How to get started with a mid-life career change

So, you know that you’d really like to change careers and do something different for the next stage of your working life – but you’ve no real idea what (or maybe you have a few vague thoughts about things you might like to do, but none of these seem very realistic), and you’re struggling to know where to begin. Coming up with ‘the perfect answer’ (the new career that ticks all the boxes) seems nigh impossible. Sound familiar?


Whilst there are many stages to the career change process, this article focuses on what is arguably the most important one – how to get started and where to invest your time and energy to give yourself the best chance of success.

As with any life change, I believe that it starts with making a real commitment to the change process, and to having the courage to see it through to completion and ride out the inevitable bumps in the road along the way. This can be challenging, given that the outcomes, certainly at the outset, will be inherently uncertain.

If a change of career isn’t something you’re really motivated to pursue and are prepared to devote your time and energy to, then you’re unlikely to give it the attention it deserves and see it through to completion. It will just end up being a nice idea that gets kicked down the road and eventually abandoned on the ‘too difficult’ pile, leaving you frustrated by the wasted time and energy you’ve invested – and still stuck doing the same unfulfilling work as before…

So, first, take a moment to reflect – are you ready to commit to the process and do what it takes to discover and transition into the next iteration of your working life? Are you ready for the inevitable challenges, uncertainty, frustration, excitement and opportunities that lie ahead?

If so, then great, let’s get started! Once you’ve made that commitment, then you’re ready to begin. 

A journey of self-exploration

Before you start trying to find your new career, it’s worth taking time to reconnect with yourself and really get clear about who you are, what’s behind this desire for change and what it is you want from the next stage of your working life.

Consciously set aside time to reflect on understanding your ‘why’:

  • What’s truly important to you now? What motivates you?
  • What is the impact you want to have (on your own life and on the lives of others) through your work?
  • Are there specific societal issues you’d like your work to contribute to solving – in however small a way?

Then spend some time starting to understand who you are at this stage in your working life and what you want from your work going forwards:

  • How do your career aspirations/motivations now differ from those you had earlier in your career?
  • What have you learned about yourself during your career to date?
  • What do you enjoy doing (and what do you not enjoy) – both within your current work and outside it?
  • What activities completely absorb and engage you (create a flow state)?
  • How do you enjoy working (alone, with others)?
  • How much autonomy do you want to have (do you want to set up your own business, or be employed by someone else)?
  • How do you want your work to make you feel (mentally, emotionally)?
  • Do you want there to be a physical element to your work?
  • What do you want your work to give you financially?
  • How long are you intending to work for?
  • How much time do you want to be dedicating to your work?
  • Would you be happier doing just one thing or a few different things?
  • What type of working environment would best suit you (indoors, outdoors, virtual)?
  • Would you prefer a regular pattern of work – or to work on a more flexible basis, perhaps to fit around other commitments?
  • Do you have any other ambitions for your work (do you want to set up and scale a business for example, or to work in the not-for-profit sector)?

It can be helpful to have a dedicated notebook/journal where you can note down your responses to these questions and identify any other criteria which are important to you. In addition to increasing your self-awareness, taking time to create a ‘frame of reference’ for your career change at the outset – even if at this stage it’s not fully formed - will mean you have something tangible to evaluate potential options against further down the line, helping to make that stage of the process that much easier.

If you think you’d benefit from some professional support to help you get started with your career change, then please get in touch. Whether you’re struggling to commit, questioning whether you have the courage to go through with a career change, or need help to increase your self-awareness and create a frame of reference for your career change, I’d be very happy to work with you. 

If you found this article useful, you may be interested in the following: 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Melksham, Wiltshire, SN12
Written by Anne Melbourne, Work-focused change coach
Melksham, Wiltshire, SN12

Anne Melbourne is a transformational coach specialising in work-focused change for those in mid-life and beyond.

Anne helps mid-lifers re-imagine work to create sustainable lives they love - changing the work they’re doing or the way they’re working, so it’s more meaningful, more sustainable and better supports their longevity and wellbeing.

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