Cost of changing careers

So you want to change your career? You can do it – at 20, 30, 40 and even 50. Why waste time at a job that’s not making you happy?


Switching careers is scary, but not impossible – no matter how old you are. Human Resources consultant Michele Bowes weighs up the pros and cons of changing your career at different life stages.


…In your 20s

Chances of Success: Hell yeah!

“The earlier the better,” says Michele. Why? At this stage of your career it’ll be easier to accept a junior salary. After all, you’re moving from the start of one career to the start of another.

Can you afford it? Yes (despite what you think)

The financial cost will be low… but it’ll feel high, says Michele. That’s because as a young person you usually don’t have enough money to live on, and possibly no savings too, so there’s no money to fall back on. If you haven’t started, start building some savings into your budget now.

Verdict: Go for It!

“This is the best time because you won’t have ‘wasted’ any years in the wrong profession,” says Michele. Money will be a hassle, sure. “But the sooner you make that change and live with that initial short-term problem, the better.” It’s also a great time to ask yourself how in control you are of your money.


…In your 30s

Chances of Success: So-So

“The fact is, you’ll spend most of your life until you’re 60 at your job,” says Michele. “So if you wake up at 35 and you find you’re in the wrong profession, I’d still encourage you to be brave and find every way you can to cope with living at a financial level that will allow you to make that change.”

Can you afford it? Yes (if you ignore your rich friends)

By now you’ll (hopefully) have enough saved to help soften the financial blow of a career change. “But if you want to keep up with your colleagues, remember that their salaries will grow every year,” says Michele. If you move down or stay at the same level in your new job, you will miss out on that salary growth.

Verdict: Move… but don’t go back to zero

“Define your core skills,” says Michele. “You may think, ‘I’ve only ever been a librarian and I have no other skills.’ But as a librarian, you’ll know how to research – and there are many other jobs where finding information is a good skill. Think broadly when it comes to the skills you have.”


…In your 40s and 50s

Chances of success: Depends on you

“The best years a company will get out of a person is usually between 25 and 35,” says Michele. You know what you want, you’re very focused on your career and you will give the job your all. Employers know this, that’s why there are a lot more jobs available to you. After that, 35-to-40 is still okay, but over 40 you’ll find it difficult to even be offered positions. Working as a consultant would be your best choice.”

Can you afford it? Don’t even ask

If you offer to take a pay cut, your next boss won’t buy it. “Employers are very nervous about anybody asking to step down in salary,” says Michele. “At a job interview you may say you’re happy to take a cut, but often that’s because you’d rather have a job than no job. But months into the job, you’ll realise that you can’t afford as much as you used to, you’ll spot another job, and off you’ll go. They know you’re not likely to stay long.”

Verdict: Go out and sell your skills

If you’re over 45, your best move is to use your years of experience to consult. What about starting your own business? “But follow your heart,” says Michelle. Life’s too short to say: ‘I’ll just do this until I retire.’ If it isn’t your passion, you will not be your best. Identify your talents. Create a niche for yourself. Find something you love doing. And get someone to pay you to do it. That’s the best principle you could follow in your entire career… at any age.”

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