to acquire 

A smart way to do this is to examine job listings for the position you intend to have. What specifications are listed? Remember that not all of the requirements specified in a job posting must be met in order for you to apply, but there are a few that are frequently deal-breakers.

If you do not have a transferable skill from your last job to meet any of these key skills you have a few options: 

  1. You can enroll in a short certificate class or pursue a degree.
  2. You can acquire skills on-the-job by volunteering to work. Employers are sometimes happy to take on volunteers because it barely costs them anything and in return, they are willing to teach you skills needed to do the job.
  3. As a last resort, you could accept a pay reduction and move down a level from where you are now employed making yourself an attractive package for employers.

Set deadlines

Create a calendar and a to-do list for the transition to your new job using the information above. Set clear timelines and deadlines for all the steps you have determined you need to take to meet the job requirements for the new position.

Happy elderly worker smiling in workshop
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

A few Unmudl tips for changing careers after 20 years into your career

Here are a few tips to help you succeed in the job search in your new career:

  1. Update your resume smartly:

    The summary statement or objective part of your updated resume should be largely relied upon to tell your story and demonstrate how your present skills and talents are transferable.

    Additionally, be sure to tailor your cover letters to the new positions you're applying for.
  1. Use your current network:

    Just because you're changing careers doesn't mean you need to create a brand-new network. Tell your close friends and confidantes that you're thinking about moving, and let them know what you're searching for in particular. 

    Friends and family may be able to get you in touch with relevant people in their network to help you evaluate and transition into your new career.
  1. Expand your network:

    Begin attending networking events in the industry you want to enter. Use your elevator pitch when you're in class, chatting with friends, etc. Even if it seems like a bit of a jump, make sure everyone knows what kind of job you're looking for and how it logically aligns with your prior experience.
  1. Look for positions in your new career within your current company:

    Who is more familiar with you than your current employer? Your present employer could be willing to help you make this change even if it is a significant one. For example, you want to switch from marketing to digital e-commerce. 

    Management may be more likely to take a chance and test you out in a new job role because they are aware of your abilities and accomplishments.

Unmudl mini-guide to figuring out whether you should switch jobs or switch careers

We have included this mini guide because a lot of people reach out to us confused about whether they want to switch jobs or switch careers. 

Even before you start thinking about a midlife career change, the first step is to understand if you need one. 

It is very important to understand the difference between the need to change a job versus the need to change careers as they have different implications for your continued professional success. 

Your career is a more general term for your profession, whereas your job is defined as your occupation. For example, your job might be working as a physics professor, while your career is considered to be in education.

There are many reasons why you might be considering changing jobs. Actually, according to data, people frequently leave their jobs for one or more of the following top seven causes:

1. Lack of Opportunity: 

When employees believe there is no room for advancement because they have learned everything there is to know from their jobs. Spending any further time on that job is a complete waste of time.

2. Poor Management: 

People who feel mistreated, unappreciated, and unrecognized are more likely to leave their positions. Poor leadership is a key reason why many companies lose great workers.

3. Toxic Workplace: 

When a company's culture is generally negative, it can be almost impossible to work there. Toxic workplaces go beyond having just lousy management. They create the kind of environment that suffocates employees and causes severe stress amongst them.

4. Career Advancement: 

Occasionally, no matter how hard you work or how long you have worked at a company, there simply isn't anywhere for you to go further professionally. This frequently occurs in smaller businesses where fewer leadership positions are available and many people fighting for them

5. Too Much/Too Little Work:

Someone who is well-trusted may wind up with too many tasks thrust upon them without additional compensation. On the other hand, someone who has become overqualified

for a position may find he doesn’t have enough of the advanced tasks he wants to do and gets bored.

6. Finances: 

Even though you may not want money to be a factor in your ideal career, in the end, it always is; you may need to find new work simply because your current income isn't able to sustain your way of life.

7. Lack of Benefits/Rewards: 

Many businesses provide incentives for exceptional work in addition to a range of bonuses, holiday pay, and benefit plans. You might think about changing employment if your current position doesn't provide any of that while still demanding excellent performance.

If any of these reasons apply to you, you could be better off changing careers than transferring jobs or working for a different employer.

Download Checklist " 10 Simple Steps to Smooth Job Change"

Changing careers means getting into a different line of work altogether. Here are the reasons why you would want to do that:

  1. Money: 
    In the end, all of our problems are related to money. Many individuals decide to change careers because they require more money and more benefits than they can get in their current jobs. No matter how much they switch there simply isn’t enough money in that line of work.
  1. Stress:
    Over time, some jobs simply become too stressful. As a 50-year-old salesman could find it difficult to continue chasing difficult targets every month or a dockyard worker can only strain himself physically so much before exhaustion sets in. 
  1. Fulfillment: 
    Some careers are far more appreciated than others. Anyone who feels undervalued or unrecognized because of their line of work may become unsatisfied with their employment and go to a field that is more highly regarded by society.
  1. Flexibility: 
    Flexibility often comes into play later in life as families grow older and life changes. 9 to 5 employment and regular workweeks may be OK when you're a young professional just starting out, and your working life may take up all of your free time. However, as your life develops, the need for a work-life balance may become more important.
  1. Opportunities for Growth: 
    Many professionals end up feeling stuck the longer they are in the workforce. You can feel the desire to move on to something larger and better if it appears that your years of experience aren't translating into opportunities.

Final thoughts

The decision to change careers 20 years into one may be influenced by a variety of factors, but it need not be frightening and is most definitely not impossible. In the latter half of your professional career, a well-planned strategy to switch careers can help you achieve great success.

Think of your years of experience as a benefit rather than a hindrance at every stage of your professional change. Even if your future career is unrelated to what you were doing before, your experience is still important and can guide you in that direction.

By going through all the tips, strategies, and resources we have shared in this complete guide to career change 20 years into your career, you will be focused on the steps needed to change your profession with the least amount of disruption.

We hope that this guide has proven to be useful to you and you use it to start a more fulfilling career than the one you have.

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Click to learn more about Unmudl and Amazon Original Course
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Last updated on:
March 5, 2024

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