Career Change at 40: How to Know What You Are Good At

by Shala Munroe

    After 40, many people begin to look at life differently. They often begin to feel that life really is too short to be stuck in a dead-end or unsatisfying job. At 40 years old, there's no reason you can't change your career and find a job that fits you better. It doesn't happen overnight, so take your time and assess your skills and interests as well as your financial requirements to determine which new career path is right for you.

    To help determine what you're good at, spend a few days seriously thinking about your skills as well as your interests. List them all, including hobbies and volunteer work. For example, if you are a graphic designer by day but you prefer to relax with woodworking at night, add that to the list. Include the skills you currently use at work as well as those you use in your free time. When the list of interests overlaps the list of skills, look closer to see if there's a way to make a career there.

    Changing careers is a process, so take your time to develop your final list of skills. When you've found an idea you want to follow up on, look for volunteer opportunities in that area to help you decide if that's the direction your new career should go. For example, if you're interested in woodworking and are good at it, check with local custom furniture makers to see if you can work with them for a few weeks to determine if your skills are strong enough. Or, if you think teaching is more your thing, volunteer at after-school programs to get an idea of what it's like to manage a group of kids in your preferred age group.

    Just because you're good at something doesn't mean you're good enough to change careers immediately. Taking classes can help you develop stronger skills as well as increase your earning potential. In the teaching example, going back to school to get a master's degree in education gives you a chance to learn more about what's expected of you as a teacher and tips on difficult topics such as classroom management while giving you the ability to enter the education system at a higher pay level than if you had only a bachelor's degree. At 40, you don't want to start at the bottom of the pay scale -- retirement's looming not so far away.

    If nothing on your interests and skills lists intersect, consider taking some strength assessments. Online versions typically are free, but for more in-depth assessments, visit a career counselor. She can help pull information from you about what you're good at and what you like to do to help you find options for your next career. A career counselor can also help you pick the right career to get you out of your rut while keeping you on a similar pay and benefit level.

    About the Author

    Based outside Atlanta, Ga., Shala Munroe has been writing and copy editing since 1995. Beginning her career at newspapers such as the "Marietta Daily Journal" and the "Atlanta Business Chronicle," she most recently worked in communications and management for several nonprofit organizations before purchasing a flower shop in 2006. She earned a BA in communications from Jacksonville State University.

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