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Changing careers midlife: People share their success stories

Office workers generic
Many people have left the corporate world - or entered it - to follow their passion.

Flickr: Kompania Piwowarska

The prospect of changing careers in your 40s or 50s can be daunting.

People changing careers mid-life face ageism and financial uncertainty, but it can be done.

Here are some success stories from ABC Radio Melbourne listeners.

From disillusioned to energised

When Brunswick East resident Chris had his 45th birthday, he realised he was closer to 50 than he was to 40.

He said he wanted to find a job where he helped people, and a previous positive experience working for six months in a school led him to retrain as a youth worker.

Chris did a work placement at a youth drugs and alcohol service as part of his course, and he was offered a job by the boss of the service.

"I had no intention of working in the drug and alcohol field, but I ended up working there for three years," he said, adding that he had since moved to a job in youth justice.

Working with young people was rewarding and energising, he said, and he encouraged others to follow their passion when contemplating a new career.

A big switch

Some of the stories listeners told us involved dramatic changes of career.

"After 20 years in sales and management I am now a flight attendant. Half the salary but I love it."

"I spent 28 years in finance. At 49 I switched to alpine ski instructing. Love it."

"I transitioned from a factory worker to an aged carer in my mid-50s. Best decision of my life."

"I went from corporate retail to dog groomer — never been happier."

Doing the research

Sharon, 57, began her working life 30 years ago as a nurse.

"I put my career on hold for family reasons and worked in my husband's business," she said.

"When I got divorced I didn't have any qualifications to speak of, so I was working as a carer getting very part-time work.

At age 53 she started retraining as a paramedic and begins working in her new field next week.

Sharon said she encountered a lot of negativity about her decision from women her own age.

"They would say to me: 'Do you think you'll get a job? Do you think they'll take you?

"Of course, I'd already done some research within the industry and I was assured they would."

Newfound passion

Former Olympics team physiotherapist Mark Alexander
Mark Alexander says doing a masters degree "opened his eyes" to the corporate world.

Supplied: Latrobe University

Mark Alexander was physiotherapist to the Australian Olympic triathlon team, and was known to ABC Radio Melbourne listeners for many years as a fitness expert on Hilary Harper's Saturday program.

Mr Alexander's work took him to three Olympics, but while he loved his work he found himself "losing a little bit of passion".

Having made some mistakes with a business venture, he decided to pursue a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) which he said "opened up my eyes to the corporate world".

He now runs the Centre for Business Analytics at Melbourne Business School, pursuing an interest he has had since childhood.

"I was a maths nerd at school ... I loved everything about maths and data," he said.

Easier to get up in the morning

Ann from Box Hill spent 20 years working in nursing, but loved children and was a passionate reader.

"By the time I was heading towards 40 I was thinking I've got at least 20 years [working] ahead of me — what should I be doing?"

She retrained as a librarian in her early 40s and secured a job setting up and running a school library.

"It was easier to get up in the morning and I was more enthusiastic about all aspects of my life."