10 Minute Read
“Am I too old to make a career change? Is it too late for me to start over?” You’d be surprised by how many times I get this question from callers.
Folks, the answer is simple: It’s never too late.
I believe we should keep doing work that brings us joy until we take our last breath. That doesn’t mean you need to have a full-time career when you’re a great-grandparent, but there’s no reason you can’t do what you’re passionate about just because you hit a certain age. And this idea that you have to be stuck in the same job forever with no hope of making a change—well that’s just false.
Let’s expose the biggest lies people believe when it comes to starting over later in life.
5 Lies (and 5 Truths) About Changing Careers "Late”
Does it ever feel like the culture’s definition of career success belongs only to the hip young entrepreneurs and 30-under-30 listers? Let’s change that right now. The truth is, you can achieve great success at any age—and if it means starting later than everyone else, that’s okay.
Lie #1: I can’t change careers at my age because I don’t have the time.
You might think that at this point in your life, it won’t be worth it to begin a new career. You might feel like you don’t have enough years left, or you might not think you have the time in your schedule because of family responsibilities or other commitments.
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Truth: Nobody really knows how much time they have left in life.
With the time you do have, you can make progress daily—even if you’re only able to take one small step at a time. Anything worth doing or having is going to take time.
I’ll spare you the tortoise-and-the-hare analogies, but think about it: Are you willing to be patient and put in the time it takes to make that career shift, even if you have to do it more slowly than you’d prefer?
Lie #2: I can’t change careers at my age because I don’t have the money.
This is another protest I hear a lot. And while it’s a valid limitation for some, it doesn’t mean you have to let your dreams go. It can be overwhelming to think about everything that a career change will require financially—more education, more training or a new location are all possible expenses—but don’t let that discourage you.
Truth: You don’t need to be rolling in money—you just need enough to get started.
First, analyze the cost of the changes you want to make. (Do you need to take night classes? Do you need to pay for a certification?) And then be prepared to save, budget and make sacrifices so you can fund the dream as you go. It might not be easy, but it will be worth it!
Also, keep in mind the free resources that are available to you. Listen to podcasts, check out books from the library, ask for tips from someone who’s already a pro, read articles online, watch YouTube videos . . . the list goes on. There are plenty of ways to get information that don’t involve spending money.
If it turns out you do need to spend some money on formal education or training, build it into your family’s financial plan and know that it may take a little longer than usual if you have to work a job at the same time to pay for it. But it is possible.
Lie #3: I can’t change careers at my age because I don’t have the skills.
Sometimes when people say this to me, I ask them some follow-up questions and find out that they actually do have the skills they need—they’re just doubting themselves. Other times, they might need to take a few classes or complete some training in order to really succeed in the job search.
Be honest with yourself. Do you have a skill set that would enable you to pursue the career direction you want? Or is there something you still need to learn?
Truth: You can learn any skill at any age (unless you’re 95 and want to play professional hockey—but even then I wouldn’t rule it out completely).
Plus, a lot of companies are willing to train employees, no matter their age.
Another “setback” for some people is that they don’t have a college degree. They’re worried about the time it would take to go back to school so they can then be considered in a competitive job market.
But did you know that in an exciting new trend, companies are now starting to waive their college degree requirements? On job-search websites like Craigslist and Indeed, job postings asking for a college degree dropped from 34% in 2012 to 30% in 2018.1 Work history requirements have also changed—in 2012, 29% of jobs asked for 3+ years of experience, and in 2018, only 23% did.2
All of that just means that you shouldn’t let your concern about not having enough skills or experience keep you from pursuing your dream job. Why not take a risk and apply anyway—what do you have to lose?
Lie #4: I can’t change careers at my age because people will judge me.
In this case, the idea that people will judge you is not the lie here. People probably will judge you. The lie is that you can’t change careers because of it.
Truth: It’s very possible that people will think you’re making a mistake if you shift gears now—and they may or may not tell you that to your face.
If you’re worried that companies will hold your age against you, I’ll be honest with you: Some of them might. But the right people will understand that your talent, character and work ethic are way more important than your age.
Let me tell you something, folks. It doesn’t matter what anyone—friend, family member or annoyingly opinionated neighbor—thinks about your career decisions. It’s your decision! You have to decide if you’re going to let fear of judgement stop you from moving forward, or if you’re going to press on anyway.
Lie #5: I can’t change careers at my age because I don’t know anybody.
This just might be the biggest lie of them all. Way too often, people get stuck doing a job they hate just because they think they don’t have any connections elsewhere. That’s not a good reason to stay miserable!
Truth: You know a lot more people than you think.
And even if you don’t know a lot of people right now, you can make powerful connections by simply getting around the right people and in the right places! That’s what the Proximity Principle is all about—in order to do what you want to do, you have to be around the people who are doing it and in the places where it’s happening. And that’s true at any age.
You can start building these connections simply by going to lunch with someone who’s already doing what you want to do, interning at a company where you want to work (no, you don’t always have to be in college to get an internship), volunteering to gain experience in your field—there are tons of possibilities.
Once you begin to use the Proximity Principle and start getting to know people who are doing what you want to do, you’ll find that opportunities will come your way. Someone will know about a job opening, or be able to give you a recommendation, or ask you to come work for them. It’s happened countless times, and it can happen to you.
That, my friends, is the right way to network!
How to Overcome Career-Change Lies: Get Rid of the Fear
Now that we’ve talked about some of the lies about changing careers later in life, let’s take this one level deeper.
Every single one of those lies I mentioned earlier is related to fear. So now we need to address the fear head-on, and I’m going to give you a practical, step-by-step way to do that. No matter what your fear is, here’s how to expose it and silence it.
My technique for fighting fear:
Name the fear. Get specific! Do some careful self-assessment to pinpoint your exact fear. Fear of failure, fear of financial instability, fear of embarrassment—just call it what it is.
Write it down. There’s actually a lot of power in looking at the fear on paper, in black and white. That way you can stare it down and say one of my favorite sentences ever: “Fear is a liar.” Say it out loud!
Figure out the truth. Truth is essential to silencing fear. Ask yourself: If this is what the lie is saying, then what is the truth? Now is not the time to let your insecurities take over—know your value. For example, if your fear is that you’re unqualified, you have to take a good look at what skills you have and realize that either you do have the right skills or you have the ability to learn the right skills. Remember all those truths we talked about earlier? Keep those at the forefront of your mind.
Repeat the truth as many times as necessary. Repeat it so often that it becomes louder than any doubt in your mind!
This way, you’re not just ignoring the fear and pushing it down (which makes it worse). If you follow these steps, then the next time fear starts creeping around, you can address it immediately and say, “Not today. I already dealt with you.”
Note: As long as you’re taking risks and doing things that challenge you, fear will be part of the picture. That’s healthy and normal. The goal is not to eliminate fear, but to deal with it effectively so you can still move forward without getting paralyzed.
Where to Start Once You Feel Better About Making a Career Change
Now is the perfect time to walk through what I call the DREAM process—Discover, Research, Embark, Achieve, Meaning. If you’ve hated your job for what seems like forever and haven’t really taken the time to think deeply about what you actually want to be doing, you might need to start at the Discover stage. If you already know what you need to do but haven’t taken the first step yet, it might be time to Embark and start building a web of connections! You get the picture.
Wherever you’re at on the journey, know that it’s not too late, you’re not too old, and you do have what it takes.
If you need some more strategies and practical advice for making a career move, listen to The Ken Coleman Show or give me a call at 844.747.2577! You might even want to check out this recent episode, where I talked with Beth, a teacher who had lost her passion and called in to ask if she was too old to change her line of work. It was a joy to walk her through the process and help her get the confidence she needed to step out—and I hope it can help you too.
About Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman is the bestselling author of The Proximity Principle and national radio host of The Ken Coleman Show.
Pulling from his own personal struggles, missed opportunities and career successes, Coleman helps people discover what they were born to do and provides practical steps to make their dream job a reality.
Listen to The Ken Coleman Show on SiriusXM, your local radio station, or wherever you listen to podcasts—and connect with Ken at kencoleman.com.