How to Change Careers When You're Middle-aged

This guy's ready for a new career adventure. How about you?
This guy's ready for a new career adventure. How about you?

In an economy limping along with a high percent unemployment rate, it's not unusual for even the gainfully employed to test free agency and see what else might be available. In a 2009 survey, when global financial markets were still plummeting, more than 65 percent of workers said they were actively looking for new jobs.

It's one thing to change jobs, something most people will do more than 10 times between the ages of 18 and 42, but it's quite another to change careers [source: Bureau of Labor Statistics]. Making the leap from a field in which you've been trained and have experience to a wholly new one takes careful consideration, planning and the right expectations.

This is true of anyone interested in making a change, but what about professionals who have been in the workforce for 20 or 30-plus years? Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, make up 40 percent of the labor force, and shifting gears later in life to focus on new career objectives can be challenging, but also rewarding. Seasoned professionals often have a different perspective than their younger colleagues. Middle-aged workers usually place more value on nonmonetary benefits, such as less stress, flexible work schedules and personal fulfillment, so when they're able to change careers they can make the jump to areas that are more professionally fulfilling rather than having to worry about how much they earn [source: Hsu].

Changing careers later in life can happen for a number of reasons, whether a job is obsolesced by technology or you're simply interested in pursuing a field that holds more interest for you. But don't take this lightly; a little planning, foresight and self-awareness can go a long way to helping you land your dream job.

If you're thinking about making a change, keep reading for some practical steps to take along the way.