We answer a lot of questions on Quora and see a similar one popping up pretty regularly. They often go something like this, “I’m middle aged and want to switch careers. Is it too late?” Our response – “No!!! It’s never too late and we will show you how to change careers with ease!”
The question itself is hardly surprising for a lot of reasons. You might…
- Want to make more money
- Dislike your job or boss
- Be bored and want to reignite some professional passion
- Want to challenge yourself or at least change what you’re doing every day
- Seek involvement with today’s exciting technology
- See your job being at risk of automation
- Have been forced into it after being fired, laid off, or relocated
Whatever your reason is… it’s almost never too late to switch careers. You can make good money even if your skills are obsolete or have never been fully developed. It doesn’t matter what age you are. It doesn’t matter if you want to switch to something you lack knowledge or experience in (except potentially something highly specialized like medicine or law).
So then how to change careers? What’s the most efficient way to redeploy your talents into a more preferred option? It varies by current vs targeted situation but here’s a good path to take…
1 – Look at the job descriptions of what you seek. If your goal is to work at Google, go to their careers page. If you want to be a web developer, search for those jobs on a career board like LinkedIn or Indeed. No matter what you seek, you want to understand the qualification requirements so you can target the right development path.
Don’t underestimate this step. Companies put very detailed lists of technical skills, desired experience, and other responsibilities. The objective is to compare your current resume with the resume they are seeking. And then assess what your gaps are. Make a big long list of all the common skills and what you need to develop skills in. Physically write them down so you don’t lose sight of your target.
2 – Boost your skills. This one is typically pretty easy. Start with Reverse Tide Learning, where we have over 23 learning paths in the most common job skills (and the most efficient way to learn each). When you run into something we don’t cover, do a simple Google search for the easiest way to learn. Almost everything has an online course, website, video, book, or other learning method dedicated to it.
If you’re seeking something ultra-specialized, you may want to look into more traditional learning options. For example, engineering is almost always going to require a technical degree. Or if you want to be a teacher, it might help to look into official certification training. However, by default we wouldn’t spend the big bucks or take on any inefficient traditional sources without investigating better alternatives.
3 – Get Experience. Anyone can claim to have the skills but experience is where that’s validated. The easiest and most efficient way of getting a lot of experience is through freelancing. Check out Reverse Tide’s Freelance Page to get more resources on how to get started with that (and do it successfully). The goal is to have 3-5 projects that are related to the jobs you’re targeting. That way you have a real employer, real responsibilities, real time utilizing your new skills, and the references/ratings to prove your aptitude.
4 – Prove your qualifications. At this point, you might have a nice looking resume. You have good skills and applicable experience. However, the last step is making sure you can prove everything you’re writing on the resume. You need a professional portfolio!
A portfolio houses all your past work. It will include skill demos, artifacts from learning projects, the end results of your freelance work, and anything else that proves skills. Employers love this. For more help on assembling a top professional portfolio, you can check out our Professional Portfolio Comprehensive Guide.
5 – Assemble a winning application. By now you know you’re qualified. You meet 80% or more of the job description requirements. Your work has been stellar and you have plenty of experience. And you’ve demonstrated all of this in your portfolio. Now you just need to get the attention of employers. This means having a standout resume. It means writing your qualifications with impact. It means interviewing well. And it means seeking employers away from the job boards if possible (since competition is so great on them).
We have tons of resources in our Career Services page to help. Our resume guide, industry qualification writing guides, cover letter and interviews guides, and all the other resources we have are designed to get you that job. So make use of them! If you get that job only 1 day earlier, they pay for themselves. And if you need more specialized help like doing resume or portfolio reviews, we offer that too!
Now that you know how to change careers, the question is how long it takes? It depends. Choosing low skill work could see you change careers tomorrow. If you want to go into something with a low entry barrier like marketing, it can take as little as a few months. If you want to become a programmer, you can start getting some good freelance gigs after about 6 months and maybe a full-time developer role after 1-2 years doing dedicated learning. And obviously if you want to become a doctor, you’re looking at a much longer learning path.
However, you can always switch careers. You’re never too old. It’s never too late. If you hate your job or want to switch for any other reason, we’d encourage you to go for it! We hope you have more confidence in how to change careers. After all, we built Reverse Tide to help you along your journey.