And now for something completely different…

Always dreamed of being a surf instructor? It’s never too late.

Not everyone knows from the get-go what they want to be or do when they grow up. And it’s not until considerably later in life that many people realise their true calling. Some try several careers before they find the one that really fires them up. Others work in one career for decades and then make a radical change. The point is that for the vast majority of vocations, it’s rarely too late to change careers. You can change your mind, and plenty of people do.

Nevertheless, changing career often has consequences that reach into important aspects of your life. It's likely to affect, among other things, where you live, who you meet, how much you earn, and ultimately, the quality of your life. 

There’s plenty in your favour as a more seasoned member of the workforce: you have more skills, work and life experience, and contacts than you did as a fresh-faced graduate or school-leaver. But you are also much more likely to have financial, family and relationship responsibilities. And this can have a sobering influence on your vocational dreams. Just for starters, what are the long-term prospects for this kind of work? Have you got the time and money to retrain? Will it pay well enough to cover the mortgage? Is your family right behind you?

Minor tweak?

These might all be considerations that bring your more radical ideas down to earth. Ultimately, they may not lead you into avenues that are particularly far-removed from what you are doing already, but only you can weigh up your fulfilment at work against your other needs and those of people who depend on you.

If you aren’t willing or able to start again from scratch, you might look instead at careers where you can use transferable skills from your current career, or which give you a better work-life balance while still maintaining a decent enough salary. It could be that a change to your way of working is all that's needed to rekindle your professional interest – for example, going freelance

Or major overhaul?

Then, there's the nuclear option. Are you prepared to start again at the bottom and retrain, working your behind off for peanuts alongside people half your age in a vocation where your ten years of on-the-job experience don't count for much? Yes? (Kudos, by the way!)

Much of the advice we've published around choosing a career when you’re just starting out still applies if you want to make a radical career change later on. The long and short of it is that to find the most fulfilling line of work, you need to start with careers that mirror your values and then see how far they match your skills and experience – not the other way round. 

If you don’t get a proper handle on what really matters to you now, you are likely to make the same choices that led you down your current career path that (as it turns out) was never quite right for you in the first place. You also need to review what you’re good at, what you like and the way you like to do things, because your interests and preferences change with your experiences as you get older.

A radical change in direction may not come easily, but if you have single-minded determination and moral support, a successful transition to the kind of career that will make you leap out of bed in the morning is entirely possible.

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