It's not easy to make a big career change when you've been doing the same thing for 10 years, 20 years, or even longer. However, people are delaying retirement and finding more fulfillment from work, and companies generally don't hire with the expectations that employees will be with them for decades any longer. If you've gone as far as you can in your present career path or you've decided it's no longer for you, the tips below can help you find your direction again.

Explore

The first step of your exploration should be looking inward, asking yourself what you like and dislike about your present job and what you are seeking in a new one. Paying attention to the environment and daily tasks is as important as thinking in bigger-picture terms. You likely already work hard to create a stress free home and enjoyable life outside your career it is time to do the same with regards to your work.

Maybe you've always wanted to teach, but when you really consider it, you're not actually all that crazy about being in a classroom or maybe even indoors all day. There are plenty of other ways to educate people that don't involve standing in front of a classroom all day, ranging from teaching outdoor skills to working as a private tutor, becoming a life coach or teaching yoga. Look for creative solutions, and do your research, talking to others in the fields you're considering and finding out if people are open to doing informational interviews or allowing you to shadow them on the job.

Plan

There's no need to be impulsive about the change you're making. You've been in the workforce for a long time, and you presumably have some years ahead of you. Plan your shift with care. Find out what experience, credentials, certifications or degree you might need. You can start small, with volunteer work or one or two classes. If you do need to get your degree, student loans can be a great way to pay for it. You can research and apply for student loans online. Have an idea of the companies or organizations that you'd like to work for, and find out what kind of candidates they hire. At the same time, be prepared to be flexible. Unexpected opportunities may present themselves.

Reach Out

By midlife, you've probably got a whole web of connections around you, and even if you don't know anyone in the field you're switching into, someone in your orbit probably knows someone else who does. Tell everyone: your colleagues, your neighbor, the person in line behind you at the grocery store you're chatting with. You don't have to engage in formal networking to get the benefits, and you may be surprised at where doors open.

Set New Goals

Even the most eager career changers can feel a sense of loss at leaving a position that they identified with. It's important to set new goals, both while you are in the process of making the change and once you've done so. This will help you identify your objectives and focus on meeting them, giving you a sense of satisfaction in your new role.