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Changing Careers in Your 40s – How to Make the Career Change to Tech?

General Assembly
May 6, 2024

As an adult, your 40s are a defining period in your life. Unfortunately, many professionals at this age feel stagnant in their careers, some feeling like it might be too late to make a change. We’re here to debunk that myth because it’s never too late to try something new.

On average, career changers transition at the age of 39. According to experts, the significant reasons middle-aged professionals succeed in job transitions compared to GenZ is because of lower financial risks and personal stresses.

Although changing careers in your 40s may still be scary, it’s also very rewarding, and the pros outweigh the cons. Switching careers in your 40s is like taking a calculated risk for a more rewarding lifestyle and a job that will bring you more happiness and satisfaction.

Digital transformation is here to stay. The pandemic has hugely accelerated this trend, and most companies are now looking for tech-savvy talent to lead their digital efforts. In addition, gaining new tech skills and upskilling means you are understanding and relating to new generations, increasing the growth of future connections and professional opportunities.

Ultimately, it’s mindset over age, and we’ve got you covered. So keep reading to discover how easy it is to transition to tech in your 40s.

Should I Go Back to School in my 40s?

From bus cleaner to tech

Jason Klundt took a chance in 2016 when he decided to leave behind his bus cleaning job at New Jersey Transit and begin his career switch to the tech world.

After struggling to find a tech job, Jason decided to reskill enrolled in a UXDI Immersive at General Assembly, and graduated in April 2020. “The course opened many new doors for me,” explained Jason.

Jason now has a thriving career in tech. After graduation, he joined the PeduL team as a UX Design Consultant. However, his big break came in March 2021 when Jason joined the Product Design team at Bank of America and recently got promoted to VP of Software Engineering.

Check out our alum success stories to learn more about Jason’s transition into tech.

5 career change myths debunked

If you’re reading this, it means you’ve started thinking about a career change. Congratulations! This is a great first step. Information is power, so staying informed on all the latest career change myths that might be getting in your way (but not much longer) is essential.

1. You’re too old

Let’s get the age myth out of the way first. Statistics and various studies show that older generations are more willing to make a career change due to being more financially stable. Even more surprising is that the average American worker has 12 jobs throughout a lifetime.

Many highly successful people changed careers after 30. Look at Jeff Bezos. He transitioned to e-commerce and launched Amazon at the age of 31. Let’s not forget Julia Child, who initially worked in advertising but wrote and published her first cookbook when she was 50.

We said it once, and we’ll say it again, you’re not too old.

2. You’re starting from zero

Whatever background you are coming from, chances are there are skills you can reuse for your tech career. Your transferable skills can be anything from strong communication, teamwork, critical thinking and problem-solving to basic IT skills.

At GA, we’ve seen career changers from various backgrounds, such as health and fitness, transportation, and HR. Therefore, understanding and identifying the transferable skills you will bring to your tech job is essential during recruitment.

“Understanding what you’re bringing with you and how that translates is a part of getting traction immediately upon your graduation or even before that. In addition, your transferable skills allow you to network confidently without feeling like you have to make up for where you’re coming from,” explained Briar Dougherty, CEO & Founder at Career Organic.

3. You’ll need a university degree

One of the main myths that set people back from pursuing their new career is the idea that they will need to go back to full-time education, like a university, and face those grueling student loans again.

“It’s possible to get into tech without a degree, but it can be difficult. One thing I keep telling a lot of my students is that it’s going to take a lot of work, but it is possible,” explains John Bacolores, ED.D. Senior Career Couch at General Assembly.

Times have changed, and employers no longer require university degrees for all tech jobs. Since the pandemic, online degrees have become increasingly popular and have become a widely recognized form of education. In the USA alone, the e-learning market is set to grow by $12.81 billion by 2024.

Online courses, bootcamps, and immersives are among the many ways you can gain the valuable tech education you need much quicker, more cost-effectively, and with a flexible schedule that fits your life.

4. Everything needs to be planned out

Taking on a career change in your 40s may mean you’re also juggling being a full-time parent in between. It’s a busy time that will require some organization, but not everything needs to be perfectly organized.

Take it one step at a time, one day at a time. Things take time, and that is also the beauty of life. If you’re stressed out about how you will manage everything, try breaking down your big goals into smaller bite-sized pieces. This will give you a greater sense of achievement and hopefully allow you to destress and feel more organized.

5. You will be without an income for a long time

Depending on the tech job you are after, you may need to upskill for 3-6 months (this time is based on you doing an immersive course or bootcamp).

At GA, we prepare our graduates to be ready to enter the workforce as soon as they graduate. Some of our graduates had even found jobs before they graduated from their course.

However, if you are still worried about your finances, try taking up some freelance work in the meantime. Freelancing is a great way to earn some money on the side while offering a very flexible schedule. Additionally, freelancing allows you to get your foot in the door of a company that might potentially hire you full-time in the future.

3 common challenges for career changers at 40 and how to overcome them

Changing careers at an older age, even though financially easier, maybe mentally harder. As we get older, we become more used to our daily routines. This includes routines in our professional and personal lives. We’ve identified three common career change challenges and their solutions.

1. Networking scares

We cannot stress enough how beneficial networking is for a career change. “There is such significant value in the networking aspect. Take the time to not only apply for positions but really put yourself out there to meet as many people as you possibly can,” explained Leang Chung, Founder & CEO at Pelora Stack.

But sometimes networking may seem like a daunting task to approach if you’re fresh into tech.

To become a networking pro, utilize LinkedIn to your advantage. Visit the company profiles you want to work for and look at the employees. Whether they are recruiters or someone in the department you want to join, start interacting with their posts on LinkedIn to make a warm introduction. Sometimes messaging someone directly can be intimidating.

You can also grow your network by attending virtual or in-person events and workshops aligned with your career change aspirations.

“I’ve had three students in the past get interviews and connections with recruiters because of a comment they made on someone else’s post. So if you start to comment, then you’re building organic confidence and conversation,” added Briar Dougherty, CEO & Founder at Career Organic.

2. Explaining your story

Treat your career change as an advantage that will highlight your personal brand to prospecting recruiters. To make yourself stand out from the crowd, make sure you tell your story about why you are changing careers and are passionate about tech.

“A lot of people are transitioning from something completely outside of tech. So make sure you tell your story to avoid it coming across as disjointed. When making the 180 degrees career flip, pull along your transferable skills and adapt them to your story,” explained Briar Dougherty, CEO & Founder at Career Organic.

3. Pick one lane

Psychologist Barry Schwartz once coined the phrase “Paradox of Choice” to describe his findings that while increased his choice, it also led him to greater anxiety, indecision and ultimately “analysis paralysis.”

Google the term “analysis paralysis,” and you get no less than 1.3 million results. So what’s all this got to do with a career change?

Just undertaking the task of a career change is a challenge. You don’t want to stress yourself out more by having too many options. Pick one lane, i.e., focus on one particular area of tech.

This is particularly important when interviewing for a job, explained Leang Chung, Founder & CEO at Pelora Stack, “focus on one particular area of tech, especially during interviews. If you’re not taking the time to go deep enough into a specific area, the cracks start to show up in the interview. Become an expert in your field.” 

Top 3 tech jobs to explore your career change at 40

The tech industry offers various career paths, from web developers, data analysts/scientists to marketing. Undoubtedly, you have a lot of choices. To give you an idea of the salary range and job scope, we’ve identified three tech jobs that are gaining traction in 2022 and beyond.

1. Data Analyst

Job Scope: According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of analyst job openings is expected to grow by 23% between 2021 and 2031. Data Analysts are one of the most important roles within an organization. As companies adopt a more digital and international way of conducting business, data analysts are needed to help companies make strategic decisions. If you’re wondering how to become a data analyst, take a free data workshop to get yourself familiar.

Daily, Data Analysts work with big data sets to provide insights for companies that will enable all relevant stakeholders to make decisions that drive innovation and improvements across the organization.

Average salary: $66,000 per year (Glassdoor)

2. UX Design

Job Scope: UX (user experience) designers play an integral part in any tech company. According to a survey by Nielson Norman Group, the UX profession is estimated to grow to about 100 million people by 2050. Daily, UX designers focus on enhancing end-user product satisfaction by improving the usability, accessibility, and enjoyment associated with a product.

UX designers work closely with the product and engineering teams to understand the product goals and create product wireframes, storyboards, sitemaps and prototypes. Looking to learn more about job opportunities? There are many UX design career options you can explore through General Assembly.

Average salary: $101,000 per year (Glassdoor)

3. Web Developer

Job scope: Web developers are among the most in-demand tech talents due to many companies bringing their businesses online. According to BrainStation, the job market for Web Developers is expected to grow 15% by 2026.

Web Developers are responsible for creating well-designed websites and user interfaces that include mobile and responsive site design. There are many career paths for web developers. You can become a front or back-end developer or even both, known as full-stack web development.

Average salary: $74,000 per year (Glassdoor)

Are you ready for your career in tech?

This blog has covered some fundamental tips and tricks to making your career change at 40 seamless. Remember, it’s never to late to pursue a career that you love.

If you need more support or information, download the ebook “Career Changers Guide to Doing Something Different” to start your career change journey today.

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