Careers keep changing shape. Boomers could expect 11-13 job and career field changes in a career of about 40 years. Recent studies indicate newer  cohorts can expect 15-17 such changes in a 45-50 year span. Increasing longevity plus the impact of new technologies underlie the difference. Add in the increasing implementation of technology in many jobs plus the pandemic influenced impact on remote and gig work and we have large changes in the nature of work, which many people and organizations have not fully adapted to yet.

Most scientific and technical knowledge has a short lifespan. Career fields that once seemed very stable morph. Many of the ‘top jobs’ shown in recent annual lists of ‘hot jobs’ did not exist five years ago – and that change rate is expected to continue. Fewer people are willing to move for job opportunities than in past decades. These career changes offer difficult challenges for many people.


At every stage of your work life, these three basic practices underpin success. Understanding that, developing your skills and maintaining each practice is vital.

The first is networking. Building connections with people in your chosen field, with others outside it, and maintaining connections is vital to career success at every age and stage. You need to develop a process that works for your temperament and interests. Then you need to be persistent in building and maintaining your network across your life. In person activities, professional events, regular contact, and social media all play a part in your networking efforts.

Second, invest in yourself. Keep learning, exploring, and being curious. Few companies do much long-term development of their employees now. You need to keep growing your knowledge and skills. This can be done through formal education, seminars, training programs, certifications, and professional organizations. Also, read deeply in areas which interest you. Develop your own self-study in your current field or another which interests you. Consider online courses from a wide range of sources or in-person ones via local colleges and professional resources. You have to figure out what works for you now. Then change as needed to respond to forces in the rest of your life.

These two basic practices also have significant positive effects on physical and mental health and longevity per research.

The third practice is to make a career plan that is always looking at least two-three years into the future. This may be based on longer-term goals. Most important: have an action plan that you work consistently. Review it regularly. Modify as needed. This plan should focus on what you need to enhance, change or develop. Learn the trends in your career field and the broader economy. Job and career changes are much easier if you have been paying attention to your interests and building new skills as needed.

These three basic career practices will support and sustain you across your entire career spectrum. Yet I see many people who know what they ‘should do’ but don’t actually do so.


In the first ten years of your career, your work is usually influenced by where you started. Perhaps it is your parents work, a degree, or military service that led you to your current career. If you’re lucky, it has been an interest for several years.

In the early years it really helps to build your own support systems.

  • Seek out mentors at work.
  • Learn from those people in your field and organization who are recognized experts.
  • Volunteer for projects or task forces to develop new skills.
  • Join a professional or trade association to learn and to meet people.
  • Be active in meet-ups and social media groups, and wherever those in your profession gather.

Look at the path forward – does it appeal to you? What do you need to learn and what achievements do you need for the next interesting job within your field? Do you want to build depth of knowledge and become an expert? Or a generalist? Are you interested in managing people? Define your your career goals.

It’s critical to learn ‘soft skills’ during this period. These include all the skills you need to effectively work and communicate with a diverse population within and outside your organization. It’s smart to learn what works for you in productivity terms too – figuring out time management, how you organize your work, and what tools you need to learn/use effectively – as these help you succeed and grow.

How do you explore other options if you find you’re not in the right field?

While career changes happen at many stages of life, early ones are often the most upsetting. College grads discover that their chosen field does not appeal after all. Many people deal with one or two employers which are bad matches for their needs. Far too many people are offering you advice that is not helpful. If you have qualms about your early career, talk to people you trust in your network to help identify what the real issue is first.

  • Bad spell?
  • Bad boss?
  • Bad employer?
  • The wrong work?

What do you need to address? How will you move forward?  Bad spells occur in every job, so this is often a coping skills issue.  If it is the boss or the employer which is a bad match, you need to look for a new job. Be careful this time to really evaluate the potential employer and boss to be sure they meet your values and goals.

Stay in your job if you can without significant mental or physical health issues, while you figure out what to do next. If it is the wrong work, start looking at options. Talk to people in your network. Try a ‘side gig’. Take a course online or in a local community college. Find people in areas you think might interest you and learn how they began and grew their career and what they really do day to day. Try volunteering in new areas of interest. Small steps usually are the smartest way to change careers.

Whichever path you choose in your late-20’s to mid-30s is not set in stone. You will face the “what do I want to do when I grow up?” question well into your 70s. Pick a path, enjoy it, and when it is no longer enjoyable, move on.


In mid-career, your work goes from learning and developing basic knowledge and skills into significant strengths to work which achieves significant goals. This is when you really build your reputation. And that, in turn, helps you get promoted and find new jobs as desired.

Reputations are also built on these attributes so evaluate yours:

  • Are you someone who is reliable and truly adds value?
  • Do people rely on you for information, ideas, support or mentoring?
  • Are you known as someone who can be counted on to rise to new challenges or lead people effectively to achieve a goal?
  • Have you learned how to maintain emotional control?
  • Are your interpersonal skills very good or excellent?
  • Do others see you as an expert in some aspect of your field?
  • Have have you learned to effectively communicate across a team, division, or organization?
  • What new ideas have you come up with, and which have been adopted?
  • Are you in leadership roles within relevant professional organizations?

Ideally, in these years, you will stay in each job long enough to make significant achievements, be promoted or move into new areas. Employers really seek out those employees with a strong record of achievement for internal growth options. Hiring managers want to see achievements, current knowledge, and upward mobility in external candidates.

Your resume should always be up-to-date. So should your social media profile(s.) A contact may know of a great opportunity or you may recognize early signs that a new job is a smart move. Tailoring a great resume to an opportunity is far easier than creating one in a short time-frame.

Increasingly, people in mid-career are also moving into remote work, freelance or ‘gig’ jobs, contracting, and other flexible patterns instead of regular full-time employment with one employer. If any of these options appeal to you, you will need to do research on both employers who want such workers and how you can manage such a career pattern.

Do you have a current written action plan for your career? Mid-career often is ‘crunch time.’ You may be deciding what your next steps are. Changing technology and economy/industry trends will have you wondering what to do next. Personal life intervenes as family or care-giver roles become more likely. Taking a bit of time each year to think ahead and create a career path will help you succeed.

Too often in the rush of daily life we forget to keep up. Maintain a pattern of regular learning and human connections. Those habits are valuable throughout your life.

By one’s 40s, and in many technical fields even earlier, the early signs of age discrimination creep in. It will be on you to make sure you are not an easy victim.

  • Make your career interests and desire to grow clear to your bosses.
  • Ask for training and use company training/education reimbursement plans.
  • Keep current in your field and expand your knowledge base.
  • Keep your network active and growing.
  • Watch for changes at your employer or in your field that may mean job loss.

I often talk with people in their 40s and 50s who are seeking to change jobs. Far too many have not kept themselves current in their knowledge or changing technology. Many have let their networks go. Often they do not have the savings to cope with a period of unemployment either. These people have a much bigger effort ahead since they have to fix those issues first for a decent job opportunity to succeed. Don’t be that person!

Some of the biggest career changes happen in mid-career. Your field changes in ways you dislike – or it is in decline. Your interests and needs change. These changes are often more frightening since you may have a family and financial commitments or fear loss of income or status. When you begin to feel restless or unhappy, start evaluating and take small steps to change. Seek a coach or therapist as needed to assist you in moving forward. Being stuck until the proverbial sword hanging over your head falls is a much tougher way to live and harder to recover from.

Successful career change comes when you:

  • Do the self-assessment work and career field exploration to know your options.
  • Assess your knowledge and skills against the needs of the new work and learn anything necessary to move into the new field.
  • Define how your past successes apply to this new field.
  • Try it out on the side or as a volunteer or on a temporary basis while still working in your current job if possible.
  • Use your network to help you make the move.


Your network is the key to finding jobs and staying employed as you age. Keep it fresh with new and younger people in your field, and in adjacent or new fields which interest you. Be a mentor or a sponsor. Far too often I have people in their late 50s or older tell me that all their network has retired. They are struggling and do not have anyone to help them make the right connections or be referrals to hiring managers.

Increasing longevity means many people will work into their 70s for many reasons. While the total number of people over 75 currently working full-time is not high, the growth in this category of employee is higher than any other age group over the past decade. That of people over 65 is next highest. The pandemic hit many older workers hard but they are returning.

You cannot assume you will remain employed as long as you want at most employers now. Some employers are smart enough to offer options for full and part-time employment to older workers. Many do not currently do so.

In order to remain employed, you nust

  • learn relevant new skills and maintain your curiosity,
  • demonstrate your value,
  • exploit the many competencies and capabilities you already have, and
  • keep your network active.

Your maturity, emotional stability, competence, and breadth of experience are valuable to employers if you present them well.

Again, having a career plan to keep yourself on track is important. Maybe you just want to keep doing your current work. Perhaps you are ready to move from management to an individual contributor role. Or move into a new field. Or begin an ‘encore’ career in a non-profit or cause that is important to you. Maybe you want to work part-time or seasonally. Or start your own business – entrepreneurs over 65 are increasingly common. Or become a consultant. Whatever you think you want to do, you need to be clear about what you need to learn, what your strengths are, and what any change is likely to mean if you want to stay actively working.

So many of us, at every stage, think everything is fine – and do nothing to prepare ourselves for changes. Recognizing that every career field changes, specific knowledge has a short life-span, and that employers come and go gives you the ability to protect your career. Your career is your biggest financial asset. Don’t damage it by ignoring basic career ‘preventive maintenance.’