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Is It Too Late to Change and Start a New Career?

You wake up one day and realise you’re no longer excited to go to work. The responsibilities that once energised you now just feel lethargic. Your daily routine has become a daily grind.

You sit down to pay your monthly bills and realise that once again, this month, your pay just isn’t keeping pace with the rising cost of living. Inflation is winning and you suspect the situation will only worsen as prices rise but your salary remains flat.

The company you envisioned retiring from one day, just gave you notice, citing economic and competitive pressures on your industry. Your once-clear career path is now rudderless and directionless.

Sounds familiar? It should. An increasingly large number of adults are finding themselves at a career crossroads later in life when they least expect it.

Long ago, it was common to pick a career or company, demonstrate loyalty, and persevered until you retire. But those days are over. Today, more people are changing careers — and they're doing so in multitudes. A study by career finder, Indeed, found that 49% of the full-time workers surveyed had already made a dramatic career shift.   Among those who had not, a staggering 65% were thinking about entering a new field.

Whether by choice, financial strain or circumstances beyond their control, there are times when an investment in a new career path seems more logical. As investor Warren Buffet said,

"In a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.”

Five Good Reasons Why It’s Not Too Late to Start a New Career

If you think you’re too old to start a new career, well… you’re wrong. It’s never too late to seek greater professional fulfilment, enhance your skill sets, or strive for a healthier work-life balance. Here are five reasons why it’s never too late to start your new career.

1. You have a passion that you never pursued
If there is something that you’ve always had a passion for but never pursued, you owe it to yourself to explore that calling. Building a career in a field in which you have a genuine interest in can change your life, and one of the most common reasons people change careers is because they want to leave a positive mark in the world. Working for the good of others, such as in the education, healthcare, non-profit work, and environmental sectors, can offer a sense of personal fulfilment that other jobs cannot provide.

2. You Are Stuck in A Rut
Changing careers will keep you sharp by presenting you with new challenges. What might have sounded like a fulfilling career fresh out of university can easily lose its appeal over time.   If you follow the same daily routine for 10 or more years, things are going to get monotonous. If you can’t see yourself staying in your current field of work until you retire or if you feel like you’re stuck on autopilot, it might be time to branch out into new types of projects at a different job.

3. Your Current Job is Stressing You Out
You deserve a work environment that doesn’t bring extreme anxiety along with it. A high-pressure work environment can feel challenging when we are young, but can become stressful as we progress through our careers. If your high-stress career is taking a toll on your health or relationships, you shouldn’t feel guilty about looking for a healthier work environment. Constantly having to meet quotas and deadlines, working long hour hours, and worrying about job security can affect your mental and physical well-being.

4. Your Industry is Changing, Shrinking, or Even Dying
Sometimes workers are forced to pursue alternative careers because of disruptions in their current field. Modern technology, outsourcing or decreasing demand may diminish the need for your skills. Here is an example:  As the print newspaper business declined, many talented journalists reinvented themselves and learned new digital skills. This enabled them to apply their talents as web publishers, content bloggers, adjunct professors or syndicated columnists.

If the job outlook for your current occupation is expected to decline, you may need to look for a more resilient career that allows you to transfer your carefully honed skills. To prevent history from repeating itself, look for occupations with high job security in fields that are projected to see growth over the next 10 – 20 years.

5. You Need a Path to Better Pay
Perhaps you have reached the proverbial ceiling in your current career, and there is little chance for advancement, raises or salary growth, consider taking your talents in a different direction. According to Indeed, 79% of workers who changed careers did so mainly for more money. As people go through different life stages, their financial obligations may increase, such as rent, housing and insurance, so it pays to ensure that your career potential can keep up with your financial needs.

Not So Fast…

So, you think you’re ready for a new chapter in your career. Congratulations, but don’t rush in blind. Smart career changers plan their transition for months rather than jumping on a whim. The same Indeed Career Change Report uncovered that the average time workers considered a career change for 11 months before making a move. This means that they took nearly a year of planning and preparation to ensure a successful transition.

Before you quit your job, you could enrol in classes, or trade-in your briefcase for a backpack and evaluate several options before taking the leap and changing your career.

1. Are You Willing to Start from Scratch and Take a Temporary Pay Cut?
When you change careers after you’ve established yourself, you should expect a pay cut, albeit a temporary one. Because while you may be an expert and highly experienced in your current field, you won’t be when you enter your new field. Now it is unlikely that you will recede to entry-level as many skills and professional leadership experiences are transferrable. You could advance quickly in your new career since you bring your previous work experience and skills with you.

You'll need to ensure that your finances can handle the transition period of a new career. Remember that finding an opportunity in your chosen field may take some time. Online or night classes can be a terrific way to get the education you need for your new role without immediately quitting.

Also, you’ll need a good dose of humility as you transition from an expert in your previous field to a beginner in your new one. You may start at the bottom of the food chain initially and may report to someone younger than you.   

2. Will Your New Field Accept You and Be Around in 10 – 20 Years
Some occupations, such as computer science, cybersecurity and advertising tend to skew toward a younger demographic. Unfortunately, finding entry-level opportunities in these industries can be difficult — though certainly possible —if you're over 40.

Even if you are enthusiastic about your new career, you need to do research so you can be confident that your chosen field is healthy, growing and here to stay. The Ministry of Manpower Statistics and economic trend reports can provide insight into projected career growth over the next decade.

3. Are You Willing to Get Additional Education or Training?
You cannot just say, “Hey, I’ve always wanted to work in cybersecurity!” and go apply for a cybersecurity job if you’ve been a nurse for the past 20 years. You will need to further your education. While some folks may quit their jobs to start full-time training or university, you can start your learning process in a far easier and less costly way.A first step might be to see if you can take a trial university class in your desired field of study. While you won’t earn any credits, this is a fantastic way to find out whether the coursework meets your expectations. Online classes make it easy to obtain the necessary training, certifications, and degrees you need while continuing to work in your current field.

4. What Problem Are You Trying to Solve?
Know yourself and your current situation in relation to all the factors associated with a new profession.

  • If you desire a better work-life balance, avoid careers that require frequent business travel.
  • If it’s all about the money, going into $200,000 worth in debt to get a new degree is unlikely to solve your financial problems.
  • If it’s boredom, a new job in the same field might fix that without the drawbacks.
  • If it’s to pursue a dream, will that dream allow you to maintain your previous standard of living? You may be happier as a social worker than as a corporate attorney, but the pay cut may be hard to swallow.

5. How Old Is Too Old?
It’s not the date on your birth certificate that matters, it’s the mindset that you maintain. For some 20-year-olds, their attitudes may make it too late to change. There is no better time like the present for those in their 40s, 50s, or 60s who believe in lifelong learning. Martha Stewart worked as a caterer before publishing her first cookbook in her 40s, Jeff Bezos worked on Wall Street before launching Amazon in his early 30s, and Vera Wang didn't enter the world of fashion design until she turned 40.

How to Change Careers Successfully

Here are some quick tips to help you transition into a new career:

  • Before making a move, research your desired field and assess how it fits with your goals.
  • Volunteer in or around the field you want to enter or take a class in your field of study. Both provide a no-risk preview of what your future may be like.
  • Assess your financial situation to ensure that you have enough money to not only cover the cost of additional education but also the inevitable salary dip.
  • Go back to school or enrol in a few courses that may be required for your new role.
  • Pursue necessary certifications for your industry.
  • Begin building your reputation as an opinion leader in your new field by leveraging social media.
  • Talk with industry veterans and mentors to get a sense of what to expect in your new role.
  • Join an industry network or group.

How Online and Part-Time Education Can Help You Successfully Switch Careers

Consider pursuing a part-time or online graduate programme of study if you're trying to figure out how to start a new career. Not many people can afford to quit their jobs and return to school full-time. Others prefer to ease into the idea of changing jobs by taking one class at a time and methodically planning their transition. Part-time or online education can make all the difference in these and many other situations.

Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) specialises in helping working adults embark on a new career. Learning at SUSS is flexible and customisable to suit diverse learning needs and commitments. They provide a wide range of full-time and part-time programmes that are modular and stackable towards full qualifications, allowing students to design and build their learning to meet specific needs and pace.

Professional certifications, in-company continuing education programmes, bite-sized courses, and customised courses targeted at special interest groups are all available to career changers through SUSS.

Final Thoughts

Don’t rush into a new career. The average worker takes about 11 months to plan out a career change.  Take your time and weigh the pros and cons of your desired professional trajectory before making any decisions.

No matter your age, there is always something new you can learn. It's never too late to embark on a new career path if you're motivated and passionate enough about what you want to do.

"Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment."—Ralph Waldo Emerson



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