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Switching Career Goals at 40: How to Boost Your Mid-Career Journey

·7-min read
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How to Switch Career Goals at 40
How to Switch Career Goals at 40

Hands up if you have been thinking of changing your career goals, especially after reading more than a few articles on The Great Resignation wave.

Whether you’re feeling burnt out from juggling your job responsibilities or are at the other end of the spectrum where you feel stagnant in a role you once loved, making a career switch can be a tough choice to make. However, as career coach Han Kok Kwang puts it, it pays to have a Plan B.

The author of the career planning bestseller No Job? No Sweat! explains that mid-career professionals have likely settled into certain workplace habits. So, having a backup plan cushions the impact of leaving your job as it minimises the disruption to your routine.

“Dig your well before you’re thirsty,” he advises mid-career jobseekers who are considering a change in roles or career plans, adding, “always have a ready-to-launch Plan B on standby.”

The pandemic has certainly magnified this feeling, especially amidst drastic disruptions. As people become less tethered to the familiarity of the workplace and their officemates, their idea of a work support system changes. When they no longer associate themselves the same way with their role or company, it can be easy to think of pursuing a different path.

The new and exciting changes in the labour market, for example, can lure jobseekers to apply for a different role, while other organisations offer more current perks such as a work-from-home scheme.

The swelling sentiment of workers feeling dissatisfied with their jobs or careers is not an isolated case. Many face the same dilemma: working in a role you no longer identify yourself with can be unsettling and even more nerve-wracking when you do not have a backup plan in sight. It can also be hard to discern whether it’s just a temporary rut or whether you have lost all remaining passion for a career you once loved.

At this stage of one’s career, is it worth considering a change in career goals? Coach Han shares more.

Preparing for Job Loss

While some are deciding to leave their roles for good, some may not have a choice in the matter—perhaps you have dedicated years to an organisation only to be at the end of a downsizing. According to Coach Han, workers seeking roles at age 40 can recover, but this does not come without preparation.

Don’t have a Plan B? Coach Han advises you to do these four things when you suddenly find yourself out of work.

Take time to grieve

“First, take time off to grieve. A job loss can be traumatising, both psychologically and financially,” Coach Han advises. It is not easy losing a job, especially one that is unexpected. It’s okay not to be okay after receiving the news. You should also acknowledge your feelings about the layoff so you can healthily release your emotions and make better, more sound decisions.

Surround yourself with loved ones

Being around your friends is essential in letting you know that you are not alone, Coach Han says. It is the time to surround yourself with people close to you and seek emotional support from trusted friends. They serve as your soundboard and provide affirmations and feedback that you need to hear while planning your next steps.

Resist from jumping into a new job

Some people feel compelled to rebound immediately from a loss. According to Coach Han, as tempting as it may sound, it is not wise to jump into another job so quickly after your last one. “It is usually the wrong move that can end badly because you are not mentally prepared to take on a new job,” the coach shares.

Regroup and re-strategise

After grieving and accepting your job loss, take time to regroup and re-strategise, Coach Han advises. The coach recommends getting a fresh perspective and seeing your situation with new eyes. “Talking to a competent career coach who is compatible with your view of your career can help you plan things more systematically and view things in a new light,” he adds.

Plan How to Re-sell Yourself

Seeking jobs and beginning your career as a fresher is one thing; it’s another to embark on a new career path at age 40. Still, it is all about highlighting your skills and expertise from your resume to the interview.

As an employee with significant experience, you may encounter a few challenges in the application process. That said, it’s all about recognising your strengths and being able to package them in a way that hiring managers see their merits.

Do a stock take of your skills

Before scheduling your next job interview, it’s important to correctly and honestly assess your capabilities and skill set. As Coach Han puts it, “You can’t sell yourself if you don’t know what you can offer.”

Don’t feel intimidated by younger applicants. While fresh graduates and early-career jobseekers may have current skillsets, as a mid-career professional, you bring experience to the table. Focus on what you have instead of what you don’t have. List down the technical and transferable skills you possess. How many years have you spent honing those skills? Your capabilities should not be taken for granted as they set you apart in the race.

Couch them in the language employers use

Next, speak your potential employer’s language and use this to your advantage, whether you’re penning a cover letter, tailoring your resume, or preparing for an upcoming interview. Visit their company websites and take notes on the language that they use—you can find clues in their brand ethos, their mission and vision, or even in the actual job listings. Take note of keywords and then think of how to tailor-fit your experiences in a way that is relevant to their goals, ideals, and identity as an organisation.

Tell stories that highlight your skills and quantifiable results

Hiring managers or employers will often want to assess how well you perform in a role by asking you about previous job performances. They may ask you to narrate a specific instance where you were able to drive results. If you don’t know where to begin, the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) Approach can help you organise your thoughts and give a cohesive answer.

The STAR Approach lets you answer the following:

  • Situation – Describe and set the scene and the context, including relevant details in the work situation.

  • Task – What is your role and responsibility in the given situation?

  • Action – Explain the specific actions you took to manage and overcome the challenge.

  • Result – What was the outcome of your action plan? Provide quantifiable and concrete results.

This can help you provide an engaging yet easy-to-follow narrative that answers the interviewer’s questions.

Review your options

After configuring your strategy, it’s time to review your mid-career options. Kwok says that there are three ways to go about your next move: get another job as an employee, explore by freelancing in the gig economy, or even start a business.

Wherever your career may take you, Kwok has some tips in helping you figure out your next step.

Don’t follow the crowd blindly.

If you see an exodus of industry colleagues moving on to the “next big thing,” Coach Han suggests sitting down and thinking before joining the herd.

“Do what others won’t, enjoy what others can’t,” he says. Learn more about the field and see whether you can contribute your skills and talents there.

Know which areas to upskill in.

You may have heard all about upskilling as the key to career resilience, but don’t upskill until you know what skills are really in demand and that they are aligned with your strengths. How do you know which skills you should work on? It’s simple: speak with hiring managers, Coach Han says.

Changing directions at 40 can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. By planning out your next steps, being thorough in your strategy, and seeing a clear horizon ahead, your mid-career switch can reward you with great success.

About the author

Han Kok Kwang is an international career master trainer & bestselling author who has empowered 100,000+ individuals in their career journey, including over 2,000 uniformed personnel.
He has won 4 National Awards of Excellence from National Associations across 4 different domains.
Continue the conversation with Han on his profile.

For more expert advice on navigating your career journey, visit the Career Resources Hub.

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