How To Start Over In A New Career

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The career you choose won’t necessarily be the career you’ll have until the day you retire. In fact, many adults change careers multiple times from graduation to retirement. If you want to start over in a new career, you’ll need to decide on the job you want, research that job and get the credentials you need to be competitive for openings in that field.

Identify a Goal When You Want to Start a Career

If you want to start a career, you preferably have a particular occupation in mind. The best thing to do in that circumstance is to learn as much as possible about the career in advance. Before you make a move in that direction, it’s important to make sure this is the right route for you.

You may be directionless, though, feeling that you want a change but not sure what that change is. If that’s the case, you need to take time to learn as much as possible about your own skills, abilities and personality type to track down the type of job that will be the right fit. Network in your community and talk to people in various occupations to extract the real truth behind what day-to-day life is like in a job.

Research the Requirements

Once you’ve identified your new career direction, it’s time to start researching what you need to qualify. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to look up requirements for any type of job. Pay particular attention to job ads for professionals in that career in your area since that will give you a better idea of what you need to do to be competitive.

If you want to start a new career as a police officer, for instance, identify the police department and look up its job requirements. Some departments require either an associate or bachelor’s degree, while others will let you in with a high school degree. Either way, you’ll likely need to attend the police academy if you’re accepted.

Get a Certification

Whether you want to start a new career at 30, 40, 50 or beyond, the best thing you can do is take a good look at your resume. Although a full degree can help you transition to a new career, one of the quickest ways from A to Z is to get a certification. In some careers, you may even be able to spend a few months studying or taking a course and then pass a test that puts you on the right road.

If you want to become a certified financial planner, for example, you can continue to use your existing bachelor’s degree, supplementing it with the appropriate certification. Each state has its own requirements, but you typically will be able to simply complete a few additional classes specific to financial planning and then take a certified public accountant exam to get your CPA certification.

Look for Applicable Skills

No matter what type of career change you’re considering, you don’t have to start from scratch. Whatever education and experience you have can be applied to the new career you plan to tackle. In fact, most people end up in careers having nothing to do with their major.

This isn’t always the case, though, which is why it’s important to research your potential new career before making any changes. If you want to start a new career, review your resume and look at the skills you already have that would carry over. A former attorney could easily make the transition to judge or politician, for instance, but with a major industry shift, you would need to look at the skills you used as an attorney that would apply to what you’ll be doing in the new career.

Focus on Soft Skills

Often, professionals make the mistake of looking primarily at hard skills when deciding the right career path. If you want to start a new career at 30 or 40, though, those skills will likely be specific to the work you’ve done after graduation. While some of those skills may not transfer, today’s employers are more likely to prioritize soft skills when considering candidates for certain positions.

Soft skills are those abilities you have that can’t be learned through training. Some examples of common soft skills include:

  • Good communication
  • Leadership
  • Creativity
  • Dependability
  • Organization
  • Adaptability

While most soft skills will benefit almost every job, your own unique soft skill set will make you a better fit for some jobs over others. If your strength is in leadership, you’ll be ideal for a supervisory role, while those with excellent communication skills will be well suited for a position that involves directly interacting with clients or customers.

Seek Out Mentors

No matter your career choice, if you want to start a new career, you probably know someone in that position. If not, there’s likely a friend or acquaintance who can connect you with someone who is firmly nested in your career of choice. Put out a call through your networks and offer to buy someone lunch or a cup of coffee to briefly discuss the realities of the career they’ve chosen.

Another even better option is to try to find someone who can mentor you as you navigate this big change in your life. If you can find someone who will do this for a consulting fee or in exchange for you returning the favor somehow, you’ll be more effective. You may even need to shadow your chosen mentor for a brief time or volunteer to help with a particular event to get a feel for what the job is really like.

Be Willing to Take a Pay Cut

One of the toughest things about starting a new career is the step down in pay that you may face as a result. This isn’t always the case, especially if you’re getting additional degrees or certifications to make the change, but in those instances, you’ll face expenses in getting the additional necessary credentials.

Those who want to start a career should research pay rates for the position that are published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on This site not only gives median national wages for your position but also includes what you can expect to make as a person entering that position versus one with years of experience. Your current experience in other areas may give you a slight pay bump above entry level, but at least you’ll get a feel for pay ranges.

Update Your Brand

Once you’ve completed your requirements, and you’re ready to start looking for a job, the real work begins. If you want to start a career in any field, you’ll need a resume and general cover letter that you can customize when you’re applying for open positions. You should also take a look at your LinkedIn profile and make sure that it’s updated for your new profession.

Your LinkedIn profile is only part of your online reputation. When someone searches your name on the internet, they likely get information on your previous activities, so you’ll need to do an across-the-board upgrade to ensure your online brand matches where you want to be in the near future. At the same time, if you want to start a new career at 30 or any age, you need to begin networking with those in the industry into which you’re moving while also maintaining good relationships with your previous contacts.