Career change success stories

They say ‘life begins at 40’ but many people think it’s too late to change career by the time they’ve reached their fourth decade, according to a recent study by AAT.

They survey of 2,000 employees indicated that people think you have missed the boat once you’ve reached the big 40 all though 31% admitted to regularly thinking about changing their career.

But plenty of people do take the plunge in their impending middle age and go on to have very successful and fulfilling careers in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.

Rachel Bower, a 58 year old mum of three and a former farmer’s wife, is a case in point. Rachel began working as an administrative assistant at her local doctor’s surgery in 2001 and signed up to do a course in Sage level 1 and 2 at the age of 42. She had recently got divorced and enjoyed the course so much she went on to study the AAT. She started at level 2 and completed level four two years later.

“It’s no exaggeration to say the AAT course changed my life,” says Rachel. “I really enjoyed going to college and meeting lots of new people. It was quite daunting at first as I was obviously older than lots of the other students but the tutors were so accommodating and flexible.”

Rachel especially enjoyed the AAT practice sheets and found the website helpful and informative. “It was very different to when I did my ‘A’ levels at the same college over 20 years before,” she notes. “My colleagues at work have also been really encouraging and supportive.”

As well as working at the surgery four days a week, Rachel is a sole trader and a AAT Licensed Accountant. She does all the bookkeeping and provides finance advice for a nearby dairy farming enterprise.

Rachel says AAT has increased her confidence and made her more competent at work.

“It really is possible to achieve success in middle age. I worked really hard and am proud of my qualifications. It’s never too late so I would advise anyone considering a career change to go for it!”

Karen Shaw, a 55 year old finance director at Waterfall Services Ltd, a contract caterer, was 28 when she first started studying for an AAT qualification. “I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I left school but I enjoyed I.T. and ended up working as a data processor for about 10 years,” she explains. I always knew I wanted to do accounts but I wasn’t sure how to get into it.”

Karen had helped her mother, who worked in a post office, with the bookkeeping when she was growing up. She later took a bookkeeping diploma (which she achieved 100% with distinction) and this inspired her to start working in an accounts office at an insurance company. Within six months she was promoted to a departmental head looking after utilities for over 1000 properties. “AAT definitely gave me a confidence boost and I went from an accounts assistant to a manager in a very short space of time,” she says.

Last year, around 27 years after she first studied AAT, Karen got promoted from group financial controller to finance director and she now sits on the company board. She is also an FCCA and manages a team of around 25 people. Karen tries to help mentor other finance professionals and always looks to recruit people who are AAT qualified. “It just makes things easier if they’ve done the training and understand the basics, such as debits and credits and nominal structures,” she notes.

“I was petrified when I first did AAT, especially when I went on to do the ACA. I really didn’t think I had what it took to become an accountant but I’m so glad I pushed myself. Once I put my mind to something, I really go for it and AAT was no exception. The only thing I wish was that I’d done it earlier.”

Photo: Karen Shaw

Georgina Fuller is an award winning freelance journalist and editor.

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