How to change your career later in life


27th Jan 2021




2020 was a strange and challenging year with the repercussions of the epidemic still reverberating across the world, heavily impacting upon many different aspects. Industries that were once considered stable and resilient have been irreversibly transformed.

Not all changes have been negative however, with many people having more flexibility in their job and more time as a result. This has allowed some people to re-evaluate their career and the direction in which they are heading. By the same token, there is no escaping the fact that the past 12 months have caused many sectors to shrink, with those affected now looking to flourish in a whole new industry.

If you find yourself in either scenario, changing your profession can likely be a very daunting prospect to consider. As we get older it is often the case that we have increased financial and family responsibilities. This dissuades us from taking a risk and making a major change to our career or salary. Re-entering the job market doesn’t have to be a gamble though; by learning what to expect, you can remove a lot of the uncertainty.

Our first tip when looking to change profession is to understand the transferable skills you already possess; this can help you settle into a new occupation much faster and excel in your new role. We have outlined our other top tips for changing careers regardless of your level of seniority or existing experience below.


Do your research

You may have a clear idea about the role you want to pursue in the future or you might just be thinking you want to start something new. If this is the case, there are a few factors you need to consider:

  • Identify what you like/ dislike about your current or previous role, helping you to identify the type of job you’ll find most fulfilling in the future
  • Think about the type of duties that would make your working life more enjoyable
  • Consider the type of activities that you would like to do on a day to day basis

Changing occupation is a significant commitment so it’s also important that you’ve considered the long-term benefits alongside the more short-term opportunities.

You can then start to explore the different opportunities that are out there, looking at different company websites and the skills and qualifications that are required. If you’ve pinpointed a specific industry you have an interest in, it might be worthwhile looking at the different roles and progression routes available. It is also important at this point to start thinking about the skills you can bring to your new role. This could help to make the change less drastic with a side-step into a new department or industry rather than a complete change.


Gain a new qualification

Education can be one of the most significant catalysts for change and a new qualification can give you the skills and credibility to apply for a wider range of jobs. If you didn’t previously go to university, a degree can help to open new doors, giving you the knowledge and confidence to pursue a new profession. If you’ve already studied an undergraduate degree but now have a different interest, you could choose to study a conversion course or Masters degree to help you break into your chosen field.

Returning to the classroom might not be possible for you at the moment, whether that is due to family commitments, financial implications or other factors. There are however a number of alternative flexible study options that will allow you to get to grips with a new subject while maintaining the income and security of your current position.

Online learning allows you to study at your own pace, maximising your employment opportunities while not being tied to academic term dates. Many employers look on people favourably who have studied while working full time, as this demonstrates just how organised and dedicated they are.

At University of Essex Online, we offer a range of online and part-time degrees and short courses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. These cover a wide range of sectors including business, computing, criminology, education, health, law, project management, and psychology. This means that regardless of the sector you are looking to break into you will find a course that will be able to support you on this path.


Be realistic

When changing careers, it can often be hard not to feel like you’ve wasted time in your previous role. However, experience and industry knowledge are always highly valued assets. Employers are looking for well balanced, knowledgeable individuals so, combining your practical knowledge with a formal qualification will help you to stand out in the job market. You do also need to be realistic with your new career expectations. If you’re in a senior position within your current industry it might not be possible to go into a similar position within your new field and may need to start from a different level and work your way up again.

Volunteering, networking or applying for graduate / entry-level roles are all effective routes to break into a new profession. Do your research to work out which option best suits your needs factoring in your situation and how this might be impacted.

If you’re looking for a change but are not in the position to climb a new career ladder from the bottom, consider compromising. Try going into a position somewhere between your current sector and your dream role. This will give you the financial stability and authority you’ve worked towards, whilst giving you room to grow into your new role. This gives you the potential to move into your desired field at a later date. Changing career can be a journey, rather than a new chapter.


Go for it

Making a career change can have a dramatic impact on your life but it’s more common than you might think. On average people change careers between three and seven times in their lifetime. Changing industry and role takes no small amount of dedication, coupled with a willingness to pick up new knowledge and practical skills. But with work playing such an important part in our lives it’s important to pursue a role you find both rewarding and fulfilling.

If you’re interested in finding out how students at University of Essex Online are using their studies to progress their career you can speak to one of our student ambassadors. They would be more than happy to share their experiences to date and how studying an online degree has helped to shape their profession.

To discover more about our full range of career-specific degrees and short courses you can download a prospectus to find out more details.