Career change at 40: Making a career change at midlife

23rd August 2023

In the first part of our career changers mini-series, we focus on midlife career changes, those people in their 40s who would like to make changes in their lives. We will debunk the myth that career changes are only for the “young”, demonstrating that it's possible to switch careers at any stage of life and take advantage of the renewed fulfilment that it brings. We have some exciting features to come including real-life stories from people who have successfully transitioned to new careers in the whisky sector.

Did you know that at aged 40, Vera Wang swapped editing the designs of others for making her own. Colonel Sanders decided he didn’t want to be a labourer anymore and opened his first restaurant in his 40s.

The desire to change career paths could hit you at any stage of your life, and at 40, you’re still 20 years away from retirement – that’s plenty of time to pursue the things that make you feel fulfilled.

While a midlife career change is understandably daunting, it’s an opportunity for you to align your professional role with who you are now. What you wanted from your career in your 20s may have evolved as you’ve matured and it’s never too late to reinvent your role and set new personal and professional goals.


Why is change in the air?

So, you’re thinking about a career change?

Before handing in your resignation, it’s a good idea to spend some time reflecting on the reasons behind your motivations to move. This will help you nail down what you’re looking for (and what you want to avoid) in your next position.

There are lots of things you can consider.

  • Perhaps you’re looking for a better work-life balance to spend more time doing the things you love or spending time with friends and family.
  • Maybe you’re experiencing burnout or have lost the love for your current industry.
  • You want to renew your sense of purpose or pursue a field that you’re passionate about.
  • You may also want to unlock new opportunities for professional growth.


Time for a skills deep dive

Once you know that you would like to make a change, it’s time to start thinking about how you can make it happen.

In a competitive job market, remember that your age isn’t a negative – the skills and experience you will take to a new workplace are incredibly valuable, even when faced with a completely different sector.

When looking at new sectors, sit down and review your past roles, volunteer work and conduct a skills audit. We often forget that many of the skills we develop during our careers are fully transferrable to other roles and are quite often the key to helping you get a foothold in the industry.

The Scotch Whisky Association’s Director of Industry Sustainability, Ruth Piggin, armed with skills developed in the farming, sugar, tobacco and water industries, wanted to make a change into the Scotch Whisky sector. She focused on drawing parallels with her background in public affairs, supply chains, environmental science and regulation, searching for roles which would give her the freedom to develop her career in a new sector.

Ruth acknowledges that she experienced some of the things that can commonly put people off making changes. Like many professionals in her position, she had both feelings of imposter syndrome and worries that it was the wrong time for a new position with young children at home. Following the advice of a good recruitment consultant and taking time to assess her skills and experience, Ruth then had a clear idea of what she could bring to the table in this welcoming and forward-thinking sector.

Preparation is key

A career change in your 40s can be a big step, so you’ll want to know exactly what you’re getting into and be confident that the grass is greener somewhere else.

Some ideas to focus on are:

  • Find out as much as possible about the role you want and the sector you’re interested in. For example, find out if there is an industry body, like the Scotch Whisky Association, which you can go to for impartial information about the sector.
  • Find ways to network, reach out to your professional network and speak to people who are already in similar roles.
  • Are there talks or learning opportunities that you can pursue to upskill and make yourself a more desirable candidate? For example, learn about where your desired role fits in to an industry by using resources like Spirited Careers.
  • Does your dream role require additional qualifications and can you complete these alongside your current position. Explore more formal learning such as the Open University or the Edinburgh Whisky Academy.
  • Update your CV for the role you want, not the role you currently have.
  • Stay up to date with technologies and trends to enhance your knowledge about the industry you want to move into.


Scotch Whisky holds a world of opportunity

Scotland is home to over 140 malt and grain distilleries. That makes it home to the greatest concentration of whisky producers in the world, one that offers a wealth of varied roles and world-famous brands known for their provenance, craft and heritage. It’s also an industry with worldwide reach - if you’re after a change of scenery!

The Scotch Whisky industry is over 500 years old, full of heritage and spirit. The work is varied, exciting, dynamic and sociable and there are so many roles to explore, from production to marketing, supply chain to tourism.


Don’t just take our word for it

In the next article, we will hear directly from someone who has already made the change in the Scotch Whisky industry.

In the meantime, keep an eye on some of the current vacancies by signing up to receive updates from Spirited Careers.


The Scotch Whisky Association

Edinburgh HQ:
Quartermile Two, 2 Lister Square, Edinburgh EH3 9GL
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