Change Careers at 40 – Or Any Age!

Change careers at 40? Or 50? How about 23?

The reality is that people change careersor to be more specific, jobs – at all ages. Long gone are the days of graduating high school, working with a local factory, then retiring several decades later.

You may not realize it, but the average job lasts just five years. Some estimates put that number as low as two years, but in my experience that holds true for less tenured employees.

For example, when someone newly graduates from college in his or her twenties, it is more likely that he or she will change positions several times in the next decade. But for most of us, five years is a pretty dependable average.

I had a conversation recently in which a peer stated the widely-held opinion that most jobs now require a strong level of specialization and demanding educational requirements. Although widely held, this myth about the job market is mostly false.

In recent history, I saw a headline in the Toronto news stating that 77,000 new jobs were added to the economy across Ontario last month. But make no mistake. Those jobs were not all created for doctors, lawyers and engineers. For the most part, those jobs consisted of:

  • Part-time and entry-level work, such as retail or clerical positions.
  • Seasonal and temporary work, such as construction or general labor.

So while these types of headlines make us feel good for a moment, it is important to remember that jobs do not have higher educational requirements – it is the exact opposite. Jobs requiring little-to-no experience with minimal time commitment represent the overwhelming majority of work opportunities right now.

It would be more accurate for this peer – and others – to state that the types of permanent, full-time, career-building positions that most bread-winners seek require more education and experience than ever. And that isn’t because the jobs we do became exponentially more difficult. It is simply because there are fewer numbers of these jobs available hence greater competition to acquire them.

I grew up in Oshawa, Canada – the home of the Canadian headquarters for General Motors. Naturally, GM was the biggest employer in the city. In fact, residents from all over the Greater Toronto Area commuted to Oshawa for work. (This is of course the total opposite from today – in which most commuters are heading West from Oshawa to Toronto for work each day)

When I was a child, having a high school diploma was not a requirement to work at GM. By the time I graduated high school, it was a requirement to have a university degree just to work on the factory assembly lines.

Please don’t be fooled. You might be well into your thirties feeling very comfortable in your current position – and as you see it, well on your way to establishing a long and successful career with your present employer. But the reality for most of us – and most of my readers – is that skilled workers well into their forties and older are finding themselves out of work. And almost without notice, they are plunged into the highly competitive arena of hunting for work.

And not just “work” – but the right type of work to sustain an expected standard of living and adequately support a family.

The fact is that you will end up changing jobs before you retire – most likely within the next 5-10 years. You might even end up changing career paths and industries altogether! That is becoming more common. The best time to begin safeguarding yourself against an unexpected job loss is now!

Please remember that people involuntarily lose their job for a variety of reasons including:

  • Companies lay off, downsize, and move.
  • Skill sets become less relevant over time.
  • Departments close or get reassigned.
  • Positions get automated and outsourced.
  • Etc.

I am sorry to contradict your mother, but your doing your best won’t help. These factors above are all beyond your control.

It is almost a certainty that you will change careers at 40 – give or take a few years. And if you are a current “boomer” out of work, understand that you are not alone! But there is a silver lining. Many boomers – or even those nearing retirement – take advantage of the opportunity to do something they always wanted to. This might be your opportunity to explore a completely new career path. And who knows? You just may end up stumbling upon something even better than you imagined!

For more articles and other tools to help with your job search, I recommend you visit my blog at There you can subscribe to get updates and find other valuable resources.

By Brent M Jones