Making a career change in your forties can be a tough internal battle. You’re leaving a career where you’ve likely earned seniority, a high level of expertise, and a salary that reflects the years you put in. But for many, leaving a career that you’re just not jazzed about anymore is worth the risk. Plus, many female job seekers in their forties are opting back into the workforce after having children, and there’s no debate to be had: They want to get back to work.
Vicki Salemi had been working for more than 15 years in corporate recruiting and human resources when she decided to transition into a career as a self-employed career coach. Today, she coaches professionals on their job searches and personal brands, and she’s also a career advice expert for Monster.com.
Here are her steps for all fortysomethings who want to make a successful career change.
Good news right off the bat: Salemi says she doesn’t sense that ageism affects the hiring process for job seekers in this age bracket. “I’ve seen more distinct ageism for professionals in their sixties than their forties,” she says. “Technically, 40 is the new 30.”
If you’re uncomfortable with changing careers at this point in your life, Salemi recommends that you talk to other women who have recently made a major career transition. “There’s a reason why you’re looking to change your career paths,” she says. “You are not alone—countless people do it, so reach out to people within your network and identify some folks who’ve been there, done that.”
Questions Salemi says you should make sure to ask: What were their obstacles? How did they overcome them? Any regrets? “Perhaps it was easier and faster than they had ever imagined—and their only regret was not switching sooner!” Salemi adds.
During a job interview, Salemi suggests to her clients that they leverage their age as an asset, not a liability. She says that with age comes experience and expertise, and that’s precisely what you’re selling. “Nobody can replace the valuable relationships you’ve established with people, and nobody can put an age on the quality of experiences and skills you bring to the table,” she adds.
“Everyone should use social media to establish an online presence that is both personal and professional,” says Salemi. “One that’s polished, sharp, and most importantly, in their own voice.” And yes, hiring managers and recruiters do Google candidates and look at social media profiles.
Salemi reminds us that in many instances, your social profiles may be the first impression you make: “Recruiters are active on social media trying to find their next hire,” she says. “Plus, when you interview, they’ll likely peruse your profiles to see if they can learn things that aren’t on your resume, or if there are any red flags.”
Create profiles on social media platforms that were conceived with job seekers and career-oriented professionals in mind, such as Levo, or update your other accounts so the language you use to describe your skills and previous jobs can be applied to your new career goals.
Consider having your own personal website, too. Sites like Squarespace, branded.me, and wix.com are all website-building platforms that are free and easy to use. “Approach your website like you would a resume and cover letter,” says Salemi. “Make it easy to understand; professional with a flair for who you are as a person.”
They’re also extremely transferrable skills. “Soft skills are applicable to any industry,” says Salemi. “More often than not, employers value this over technical skills because they can teach technical skills. They want to know about your ability to communicate well, work well with others, be well-liked, trusted, and respected—all traits of an excellent colleague.”
Salemi recalls preparing for her own career pivot: “I followed my gut—I knew it was time to do something that had more of a positive impact on people. It’s not uncommon to take a step back and look at the big picture—how am I helping people? What would be most fulfilling to me by the end of 2016? 2017? Within the next three years?”
While twentysomethings are the demographic most commonly associated with asking these soul-searching questions, Salemi says that this kind of self-inquiry is crucial for fortysomethings opting back into the workforce or making a career change. Which is to say, a career change in your forties is completely feasible, if you make the transition with strategy and authenticity. In short, you’ve got this!
This article originally appeared on Levo and is reprinted with permission.