Jobs and the Future of Work

It's never too late to change careers. Here's why

Businessmen walk at an office building in Tokyo June 18, 2015.   REUTERS/Toru Hanai - GF10000131564

Dorie Clark explains why transitioning careers when you are older does not mean starting from scratch again. Image: REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Shana Lebowitz
Strategy Reporter, Business Insider
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"It's never too late."

That's Dorie Clark's answer to a question about when you've missed your chance to make a substantial career change.

Clark is a marketing and strategy consultant, an adjunct professor of business administration at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, and the author of "Entrepreneurial You." On an episode of the Art of Charm podcast, she explained why transitioning careers when you're no longer a fresh-faced new college grad doesn't mean starting from scratch.

"If you have been following one particular path and if you've become pretty successful at it," Clark said, "the good news is that gives you a lot of social capital that you can leverage to be able to access those universes. The question is what you do with it."

In other words, you've likely tackled step one: meeting a lot of people, even if they all work in your current industry. Step two is to capitalize on your existing connections to help launch you into your next career phase.

One strategy Clark suggested is "reaching out to friends of yours who are as different from you as possible and saying, 'Hey, who do you know that I should meet?' … You have to consciously seek it."

Or, Clark said, if you have some money saved up, you might use those funds to visit an ideas conference and schmooze with fellow attendees from varying backgrounds.

It's important, Clark said, to be realistic about the kinds of immediate changes you're able to make.

If you're a lawyer and want to be a writer instead, for example, you might have to make a series of gradual transitions. Maybe you'll start by publishing articles in a law journal, then move to writing op-ed pieces for a more mainstream media outlet.

As Jenny Blake, career coach and author of "Pivot," previously told Business Insider, if you're thinking about making a career change, the first step is to think about "what you're already good at, who you know, what you already have experience in." Your next career move should be based on what's working well in your current career stage.

"One of the best ways that I like to think about it is almost picturing Venn diagrams," Clark said. "You don't want to be jumping randomly."

On the other hand, "if you're able to move slowly and steadily into bigger realms and into the realms that you want, you can essentially hopscotch from one circle to another just by inhabiting that overlapping area and then moving into the place you want to go."

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