3 Important Lessons I Learned When I Changed Careers In My 40s

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A hundred years ago women were not allowed to vote, wear pants, keep their maiden names, or own property. To say that they had limitations of where they could go or what they could achieve in their lives is an understatement.

Back then, a career change at 45 or later would have been unheard of. 

Fast forward, more women are dominating the workforce and also choosing to not get married or start a family. To say we have countless options is another understatement. 

The sky's the limit. And as we've seen in the past couple of years, even the sky has no boundaries, thanks to astronauts Anne McClain and Beth Moses

RELATED: How To Find A Career You Love — 5 Steps To Identifying Your Passions & Your Dream Job

What's stopping you from a career change at 45 or even a new career at 50? 

If you say age, think again. More women are switching careers at all stages in their life

I was 47 when I left the corporate world to go out on my own as a fractional business development and marketing professional. I was excited to have the freedom to choose the diverse clients I wanted to work with. 

But, something amazing happened — I experienced a challenge. I needed affordable healthcare as a solopreneur and I couldn't find a decent plan.

What happened next was my biggest leap — I founded Indipop. 

When many may think about slowing down as they approach 50 or perhaps opting for a little more security, I dove headfirst into founding a startup.

If I was given this opportunity 20 years ago, I don't think I would have been successful.

I needed to experience the various roles and go through the uncertainty about where I was headed.

This not only helped me hone in on my strengths but made me more resilient. That's exactly what one needs on the roller coaster of entrepreneurship. 

You're probably still thinking, "Am I too old to change careers?" 

Ever hear the phrase "you're exactly where you're supposed to be?"

This phrase can really take the pressure off as we find ourselves in a world full of "shoulds."

Do any of these thoughts resonate with you?

I should be married.

I should be a manager by now. 

I should have had kids at this age. 

I should have been out of my rental.

The list can go on and on.

We put so much pressure on ourselves to achieve. 

What if all the moments are adding up, providing you with more insight, more wisdom, more information to take that big step?

That's exactly what happened to me. 

I went through my 20s and 30s feeling like I was in a pinball machine, reacting to opportunities, life situations, and relocations. I was gaining experience, learning skills, and, at the same time, couldn't for the life of me see where I was going. 

I was frustrated as I looked around and saw my friends moving along and celebrating big milestones. I was looking for my stage markers and I couldn’t define the major life moments. That changed in my 40s. 

I started to embrace my journey, embrace the unknown and realize that I had so much freedom to create the life I really wanted, all on my own. 

RELATED: Your Job Is Not Supposed To Make You Happy

Here are 3 lessons I learned after a career change at 45.

1. Your life should not look like everyone else’s.

You have your own map, your own footprint, and your own mark to make in the world. The hardest decisions are ones that might separate you from a pack.

You stand alone and wonder, are you doing the right thing? Are you being true to yourself? Challenges make you resilient and provide information to help you take the next step.

A failure doesn't mean your life is over, in fact, it's just the beginning. I could not have started my business without having some low points. The reason is, life is not always about the crushing it days.

You have those ugly painful situations that can come out of the blue: loss of a job, death of a loved one, trauma, and breakups. 

No one wants to experience hardship, but if you look at it as an opportunity happening "for you" and not "to you," could this change your perspective and allow you to embrace what you're going through?

These moments can propel you into a new path, one that you may never have imagined. Be open to what's being presented before you. 

This challenge may lead you to the light bulb idea you've been searching for.

2. The key to your next step might already be inside.

If your career chose you and you stayed for the security or the fear of the unknown, there's nothing wrong with the decision you made. 

In each experience, there are nuggets of info that help us grow. Perhaps, now is the time to make that big change. A good starting point is to take a deep dive into who you are.

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One of the best books and tests I’ve taken was Strengthsfinder or Clifton Strengths. In their words, "The themes are your talent DNA. They explain the ways you most naturally think, feel and behave."

Why this book was so helpful in my 40s, through the assessments I discovered I am a good "influencer.” I focus on strengths and build relationships as a way to stimulate personal and group excellence.

It's a genuine enthusiasm for my work that I'm able to convey an organization's message to individuals and wide audiences. 

Seeing the results in black and white reinforced and brought to light the skills I'd been using, but for someone else's company. I finally had the confidence to go out on my own. 

3. Ask yourself, "Comfortable is nice, but are you thriving?"

Did that spark of a dream fade or is it still in the back of your head waiting for you to ignite it? I was so blessed to pursue my dream of going to film school. I was always creative. As soon as I could hold a pencil I was drawing.

As a child and throughout my teenage years, you could find me painting in the art room instead of participating in sports or the drill team. I was constantly making up stories, daydreaming, and writing in my journal.  

I just knew I was meant to be in a creative field. Wrong. I was not happy once I was inside the entertainment world. I wanted to create, but I constantly felt like I was on the outside looking in. 

I moved into the nonprofit sector, which was a better fit for fulfilling my sense of purpose. But I was still restless.

At age 42 I completely switched gears and started working for a technology company. Out of  600 employees, I was one of the oldest, my manager was 18 years younger than myself.

I learned that you can learn from anyone. Also, I was very uncomfortable while pushing myself out of my comfort zone, but at the same time I was most definitely thriving. 

Did you think it's all over because you reached a certain age? 

Think again, there is a lifetime of nexts. You might already know what your "next" is or you have a desire to make a big change. Don’t let age stop you. 

You have wisdom, whether that's on the job or in life. 

I didn't have a crystal ball that would predict that 30 years later I would be the CEO of my own company. 

What I found on my journey is that sometimes you have to dive right in, surround yourself with supportive people who will be honest with you, goal stack, and believe in and value yourself. 

Now go crush your dreams just like I did, whether it's a career change at 45 or a goal you've been aiming at your whole life. 

RELATED: 7 Steps You Should Take Before Making A Career Change

Melissa Blatt is the founder of indipop, a marketplace that offers high-value, simple and affordable healthcare for the self-employed.