Tips and how-to steps for changing jobs after 20 years

Updated 23 May 2023

There are a variety of reasons someone may want to change jobs but doing so after 20 years poses a unique opportunity. Finding a new professional passion can provide many benefits and bring a new level of excitement to your life. When changing careers after a long time in your industry, knowing what steps you can take can help ease your career transition. In this article, we define a career change, discuss reasons you may desire to change careers and provide a step-by-step guide to changing jobs after 20 years of employment.

What is a career change?

Changing jobs after 20 years involves a working professional choosing to pursue a different job or a different industry than their current employment. There are various motivations to change careers, including passion, salary, skills and many other reasons. Career changes may be difficult, depending on the job you desire and the requirements for the role, yet developing your skills may be a welcome challenge. This decision can have positive benefits for both your professional career and personal life, providing you with wider expertise, experience and daily inspiration.

Related: What you should know about changing careers (with tips)

Reasons you might pursue changing jobs after 20 years

There're many reasons to pursue changing jobs after 20 years in the same role, with some of the most popular reasons being:

  • Passion: Many people change careers because they find themselves passionate about something else or lacking in passion for their current role. Passion can be a huge motivator to try something new and make big changes.

  • Job satisfaction: Job satisfaction is usually one of the most popular reasons behind changing jobs. Feeling unhappy in your current role can lead to wanting to change your routine and switch careers.

  • Salary: Salary is another significant motivator for changing careers. If your current role underpays overall, hasn't offered a raise recently or if your industry is in decline, finding a new career with a better salary may be a good choice.

  • Work culture: Sometimes people seek a better working culture when they change careers. People want to feel comfortable, recognised and accepted within their workplace.

  • Flexibility: Flexibility is one of the increasing motivators for changing careers. People that want to improve their work-life balance may benefit from changing their careers and finding more flexibility with their schedule.

  • Changing circumstances: Sometimes circumstances just change, meaning that choosing an alternative career path is the best option. For example, this might apply if you've just moved to a new location and working in your current role is no longer feasible.

Related: 8 career change obstacles and how to overcome them

How to make a job change after 20 years

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to make a job change after 20 years:

1. Consider your current circumstances

The first step is to consider your current circumstances, which include your age, your location, your finances and your experience. Changing careers can be more difficult when you've been in your career for a long time. If there are external financial or other family troubles, changing careers might not be the best move until you're more stable. Considering your circumstances can help you determine whether a career change is likely to provide more benefits or disadvantages for your current situation.

2. Decide what job might inspire you

If you've considered your circumstances and feel ready to make a career change, decide which job you'd like to pursue. Think about your experience from your previous roles and the skills that you've developed across your career and try to find areas where they apply. Deciding on the job you plan to pursue takes lots of realistic thinking to ensure the best chance of a successful career change.

Related: 15 jobs to consider for a career change (with duties)

3. Explore using a careers counsellor for additional guidance

To help you narrow down your job options and to help you determine what you have a good chance of securing, research the benefits of using a careers counsellor. Careers counsellors can offer informed guidance that can assist you throughout your journey to change careers. Careers counsellors can talk through your options with you, help you evaluate the skills you can offer and provide additional information about jobs. You can find a careers counsellor that works in your local area or you can opt for virtual counselling with a career professional to help you on your way.

4. Research open roles in fields that interest you

Thoroughly research the industry you've chosen to pursue. This is valuable for determining what you may require to secure a role in this field and which level position might suit you best. Find out about the role's responsibilities and beneficial skills, alongside information about the salary and the job requirements. Some jobs require specific educational qualifications to stand as a candidate, whereas some jobs offer on-site training after hiring. Being aware of what employers expect from candidates may help you determine whether this role is right for you to pursue and can help avoid disappointment.

5. Determine what skills and experience you already have

Determine what skills and experience you may offer to a new job role. Consider your previous role and what your previous responsibilities were and decide whether your experience applies. Do the same with your existing skills and determine whether there're any ways that you can apply them to a new role. Most roles expect candidates to offer soft skills, like communication, organisation and determination, whereas some roles demand hard skills like technical proficiency and the ability to use specific software.

6. Consider furthering your knowledge and skills via education or courses

Once you've identified your existing skills and experience, consider whether it's in your best interest to develop them. Some people change careers and choose to pursue another educational qualification to qualify or some choose to pursue a skills course to strengthen their skills. If you feel determined to change careers to a specific role that requires you to gain qualifications, make sure that your circumstances enable you to pursue these qualifications. Employers appreciate candidates who've actively worked towards improving their skills.

7. Update and strengthen your CV

The next step is to update and strengthen your CV document. Having an engaging CV leads to securing interviews and appealing to employers. Your CV details all your previous experience, qualifications and skills that enable you to be a suitable candidate for the role. Your CV can also include a professional summary, in which you can include details about your desire for a career change. Strengthening your CV with role and industry-specific keywords can help your CV stand out against competitors.

Related: How to write a personal statement for a career change

8. Network with industry professionals

Another beneficial step to help you change jobs after 20 years is to get to know the industry and other professionals within it via networking. Networking is valuable for meeting like-minded professionals who have experience in the job you're aiming to pursue. Networking is a good way to meet new people and become a recognisable presence entering the field. There are typically networking events organised by companies or educational institutions with alumni.

9. Apply for available roles

The final step to changing your job after 20 years is to apply for a new role. Submit your CV and your cover letter document as part of your application. If you progress to an interview stage for a role, highlight your experience and your existing skills in more depth during the conversation. You can also inform employers about your motivation, passion and interest in the role and the wider industry.

Tips for changing jobs after 20 years

Below are some tips to guide you if you plan to change jobs after 20 years:

Be realistic

Being realistic requires self assessment. Acknowledge your ability and what you can successfully pursue. Remember to focus on your circumstances and determine whether they align with a drastic career change. Realistic thinking can help you avoid disappointment whilst also helping you to narrow down the suitable options available to you.

Related: How to make a career change at 40

Be optimistic

Optimism is key to this process. Changing careers after such a long time can feel disheartening and a genuine struggle but many people go through this process. Remaining optimistic can keep your mental health intact. This can increase your chances of finding something new when you show up to interviews with a positive attitude.

Plan effectively

Planning can reduce stress when changing your career after 20 years. Making sure that your circumstances and your finances are well-prepared for this change is vital. Planning can include conducting thorough research into potential roles, working with counsellors or using guidance to update and develop your skills. Being organised throughout can simplify this process and contribute to your confidence.

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