Starting Over With a New Career Path in Adulthood Doesn't Have to be Scary


Choosing a new career path in your adult years can seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming. Follow these suggestions to make a smoother career transition.

New Career Changes and Paths

Depending on your motivations, the type of career change you'll make may vary. For example, you may decide to pursue a career in your current field, or make the leap into a completely different profession.

A New Position in Your Current Field

Maybe you still love engineering as much as you did back in college, but your job has become too routine and you no longer feel challenged. The solution might be as simple as switching to a new position in your current field. Maybe mechanical engineering doesn't interest you anymore, but electrical engineering now sparks your interest.

If you switch careers but stay in the same field, you'll need less additional training than if you changed fields entirely. You may even be able to continue working for the same company.

A New Position in a Different Field

If you're taking a leap into an entirely different field than the one you're currently working in, like this former nurse who became a software engineer, you'll require more training than someone making a move in the same field. Even if you feel like you're starting over, remember that you'll be bringing your years of wisdom and experience with you—which will make adapting to your new field easier.

Start planning now to make your transition to a new career more successful.

Once you've finished training, you may need to find a job with a completely different company. Keep your ties with your current colleagues strong: Their support and recommendations can go a long way in helping you land your first position in your new field.

Steps to Ease the Transition

Making a career change can feel overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Take a deep breath and explore how the following steps can ease the transition from your old to your new career path.

Research Career Choices Online

There's a wealth of information available on the Internet, including the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook. When visiting websites, look at statistics for earnings as well as those related to career longevity and burnout.

Identify the education and certification requirements using online resources from local and state governments as well as professional organizations in your target field; think about how you can leverage your existing experience. For example, you may be a middle school health teacher who wants to become a nurse. Using your considerable knowledge about chemistry and human biology, you may be able to test out of certain education requirements through the College Level Examination Program (CLEP).

Reach Out to Professionals

You may already know someone who works in the career you're considering. If not, ask around. A friend of a friend may know someone with just the right experience to help you make your decision. Talk to several such individuals to get a balanced perspective.

Finding a mentor in your target field can help you ease the transition to a new career.
Arrange to ''shadow'' someone in your prospective career for a few days to get a realistic picture of the work. Every job has its drawbacks, such as periods of excitement interspersed with long down time, or excessive paperwork to document casework.

Develop a Transition Plan

You may find it easier to make a gradual transition from your current to your new career. There are several ways you can move forward while remaining in your current job.

Volunteering on your own time is an effective way to get your feet wet in a new career field. Many organizations welcome volunteers and are willing to train them. Volunteering also gives you the opportunity to network with professionals in your target career. Additionally, volunteering can lead to paying work in your new field.

If you've been taking college courses, the career center at your school may be able to help you find an internship that'll provide you with on-the-job training in your new field. Be aware that you may need to make special arrangements to fit an internship into your work schedule.

Online Training Opportunities

According to, online learning has many advantages that can facilitate training for your new career, even while you're working full time at your current job. For example:

  • Some courses are self-paced and have flexible beginning and end dates.
  • Online courses allow you to schedule your own class time, such as nights and weekends.
  • Some online courses may costs less than courses taken in person.
  • Many online courses are free.

Online learning is a convenient and practical way to train for a new career.
Before you begin, learn how to navigate online classrooms. With a little bit of preparation, often available through orientation programs, you'll be ready to get the most from your distance learning as you train for your new career.

Never Too Old to Change

Don't feel like you're too old to pursue a new career, if that's what you really want. Even if you need to go back to school, you can use the tools discussed in this article to complete your training and ease your transition into a new field. With a good attitude, a support network, and the right resources, you can overcome your natural fear of change and confidently embrace your career transformation.

By Michelle Baumgartner
December 2017
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