Changing Careers at 40

Are you stuck in a midlife rut? You’re probably not alone, especially if your uncertainty or anxiety is career-related.

As the U.S. Department of Labor tells us, today’s young adult worker should expect to have 10-14 jobs by the age of 38. So, don’t feel bad if you’re confused: you’re expected today to not only have had multiple jobs by the time you’re 40, but multiple careers.

Whether you are forced out by relocation or downsizing, or you are actively seeking new challenges or better compensation, do not despair.

School may be cool … and flexible
One potential route you can take is going back to school. If you need education that “catches up” to your experience, you can choose from legions of for-profit colleges that cater to the needs of working (or out of work but job-seeking) professionals who demand flexibility, value, career focus, and speed to degree. Think 40 is too old for school? Think again. In the private, for-profit college sector, the 40-49 age bracket accounted for nearly as many students as the 18-19 age bracket in 2007-08 (about 10% compared to 12%),via the U.S. Department of Education.

The online promise
Most promising of all, many courses these days can be taken online. If you’d rather not give up two years of work for the classroom, all it takes is an Internet connection and the right mindset, and you can turn to the virtual classroom for your learning needs. Distance learning on the whole is growing larger by the year, and as of the fall of 2008, more than 25% of higher-education students had taken at least one class online. U.S. online class participation (in terms of number of students taking ≥1 online course) increased by 32% (3.5 to 4.6 million) from fall 2006 to 2008. From anywhere between $200 and $30,000 (obviously variable quality), you can get yourself an online degree.

$2 billion stimulus + 4 years = plenty of new employment-based education/training
In addition to for-profit colleges, a lot of community colleges are receiving special funding for career training. The Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for Workers program (part of the 2009 Recovery Act) will funnel $2 billion over the next 4 years to community colleges and other eligible institutions of higher education throughout the US.

The TAA program, which also goes by the really big name of TAACCCT (I’m not kidding–even the abbreviation is huge) promises to:

“… enable eligible institutions of higher education to expand their capacity to provide quality education and training services to TAA for Workers program participants and other individuals to improve their knowledge and skills and enable them to obtain high-quality employment to support their families.”
[Emphasis added.]

Know what you’re getting into
Both career school and community colleges have the distinction of serving a largely non-traditional (read: not 18-24-yr.-old) population, and the best ones will recognize a need for a practical education that fits your busy schedule, whether that involves online classes, physical classrooms, or some combination of the two. You always want to check a school’s accreditation and how local employers and national/regional occupation-certifying agencies value the certificates/diplomas/degrees conferred upon graduation.
Get advice from the career-change blogosphere
Finally, you could read good insight from the best career-change bloggers, whose wealth of knowledge and expertise apply to many different age groups, including Janet Cranford’s Career Change Pathways, which focuses on encore careers for those in their mid-40s and over.
Photo courtesy of Basia56 via Wikimedia Commons.

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