In 2014, I pivoted from being a senior vice president to starting a freelance writing business. Stepping out was scary after spending over twenty years safely under the corporate umbrella.
God had been calling me to make this change for a few years, but I was paralyzed by fear and running the wrong race. I was under constant stress, working long hours, and had made my job an idol. No wonder God wanted me to make a change, and He finally got my attention when I was passed over for a pinnacle promotion.
The pain woke me up, and I was ready to listen and put feet to my faith. Back then, making a mid-life career change was risky and unconventional, but once I committed to obeying and trusting God, He made my way clear. What’s your story? Is there something you’ve dreamed of doing that you just can’t stop thinking about? Maybe God’s calling you into a career where you can use your untapped talent in fresh new way. Or maybe your current job (or boss) is wearing on you, and you’re longing for a career that allows for more freedom and independence.
Career Change Statistics
Whatever your reason, statistics show you’re not alone. Today’s workforce is much more likely not just to hop jobs but to switch professional altogether—and the results are largely positive. In case your courage needs bolstering, check out these stats collected by Zipdo:
- 56 percent of people report greater satisfaction.
- 80 percent say they’re happier in the current career than the previous.
- 73 percent wish they would have changed careers sooner.
I’m raising my hand on all three! Yes, yes, and yes.
So how can you make a successful career change, especially mid-life, or especially when it’s different from what you’ve done for most of your professional life.
One of the most redeeming things about learning the hard way is helping others learn the easy way. I call this recycled strength, a term inspired by 2 Corinthians 1:4. Recycled strength happens when God’s strength carries Christians through adversities, and they pass what He’s gifted them on to others.
I’m honored to share with you what I learned through my big career transition. I hope you’re encouraged and propelled a giant step closer to the career God has waiting for you.
Step One in Making a Successful Career Shift: Pray
You’re feeling prompted to shift careers, but you’re unsure. What’s the best place to start?
The first point of action has to be prayer. Pray specifically about the career transition you want to make.God cares about every detail of your life, including the type of work you do. Making a career transition requires faith in God, yourself, and the process, but if you bathe the decision in prayer from the beginning, He will show up! He’ll intervene and give you the courage, confidence, and stability you need to start and finish the process.
Use a prayer journal.
I prayed for several years leading up to my career change, and I journaled my prayers, which I highly recommend. You can look back and see patterns where God has affirmed the career path you want or where He has shut the door.
Over and over, God used other people to affirm my desire to write. Here are a few quotes from my journal:
“You have a gift with words.”
“When I was discouraged, you wrote me a letter that spoke to the heart of my situation.”
“You have a lot of business writing experience. It wouldn’t be a big jump.”
There’s something powerful about seeing your prayers on a page and then seeing God answer them a few pages over. He is a God of clarity, and the Bible shows us He’s not one to hint about a person’s calling or the next move. Invite Him into your career transition, and He will show up!
Step Two: Create a Plan for Your Career Transition
After praying, create a plan covering all the details.I was talking to a friend who believes in God but sees Him as a big “eye in the sky” who oversees things but doesn’t care about the details. I asked him if he’d ever read God’s instructions to Noah about how to build the ark. Or to Joshua about how to carry out the Battle of Jericho. Hello!!
Our God cares very much about details. He’s a planner who works through order and structure—present in our big dreams and all the details needed to get make them come true. Keep that truth in mind as you pray and prepare for your potential career change.
What questions do you need to ask and answer? And what research should you do to help you take your career shift from idea to reality?
Do the research and crunch the numbers.
Build a lot of spreadsheets and collect data to answer these questions:
- What does the new career pay and how does the pay compare to what you make now? For example, I went from executive leadership to freelance writing. The decrease in pay was significant, so I had to look at my budget and assess it against a writer’s salary to determine if the career change was workable.
- How soon can you earn money? The bulk of my paid writing projects are in the textbook industry. The payment terms are net 60, so there’s quite a delay from the time I sign a contract to the time I get paid. In my case, I had to account a 2-month delay.
- How much money do you need to save for the transition?
- Who can you talk to that’s already successfully doing the career you want to transition into? What do they say is hard? What do they love? What tips do they have? Develop a list of questions for them. At a minimum find out the pros and cons. Try to assess if your idea of the new career matches the reality.
- What professional organizations can you join to help you understand more about the new career? Professional organizations have deep resources like salary studies and degree requirements, but they’re also a great place to connect with people in the field where you want to work. Many have free mentoring programs.
- Is a relevant degree important? Is it a showstopper? The answer will vary by industry and profession.
- Can you enlist a recruiter?
- What contacts do you have within your network who can help you?
Will your career shift change your status from employee to self-employed?
I switched from working for a company to working for myself, and these are the questions you’ll want to answer:
- How will your taxes be affected?
- How will you manage health insurance?
- What equipment, programs, and supplies do you need? How much will they cost?
- What are the most effective ways to secure projects or assignments?
- How long do you have to wait to get paid?
- How will you invoice and receive payment?
Create a business plan to support your career transition.
What is a business plan, and why is it important? A business plan is the blueprint for how you’re going to set up your business, how you’ll run it, and how you plan to grow it. It’s also necessary if you plan to bring on business partners, need investors, or if you need financial help like a small business loan. The plan proves you’ve done your homework, understand your industry, and are a worthwhile risk. Click here for more detailed information on how to create one.
Step Three: Push for Progress Toward Your Career Change
After you’ve finished your research and created a plan, use what you learned to push for progress. In this step, you’ll make decisions and set goals. This step is rewarding because you start accomplishing milestones and seeing your career change becoming reality.
The prayer and planning steps are important, but it’s a great feeling to stand on that foundation and start moving forward.
Here is a sampling of the decisions you’ll need to make:
- Can you try out your new career while still doing the old? For example, I wrote freelance and tutored people in English during my last two years at corporate. Working parallel helps build your confidence and resumé while you still have the security of your existing career. I understand how difficult this is, but if you can endure the double work for even six months, the payoff will be worth it in the long run.
- When will you leave your current career?
- When will you start your new career?
- How will you measure if your new venture is successful or not? I tracked my income and hours worked. I wanted to make enough to support myself, but I didn’t want to work more than 40 hours a week. I was leaving a career that required a 60-hour workweek, so balance was important to me. I already knew I’d enjoy the actual work, but if you’re unsure, you can measure success by how enjoyable and rewarding the work is.
- Sit down with your plans and decisions and create a timeline that includes the major milestones. Start with the end in mind. If you want to quit your current job a year from now, identify the date and work backwards.
- Document each major milestone. These milestones become your goals, or where you want to be in the future.
- Under each milestone, list every task that needs to happen in order for you to reach the milestone. Assign dates to each task.
- Post your goals and tasks where you can see them every day and set aside time every week to work on them.
- Do a check-in every month and talk about your struggles or progress with an accountability partner.
Step Four: Trust the Career-Change Process!
This step is the hardest! You’ve prayed, planned, and pushed for progress, but sometimes doubt hits hard.
- What if I made a mistake?
- Who am I to think I can change careers now? In midlife?!
- Is it too late to change my mind? This is scary.
- I’m not qualified to do this. What was I thinking?
- Maybe I didn’t hear God correctly.
- Maybe I thought this is what He wanted for me, but I was wrong.
The most important thing to remember is that these questions are normal!
I worked in the same career for almost 25 years before I transitioned into something new, so I know it’s unsettling. It’s natural to get three steps in and wonder if you’re doing the right thing. Also, when we choose to follow God’s leading, the enemy isn’t just going to let us go without a fight.
That’s why the previous three steps are so important. The enemy of our souls wants to keep us small! He’ll whisper doubts for as long as we allow ourselves to listen. But know this: when we cultivate our dreams in prayer and God’s presence, the enemy doesn’t stand a chance. Here are some practical tips to help.
How to Defeat Doubts About Your Career Shift
- Go back to your prayer journal. Highlight the places where God affirmed your career change.
- Take out your research and planning. This is a tangible reminder that you didn’t make this decision lightly!
- Look at the goals you’ve already completed and how far God has brought you. He’s not in the habit of leaving things incomplete. Phone a friend! Talk to the person you’ve confided in about your career transition. Share the doubts you’re experiencing. Friends who have been with us from the beginning become our strongest encouragers.
Final Thoughts on Your Career Transition
Trust the process because it began with prayer. God is in it, and I’m here to tell you it works. Northeastern University reports, “as of February 2023, roughly 4 million workers made the leap, leaving their current roles for work in an entirely different field.”
Are you ready to join them?
If you get stuck, go to my website and shoot me an email. I’m here to help!