career

Changing careers after 40: 7 women share the most surprising advice.

Endeavour College of Natural Health
Thanks to our brand partner, Endeavour College of Natural Health

Change can be a very scary thing.   

Moving house. Having kids. Finding (and losing) relationships. 

But what about the women who defy a 'typical career path' at an age when many believe a woman's future should be set in stone?

The median age of Australian women is 37, and that age is only getting higher. But the stereotype exists that female workers in their forties and fifties have slimmer career opportunities.

The age-old saying goes: "Great things never came from comfort zones." So we decided to chat to 7 women who flipped the script to see how they changed their careers after turning 40. 

Angela: "Follow your gut, and do whatever it is you didn't make time for."

Image: Endeavour College of Natural Health. 

Angela is no stranger to working in diverse industries. 

From working in the fashion industry, to marketing for retail companies, property development, and investment banking, she finally landed a position at Qantas in her mid-thirties. She thought she was settled for the long haul.

"I moved into the airline industry and I was at Qantas for 10 years," she told Mamamia.

"I was the woman who got sick every time she went on holidays, which I know now is a prime sign of being exhausted. So I went to a one-week long health retreat."

It was Angela's experience with holistic health while on her retreat that reassured her decision to pursue a future that nurtured her passions.

So, she quit.

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"Once I left the airline I moved into non-for-profit work at Taronga Zoo and Habitat for Humanity," she explained sharing that those experiences ticked two of her three 'passion boxes'.

"Animals, social justice and health and wellness."

To fill her final box, she enrolled at Endeavour College of Natural Health to study nutritional medicine.

"It was very difficult letting go of a salary, identity and an executive role and heading into college with a backpack," she said.

It was befriending 'like-minded women' and mature-aged students that most helped her through.

"We're still friends today," she added.

Once she'd completed her degree, Angela launched her own business, Nutritional Matters, as a clinical nutritionist. She is proud of this career change and loves the flexibility it's enabled her.

"Follow your gut and do whatever it is you didn't make time for when you were building your career. Often, we just build a career because that's what feels like the right thing to do at the time, and it's not necessarily where our passion is.

"There is some ageism out there but you can continue to work until you don't want to. I intend to work until I'm 80."

Louise: "If I hadn't done the thing that I wanted to do, would I be disappointed? And I kept coming back, thinking: YES."

Louise was nearly 50 when she decided her long-held career in journalism was no longer for her.

"I had always wanted to study medicine; I'd always felt slightly dissatisfied that I hadn't," she told Mamamia.

"In 2011, I was working as the ABC New South Wales editor, which means I was in charge of the news operation for all of New South Wales. And we had a helicopter crash, which very unfortunately killed three of my colleagues.

"Then followed about 18 months of real turmoil where people kept confiding in me and it really struck me how distressed people can be whilst living perfectly functional lives, and I became extremely interested in mental health, in particular.

Louise asked herself what she really really wanted to do; she kept coming back to medicine.

"I kept thinking to myself, 'You are absolutely crazy.' And then I thought, 'Do you know what? I'm never going to be quite happy in life if I don't go to university to study medicine.' So I thought, 'Oh I'll just give it a go.'

Hear more from Dr Louise Randall on Mamamia's podcast, The Quicky. Post continues below.


"I remember the first time I went to university and everybody used to look a bit at the mature age students... But actually, the level of maturity of the cohort meant that they just really accepted me and seemed very grateful to have me there, because I brought a different flavour to the course and my knowledge of the outside world.

"The upside of going to study medicine as an older person is that you've got a huge amount of knowledge that you acquire over the years about how people work, about how systems work, about what's expected of you as a professional. So whereas there were some tricky parts, there were lots of positives in there.

"To me, it came down to: if I got to my deathbed and I hadn't done the thing that I wanted to do, would I be disappointed? And I kept coming back, thinking: yes.

"If you're looking at a career change in your 40s and beyond, I think you've got to think, 'Is this worth it in terms of my own satisfaction?'"

Eleni: "There is never a right time to pursue a passion."

Image: Supplied. 

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"I began my career as a beauty therapist, then moved into an education-based role within my field. 

"After the birth of my second child and adjusting to life with two children under the age of 3, I decided to take a voluntary redundancy in my role to be a stay-at-home mum. 

"I knew then that it wouldn’t last long as I definitely had an itch to scratch. 

"I had always been interested in natural medicine but there was never the right time to pursue this. Within my field, I was always more interested in less invasive alternatives to skin health so returning to study, I suppose, was inevitable. 

"I decided naturopathy interested me as I felt drawn to this way of life and it complimented my existing skill set ever so perfectly. So I enrolled in a Bachelor of Health Science in Naturopathy.

"I was drawn to this course because of the flexible learning modes, both online and face-to-face, so this was appealing because it allowed me to study whilst at home with my babies. Plus, it would work around my work-life when I was ready to return to the workforce. 

After 4.5 years of part-time study, Eleni's two children are now in primary school and Eleni has her own Holistic Skin & Wellness business, practicing holistic skin therapy while she completes her studies. 

"It's been extremely challenging; juggling family, work and study life but I have enjoyed every step of the way. It's been something I needed to do for me. 

"For a long time I felt that it wasn’t the right time, but there is never a right time to pursue a passion, so my advice to anyone considering a career change and return to study is to just go for it!"

Maria: "Certain things come into your life when you are ready for that change."

Maria gave up her 18-year teaching career to become an interior designer at age 40.

"It was very hard because when you've been in teaching for so long and you're established, you start questioning if it's the right thing to do. Am I going to regret this? But it's funny how certain things come into your life when you are ready for that change.

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"My sister-in-law was building a house and then the thought came about, 'How about looking into interior design?' So I did an online course first, and it wasn't until three years later that I decided I wanted to do more face-to-face study and then decided that it was now or never: take the plunge. I didn't want to stay in teaching forever, and I didn't want to waste any more time.

"I had no regrets leaving teaching even though at the time I was very fearful of leaving. It was probably one of the best decisions I ever made.

"You don't want to look back 20 years down the track and think, 'Why didn't I do it?' I'm no one extraordinary; if I could do it, I think anyone can do it. It's just a matter of making that decision and chasing after it."

Kathryn: "Let armchair moments come to life."

Kathryn recalls sitting in an armchair at 3am holding her newborn daughter warmly in her arms. She was in Glasgow, Scotland at 29 years old. 

Fifteen years later, Kathryn could still recall that night as a moment of clarity when the reality and responsibility of motherhood weighed heavily on her mind and heart.

"At the same time, I felt joy and acceptance of my journey ahead – how mothering my daughter could truly shape her world and make a difference. I felt exhilarated. 

"Fast forward to November 2019. I have my final exam of my Nutritional & Dietetic Medicine degree in a few minutes. If I’m honest, I had an inkling in that 3am armchair moment years ago that my 'why' involved health and wellness.” 

For Kathryn, the jump seemed absurd, impractical and scary. Mostly scary. She had started her degree at 37 years old, and was terrified.

"While having children provided me with a natural closure to my desk job in the finance and IT industry and flexibility to study my fitness courses, commencing part-time study to complete a degree in nutrition over six years while nearing 40 felt anything but practical. 

"So, this exam, this final exam, was my way of declaring my desire to make a difference. To serve others. To listen and hear them. To collaborate. To focus on meaningful action. To prioritise values in ways that were practical and repeatable rather than idealistic. To research and make science clinically relevant. To let armchair moments come to life."

Kathryn is now 44 and has two teenage girls. She says that she sits in a new armchair in Sydney, having bought it to take space in her new business and office where nutrition, health and wellness are discussed daily.

"My business is Sagely Clinic. I have lots of armchair moments now, each of them exhilarating, and I sense a difference has been made. But it happened first in me. 

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"I had to stop listening to hamster-in-the-wheel-like thoughts that told me I’m not good enough, that I can’t make a living out of this change in career, or that I can’t make a difference. 

"These thoughts are why I stalled changing careers. And confession: the hamster-in-the-wheel thoughts haven’t totally disappeared. 

"I tell my clients to focus on doing ‘one thing well’ daily, because that’s how my own change came. 

"It happened daily and over years; I kept saying yes, and eventually my ‘yes’ spoke louder than my fears. 

"Having the mindset of doing one thing well has helped me immensely to adapt to my new career and role, and put aside doubts and unrealistic thoughts of having to have the overnight success business. 

"Instead, and I wish I’d understood this sooner: I fell in love with the process of change."

Vicki: "As long as you wake up and you're conscious in the morning, it's not too late to do anything."

After years working as a translator in Canada and France, Vicki moved to Sydney to become a university lecturer. 

After her retirement, she taught ethics to primary school students. Then, in her 70s, picked up a pen and wrote a book about her family's struggle with her mother's mental health issues. 

In 2019, that book won a major literary award.

"I was in my 70s. I didn't sit down to write it as a book. I sat down to write because I loved writing; I loved the process. I wasn't that concerned with sending it out into the world. 

"But this experience with my parents in their very late years, and how things managed to be tragic and ludicrous at the same time, I found interesting and I thought, 'I would like to capture this on the page.' 

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"And then when it won, I thought this book may interest people who have had similar or the comparable problems in their own families.

"What I want to do and what makes things interesting for me is finding some kind of meaning in them. And I think that's what everybody is looking for. 

"In all various ways, children are always asking you, 'What does that mean? And what is that?' And I think if you are an adult and you keep asking yourself those questions, you're probably doing the right thing with your human potential. That's my belief.

"We carry the double burden of being women and being older, which makes you damn near invisible in the supermarket aisle. But we still have some agency if we're articulate and if we are looking for some meaning. So let's use it.

"I think as long as you wake up and you're conscious in the morning, it's not too late to do anything."

Claudia: "Find your support network during the change."

Claudia had an inkling that her future involved working in health many, many years before it came to fruition.

In her final year of high school in Brazil, she began studying a bio-medicine pathway, before she realised she was "too squeamish" for surgeries. 

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"I had to make the quick decision to jump out of medicine and moved into IT and systems analysis," she said to Mamamia.

Her career was extremely fulfilling and took her across the world to the United States where she met her partner and had three children, putting a pause to her work life as the family then moved to Australia.

"We got here in 2007, and the adjustment to the new place and schools, even though it was very positive, the whole family felt the hit.

"That was when my shift happened."

Claudia became sick with a stress-related illness, and when she couldn't find the result she was searching for in traditional medicine, she came across a naturopath who changed her life (and subsequently, her career direction).

"The penny dropped and I realised, what I'm doing, as a client, is medicine without the surgery. This is what I wanted to do the whole time since high school."

So, at 45, Claudia enrolled in a Bachelor of Health Science in Naturopathy at Endeavour College

"It was very intense," she said of returning to education.

"There were very difficult and overworked times but luckily my kids were already on the high school end of things, so they were already quite independent.

"I felt like it was the right time for me to focus on studies. I couldn't have done it sooner.

After completing her degree, she decided to create her own path by starting her own business.

"I didn't want to be stuck to a 9-to-5 schedule and I wanted to have control of my day. I could benefit from accelerating or slowing down my schedule depending on what was happening with my family."

Today, she owns her own women's health business, Peoniflora, and encourages other women to take the leap too.

"Find your support network. Align with lecturers, mentors or colleagues so you're not alone during the change."

What's your advice to anyone looking to change careers after 40? Tell us in the comments below.

With 6 campuses nationally, and a robust digital education platform, Endeavour College of Natural Health are the largest private Higher Education provider of natural medicine courses in the Southern Hemisphere. They're the best at it because it’s all they do – and have been doing it for 45 years.

Check out their courses here.

Feature Image: Supplied.

Endeavour College of Natural Health
At Endeavour College of Natural Health, we are committed to the future and success of natural health both in Australia and internationally. We are the largest private Higher Education provider of natural medicine courses in the Southern Hemisphere. We are the best at it because it’s all we do – and we have been doing it for 45 years. Endeavour is at the forefront of education in the natural health sector, with a national footprint, six campuses and teaching clinics, a robust digital learning environment, and highly trained lecturers, tutors and clinical supervisors. With Endeavour, there has never been a better time to start studying and pursuing your passion for natural health. You can even begin your studies with a single subject or online learning while working full-time or looking after a family.