When are you too old to make a career change?

Man Changing Career


This article appeared in The Boston Globe. Elaine Varelas is Chairman of the Board for Career Partners International and Managing Partner of Keystone Partners.

Q: I am 35 years old and have been in sales since college. I don’t feel any satisfaction from my current role and am considering a change to the creative side of marketing. People say I’m too old to make such a big change. Your thoughts?

A: You are absolutely not too old, and changing roles, functions, or industries is another type of career plan. People make all sorts of big and small career changes at a variety of ages. People go to law school, or get MBAs or MSWs regardless of their previous careers. They decide to teach or to quit teaching. They change industries.

So develop your plan. Don’t assume this will be a one-step career move. It may take two or three moves to help you make the transition. Below are some of the steps you should take:

Be specific with your target. What does the creative side of marketing mean? Identify titles that cover the types of jobs you want, and the kinds of organizations where these positions exist.

Identify the skills needed to succeed in these jobs. With any career change, you need to be clear on which skills you have. Find job postings and see what the expectations are for the kind of jobs you want. You may be closer to making a successful transition than you think.

Identify the development you need, and get it. Which skills are you missing or need to strengthen? Do you need experience, courses, or a certificate program? See if you have the opportunity to develop new skills within your current organization.

Develop a network. See how people got these jobs and ask what they would recommend for you. Use LinkedIn to identify people you know in the field. They may be able to refer you to jobs or search professionals looking for candidates.

These activities will get you started. So five years from now, you could be happily situated in a new career, or you could be asking, “I am 40 years old. Am I too old to make such a big change now?”

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, the Career Partners International Boston firm, and serves on the board of Career Partners International.