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Best careers to start at 40

Best careers to start at 40
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Nothing hits you in the face quite like a reality check when you hit the big 4-0, and if it’s left you desperately seeking a new career, then there’s still time to successfully switch. But while the saying ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ isn’t quite true, you’ll need to be realistic about the path you choose to follow.

Here are some ideas for inspiration.

Marketplace seller – you can buy and sell just about anything online nowadays, so if you’ve got an eye for spotting vintage, retro and pre-loved bargains, why not try selling them on for a profit? Alternatively, buy direct from China’s largest e-commerce site, Alibaba, and resell in the UK. You’ll need enough capital to buy some stock upfront (or the time and resources to make your own), but running costs will be minimal compared to trading in a bricks and mortar store.

Dropshipper – you provide the buying platform while your supplier ships directly to the customer. It can be a win-win scenario as long as you work with a reliable manufacturer with a good customer service record. Benefits include the fact you don’t need to buy stock, so you won’t need a lot of start-up cash or storage. The downside is that margins tend to be smaller, so you’ll need to sell more to make it worthwhile.

Buy a business – entrepreneurship doesn’t have to mean thinking up brand new schemes. You can buy a business ready-made (check out websites like Daltons Business for those on the market). The type of company you buy and the stage it’s at will influence the price, but cost can range from a few hundred pounds for an online start-up to hundreds of thousands for an established firm.

Virtual PA – technology means you can pretty much organise anyone from anywhere, which is good news if you want to try your hand at being a virtual PA. You’ll need to have excellent organisational skills, be able to juggle several tasks at once and it helps to have a fast and reliable internet connection if you’re working from home. An online search for ‘virtual PA’ brings up a host of agencies with opportunities.

Freelancer – if you’ve got marketable and (more importantly) bankable skills, ditching the 9-5 and going it alone can give you an enormous sense of achievement. Skills in demand include web or graphic design, copywriting, editing, and translation services, as well as more tech-based roles such as app or software developing.

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If you’re just starting out and don’t already have contacts in the trade, there are a number of freelancer websites where you can pitch for jobs, including People Per Hour, and Upwork. Bear in mind that it can be slow going as you’ll be competing for a finite number of jobs and pay is often below market rates – but, it’s a good place to gain experience and build your portfolio.

Personal trainer – you’re never too old to become a personal trainer and the average age of a PT is actually 38. Of course, it helps if you’re already into health and fitness and to stand any chance of success, you’ll need a recognised qualification such as a Diploma in Personal Training or a Diploma in Fitness Instructing. Costs and training are (relatively speaking) modest compared to some other careers.

Bookkeeping – another role that involves some but not excessive retraining. You can gain AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) qualifications to become a bookkeeper. Cost depends on the level of qualification you want to complete and where you do it. Prices vary from £150 to £800.

Social media manager – if you’re 40 or over, then this is just one example of a job that probably didn’t exist when you were fresh out of school. You’ll be expected to organise, execute and analyse the success of social media campaigns for businesses. If you you’re interested in marketing, like connecting with people and enjoy using technology, then this could be an opportunity made for you. There are all sorts of social media courses out there, from one off workshops to online training programmes, so costs vary considerably.

Dog grooming, walking or pet sitting – technically, you don’t need any qualifications to be a dog groomer, but there are several courses you can do (including a City & Guilds) which could potentially boost your earning potential over someone with no formal training. You’ll need somewhere to run your business from and the right equipment, but it’s something you can do from home, which would lower set-up costs (check whether you need planning permission with your local council). Similarly, dog walking and pet sitting services are also worth considering if you prefer four-legged friends to two.


Starting again can be dauting, so it’s important to be clear on why you’re unhappy in your current role. But change is possible: you just need to make it happen.

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