What is driving UK career changes?

What are the key reasons people aged 40-59 are looking to make a career change? What are the most important obstacles they’re facing?

What are the key reasons people aged 40-59 are looking to make a career change? What are the most important obstacles they’re facing? And what can these insights tell us about how we can best support people with mid-life career shifts? Catherine Sermon from Phoenix Insights and Richard Alderson, the founder of Careershifters, share their thoughts.

To support the recently-launched Careers Can Change campaign, Careershifters, a social business helping people find and move into more fulfilling work, collated data from 3,570 visitors to their website.

Here’s what the data showed:

The majority of people surveyed are looking to change careers because of dissatisfaction with their current role
  • 38% surveyed felt the lack of satisfaction with the role they currently did was the most important reason to make a career change. A further 18% felt it was because of a lack of satisfaction with the culture or management in their current work.
The biggest challenge for those surveyed is figuring out what they want to do next
  • The single greatest obstacle to making a career change was considered to be figuring out what else to do (42%), but having the right skills / experience (23%); and finances or other practicalities (22%) were also significant challenges.
  • Mostly people feel they want to be in another job (38%) or a combination of a job and doing their own thing (34%). 
The majority of people surveyed did not have access to savings or other money they can use to support their career change
  • 58% of those wanting to make a career change did not have savings or other money they could access to support their career change.
UK employees are looking to make career changes

We believe these findings ring out like a cry for help from employees across the UK who are looking to make changes to their careers. And at the same time they shine a light on significant retention and engagement problems for employers.  

Perhaps it is not surprising that the main driver for people engaging with Careershifters is a lack of satisfaction in their current role or with the management and culture where they work.  What strikes us most however is the scale of change that could be unlocked if more people knew that help is available – and that some of that help is available for free or at low cost.  

Potential career changers don’t know what they don’t know

The question most people (in this survey) were grappling with is ‘what else could I do?’. Yet there is a whole industry of people, professionally trained, to help career changers answer that very question. So why is it holding so many people back, when it doesn’t need to?

Phoenix Insights research highlights much lower engagement with careers advice by age. Whilst 28% of adults have received careers advice in the past three years, this breaks down as 66% of 16-24 year olds compared to only 15% of 45-54 year olds. Yet 68% of UK adults (16 – 75) said they would be interested in taking up careers advice (from a prompted list of organisations). 

Championing adult careers advice 

This is why across society we believe we should be doing more to promote and celebrate the role of adult careers advice and guidance, to individuals, employers and government. Alongside Careershifters, there are other brilliant organisations providing support to midlifers seeking careers guidance. The National Careers Service has levels of information and support available to anyone for free. The Careers Development Institute has a register of qualified professionals.  And there is an exciting, growing, social enterprise sector providing information, advice and vital networks, recognising the value of having others around you as you make changes to your career. For anyone wanting to find out more about this work please visit www.careerscanchange.co.uk.

Find out more about Careershifters


The data is based on answers given to the Career Change Test for visitors on the Careershifters website between 13th April 2023 and 24th May 2023. These individuals are UK-based, aged 40-59, and 68% female and 31% male.