Nearly half of workers have made a dramatic career switch, and this is the average age they do it

What job would you have if money weren’t a concern?

For some people, that’s not a hypothetical question, but rather a jumping off point to switching careers. At least, that seems to be the case according to Indeed’s latest survey, which found 58% of workers are willing to take a pay cut in order to completely change industries.

In fact, the No. 1 reason why people made a significant career change was because they were unhappy in their previous job sector. Higher pay and greater flexibility tied for the second-biggest reasons why workers jumped into a new field.

And a lot of workers are making that leap: Nearly half, 49%, of people said they’ve made a dramatic career shift, like from marketing to engineering, or from teaching to finance.

Younger professionals might get a bad rap for job-hopping, but the average person who switches careers is 39 years old, the report found. This could indicate that workers begin to feel stagnant in their field by the time they reach a mid-career point.

In some ways, it’s less risky to do so this time. “A 39-year-old worker is likely in a very different life stage than someone just starting their career and someone who may be ready to retire soon,” Paul Wolfe, senior vice president of human resources at Indeed, tells CNBC Make It. “Given that this age group may be in a more secure financial situation than younger workers, they may have more flexibility when it comes to making a major switch.”

Data from Payscale found pay growth for the average woman peaks at age 40; meanwhile, men’s salaries continue to grow until age 49.

It can also signal a less stressful time in workers’ personal lives: the median age of marriage is 27 for women and 29 for men. The average woman has her first child at 28, and the average first-time homebuyer is 32.

“At age 39, a worker may have a dual-income home or a partner that can support the household in the midst of a career change,” Wolfe adds.

Workers might feel a change is in order when they reach a certain level of management, too, and no longer find support in the people they report to. The survey found workers who are happy in their current positions stay because they like their management teams above all other aspects of their job, including competitive pay or friendly coworkers.

The switch doesn’t happen overnight, either. The average worker takes 11 months to consider a career change before making the move, with most consideration given to what they’d need to succeed in a new sector. Just over one-third report enrolling in specific educational or training programs in order to make the transition. This suggests workers prefer to move to an industry where their existing skills can transfer, or one that may prioritize industry-agnostic soft skills.

There are plenty of stories of people who’ve made jumps later in their careers and found success where they landed. Vera Wang was a figure skater, dancer and journalist before making a name for herself in the fashion world at age 40, while Julia Child worked in media and advertising before writing her first cookbook at 50.

Working through one of Child’s cookbooks inspired Ina Garten to quit her White House job at age 30 and open a small food store called the Barefoot Contessa in Long Island, New York. Of her career shift, which would go on to include becoming a TV food show host and best-selling cookbook author, Garten tells CNBC Make It, “I think that people stand on the side of the pond trying to figure out what the pond’s going to be like, and you’ve just got to jump in and just be brave and make a change …. While you’re in the pond, you’ll flap around and find something interesting there.”

Certified health coach Stacey Morgenstern tells CNBC Make It there are three major signs it’s time for a change in career: you feel underpaid, overworked and underappreciated; you feel like you’re not being challenged; and you feel called to something different.

“I think fulfillment comes when we feel like we are learning and exercising our creativity and our efforts are making a meaningful impact,” Morgenstern says. “If you have reached a dead end and there is no more room for you to grow, then it may be time to consider your next step.”

She suggests people in this position consider what they enjoy doing in their free time and whether that can be translated into a career. From there, workers might reach out to their network, research companies and ready themselves for the job hunt in a new industry.

The change at work — and in life — seems to pay off for most. The Indeed survey reports 88% of career changers say they’re happier since making the move.


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