An Expert Breaks Down the Best Tips for a Career Change After 40

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Change is scary at any age, but it sometimes seems to only become more anxiety-provoking as we get older, more set in our ways, and more comfortable. But change is also good and oftentimes, even necessary. If you've been part of the workforce for more than 20 years, you know the signs it might be time to move on: Office politics wear you down; you feel like you've plateaued and you're no longer being challenged. 

If you feel like it might be time to call it quits with your current employer—or even career—we promise it's not as scary as it may seem if you have the right tools. For this, we tapped Holly Caplan, workplace expert, career coach, and author. After leaving her corporate job of 17 years, she became frustrated with the stigma with which prospective employers and recruiters were evaluating her professional potential. 

Meet the Expert

Holly Caplan is a career coach and author dedicated to helping women navigate and thrive against male-dominated workplace culture.

"In 2024, women over 65 will make up roughly the same percentage of the female workforce as older men do of the male workforce," she explained. "Additionally, twice as many women over 55 will be in the labor force as women ages 16 to 24." Knowing this, she knew there must be a way to execute a career change after 40 and do it efficiently. Here are her top five tips on how to change careers later in life.

Step 1: Use Your Network

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"Sending our résumés to career websites will do nothing for us," says Caplan. "We get pushed aside as we are categorized. The tip here is to use our network of colleagues, former business associates, and friends to find companies who are hiring and will have a genuine interest in what we can do for their organizations. This method does work. Finding like-minded individuals with the same goals of working smart and getting stuff done will provide the best platform for finding a new working environment."

Step 2: Show Off Your Skills

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"At this point in our careers, we have a proven list of accomplishments and skillsets," explains Caplan. We have navigated some of our toughest times and have already been through the learning. Because of this we require less training and possess the right skills. We need to show off our confidence and accolades to a potential employer. They need to know that our leadership skills and experience will fit in flawlessly with their company."

Step 3: Be Bold

a woman in a polka dot blouse

"We can ask harder questions in the interview process, and as an employee, perhaps questions that challenge company methods or goals," says Caplan. "If anything, as women, unfortunately, we have been taught to be compliant and agreeable to get through the stepping-stones of our careers. We don't have to do that anymore. We have arrived. Work experience has taught us to think quickly, make decisions, and share opinions. We have a lot to teach, and hiring companies need to appreciate this."

Step 4: Seek a Mentor

two women walking arm in arm
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"I have had great women mentor me," says Caplan. "Women of a certain age. Women who are drama-free, make things happen, and don't sweat the small stuff. I appreciate them, have learned from them, and have committed to do the same for others. This is important as this will help us change the tide and break the stigma."

Step 5: Be Tech-Savvy

a woman looking at her phone

"Much to the disbelief of others, age doesn't stifle our tech knowledge," says Caplan. "It's who we are as a society. Most of us already use work-related apps like Zoom, Slack, Dropbox, and others. The point is, our tech knowledge isn't lacking, so that is no excuse for hiring companies or managers. We are already there. This is not a hindrance."

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