The biggest problem is that at 30, 40 or 50, you’ve also gained responsibilities like kids, car notes, and mortgages. But it is possible to manage a career change while keeping your income.
Four Career Changes
I’ve had over 50 jobs during the course of my work life; and I’ve changed careers four times. Right after college (at 21), I convinced myself that my drama BFA couldn’t get me work. So, I started a career as a secretary. That evolved (at 25) to legal word processor – supporting me while I did theater in my spare time.
The third career change (to television production) came at age 30 because I was sick of breaking myself in two: half-breadwinner, half-artist. Television directing seemed like a good way to merge the two.
Once I switched careers and went into TV – starting at entry level – it only took me only 18 months to double the salary I’d raked in as a legal word processor. Although I’ll admit those 18 months were some of the toughest of my life; the challenge was offset by the joy, excitement and fulfillment I experienced at finally having a job where skills and talents could be fully engaged.
I was surrounded by people who liked what they were doing, and who were interested in the same things I was interested in. I didn’t mind working long hours. The work was interesting and rewarding – what a job should be. Also, my enthusiasm for the work translated into promotions and increased income.
After working over a decade as a director, another career opportunity knocked on my door – to be a soap opera writer. I accepted that challenge, and had a new career – at 43! And the four Emmys® I received along the way prove that this was indeed a match made in career heaven.
How did I manage the process of leaving jobs that were safe and predictable to climb out on the limb of the unknown in pursuit of the ideal job? Was I a risk taker? Not this woman.
I kept my night job (working 5 PM to midnight, typing in a law firm), committed to spending at least an hour a day on the job search for my new career, and followed the steps outlined in How Did You Get That Job.
How well did this system work? So well that I only had to use it twice:
- To make the career change from office work to television production (spending an average of an hour a day, that took me around eight months).
- When I moved across country to Los Angeles, and pursued my directing career there (spending an average of an hour a day, I landed that hard-to-get directing job within four months of getting off the plane).
What’s even more impressive is that those two job searches netted me 26 years worth of great jobs!
The Upside of the Midlife Career Change
And there’s definitely an upside to job hunting when you’re older. You’re a proven entity. The fact that you’ve been in the work force for X number of years means you’ve got a track record for showing up on time, bringing in new business, creating systems, team achievements, troubleshooting, getting along with fellow employees – whatever is applicable to your new career.
If you’re making the move from homemaker to working outside the home, that same rule applies. (See How Your Life Story Can Amp Up Your Job Search.)
At least find out what’s out there. Isn’t it worth investing $17 and an hour a day to find out if you can make your dream job come true?