How to re-engage or retrain in a career in your 40s

The adage says it is when ‘life begins’. Sheila Flavell says your fifth decade is a great time to learn new professional skills

In the rapidly evolving world of technology, digital skills are increasingly valuable for a successful career.

Cloud computing, automation and artificial intelligence are just a few of the top tech trends which have seen great advancements over the past year, propelling the world into a new era of innovation and efficiency, each demanding new tech skills.

Retraining at the age of 40 can be motivated by various factors, such as preparing for a career change, re-entering the workforce after parenting and transitioning to a role from the forces.

Regardless, it’s never too late to reengage with the professional world or explore a new career path in technology.

What are the benefits of retraining in your 40s?

Returning to work after becoming a parent or considering a career change in your 40s can be a daunting thought. You may fear that you have an outdated skill set or inadequate experience. Perhaps you are worried that you won’t fit in, earn enough money, or feel that you are too old to learn new skills.

However, with the correct training, digital skills can lead to a variety of opportunities and great success in the technology industry. 

The tech sector offers a wide range of career paths, from software development and programming to cybersecurity, data science, artificial intelligence and IT management, all of which are in high demand.

Learning digital skills and acquiring additional knowledge later in life challenges the notion that education and skills development are limited to younger years, opening doors to multiple new opportunities. 

Retraining within technology roles often allows for flexible arrangements, including remote work options. This can contribute to a better work-life balance and accommodate a diverse lifestyle, especially with the responsibilities of a parent.

What do I need to consider for a new career?

When considering retraining for a new career, it's essential to contemplate a few factors beforehand. This involves evaluating the additional skills needed for the desired career, understanding the associated costs and time commitment for retraining, and considering requirements such as qualifications and experience.

Other aspects include understanding likes and dislikes from previous roles and careers, the type of industry that interests a person and the previous skill sets taken from different jobs and experiences. 

For instance, if a previous job didn’t suit your lifestyle, consider a role with more flexible hours to balance your home and work life as you wish. 

Addressing these will contribute to a well-informed decision as you embark on your journey back to work or into a new professional field. 

Discovering new opportunities for retraining and delving into new career paths requires lots of research. Take the time to investigate the industries and organisations you aspire to be a part of, ensuring you stay informed about any emerging job roles. In addition to actively searching for prospects, it is crucial to actively participate in your professional network. Whether it's through networking events or connecting on platforms like LinkedIn, engaging with your network may lead to valuable connections who can assist you in finding apprenticeships, securing work experience or identifying volunteering opportunities.

When exploring fresh employment possibilities, it's important to take stock of your strengths and the skills acquired from your past role. Skills cultivated in the military and developed through parenting can prove immensely valuable in a professional setting.

In this case, the military provides strengths and skills learnt through this line of work that can be transitioned to a career in tech. In this case, problem solving abilities can be seen as a transferable skill applicable, and valuable, to the technology sector.

How do I find opportunities for people over 40?

It is not always necessary to have previous academic qualifications, such as a university degree. The use of transferable skills and the right research will open doors to success when retraining in the technology industry later in life.

Additionally, specialist programmes are available to help adult learners change jobs or get back to work in a career they are passionate about.

It is also important to update your CV and online professional platforms before applying for jobs, highlighting transferable skills picked up in previous jobs.

To maximise your chances of succeeding and making the most out of returning to work, it is important to consider the best careers to get into. This depends on skills, interests and demand of the job market.

Currently, the technology industry is prospering and experiencing a severe skills gap, making it a great choice for a career. 

Sheila Flavell CBE is chief operating officer at FDM Group