Advertising
Advertising

Published on November 1, 2018

How to Get a Job When You’re Changing Careers After 40

How to Get a Job When You’re Changing Careers After 40

If you are changing careers after age 40, you should know something about the late Dr. Paul Burgett, the beloved former vice president and provost of my alma mater, the University of Rochester. During a visit to the university in 2016, he shared,

“You are only limited by your imagination.”

In other words, if you can imagine it, you can have it. Far from an empty platitude, Burgett shared this wisdom as he pondered his career that began in his twenties and spanned more than 50 years.

Notably, Burgett enjoyed a 54-year career at the University of Rochester. He arrived at a time when Blacks were not accepted at most institutions of higher learning, yet he went on to earn three degrees from the university’s Eastman School of Music. Burgett later became a dean of students at Eastman, a dean for the university, a provost, vice president and adviser to four University of Rochester presidents.

While these titles are admirable, historians will record Burgett’s greatest accomplishment as becoming an icon emblazoned in the psyches of tens of thousands of university alumni and Rochester community members. By all intents and purposes, Burgett knew something about imagination. He also knew something about defying expectations.

If you are reading this article, you are likely considering a job change after considerable time in a specific industry. Experience brings comfort, and if you are upending a pattern, you are likely facing discomfort and uncertainty. However, as you focus on your next chapter, I hope you will also hone your ability to imagine.

If you believe your age is a barrier and you focus your energy on that versus the wonderful skills you have accumulated over your vibrant career, you will stifle your imagination. To unleash your imagination about the future, here’s how to get a job after 40:

1. Ask for Help

There is something in our culture that leaves many of us reluctant or unwilling to ask for help. As Lifehack Founder and CEO Leon Ho put it,

Advertising

“Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.”

In fact, most people are rather generous in their willingness to offer guidance and coaching. If you are in the job market at any stage in your career, but especially after 40, ask for help:

Afraid to Ask for Help? Change Your Outlook to Aim High!

Ask for help from friends and colleagues who have made a career change after 40. Ask for help from millennials to get a sense of the technology they are using and find most helpful.

Ask millennials for their perspective on the most and least helpful qualities about colleagues who are north of 40 so you can be mindful of what to and what not to do. Reach out to hiring managers and request informational coffees.

These are low-stakes meetings that will give you insight on how you could approach interviewing and launching a new career.

Finally, consult a career coach to learn everything from how to craft a resume to how to identify technical mentors to how to enter a new field. If you ask for help, you are bound to get it.

2. Identify Transferrable Skills

My day job is in public relations and strategic communications, but before I became an author of a public relations book, I was once a recruiter for the software development company MindLeaders.

Advertising

My experience recruiting has helped me as a hiring manager. Many of the skills I learned as a recruiter – clear communication, tips to narrow the applicant pool, the ability to sell a company or a position, etc. – are transferrable.

If you are changing jobs, think about the underlying skills that could be helpful in a variety of settings. I will admit that it is often easier to point out someone else’s transferable skills than to recognize your own skills that may serve multiple industries.

If you are struggling to identify your strengths, ask family members, friends and colleagues what they see as your transferable skills.

3. Focus on Your Transferrable Skills

When you are making a career change, getting an interview is only part of the equation. Once you land the interview, you obviously must make a positive impression and stand out from other candidates. To do this, focus less on what you can’t do and more on what you can do by being laser-focused on transferrable skills.

When I was interviewing with the software development company, I knew very little about software. My answer to every question was some variation of “I have never done that specifically, but I would love to learn” or “I did something similar when I worked as a ….” I left the interview confident that I would not only be passed over for the position but that I wasted both mine and the interviewer’s time.

To my surprise, the company called me a few days later and offered me the position. Sure, I had a learning curve, but I also was committed to learning and applying transferable skills. That experience remains a standout in terms of memorable interviews.

4. Seek out Coaches in the Industry You Wish to Enter

It is impossible to know what you do not know. To ensure you are learning and meeting metrics that make you a valuable contributor, consider getting a technical coach who is well-versed in the industry you wish to enter.

The coach can serve as a connector to other people who can assist you, and the coach can also support your understanding of the technical aspects of your role.

Advertising

5. Download Podcasts, Articles and Videos on the Industry of Interest

In our digital age, there is a host of information available to support learning. As you think about breaking into a new industry, carefully research the industry.

You can do this by downloading and listening to podcasts on the industry, reading industry-specific articles and reports, and watching industry-related videos. This will allow you to know what’s happening in the industry. It will also help you have informed conversations with hiring managers, coaches and other people connected with the field you wish to enter.

6. Brush up on Technology

If you are contemplating a job switch after age 40, meet with people in the industry you wish to enter, and ask them specifically what technology they rely on to do their job. You will also want to determine which social media platforms they find useful for their work and for staying up to speed on their industry.

Research indicates that millennials tend to use Instagram and Snapchat to a higher degree than Generation X, but both millennials and Generation Xers are similar in terms of their Facebook usage. Generation Xers also tend to use LinkedIn and Twitter to a higher degree than millennials. Baby Boomers tend to use social media to a lesser degree that younger generations, and the Pew Research Center has data that suggest their technology adoption is increasing rapidly.

I am sharing this information because social media is more than personal preference; if you are entering a company whose target audience is millennials, you will need to be versed in the best platforms and technologies to reach this demographic.

Also, research the communications platforms (such as Slack or EverNote) people in your desired industry are using to stay in relationship with one another. This will signal to hiring managers that you are proactive. It also suggests that age will not be an impediment to you adopting technology.

7. Volunteer

One of the best ways to gain information about a new industry is to volunteer in that arena. Volunteering is a win-win as volunteers gain insight and employers receive additional help.

If you are unable to work full time without pay, look for opportunities that allow you to contribute a few hours each week. This ensures you are able to continue working full time and volunteering without a major schedule disruption.

Advertising

8. Refrain from Discussing Your Age, or Discussing Your Age as a Liability

When interviewing, be careful not to volunteer your age. Your age has absolutely no bearing on your ability to perform well, especially if you do your research and thoroughly understand and adopt in-demand skills for the position you are applying.

Since your age holds little weight, think twice about freely disclosing it. If you do talk about your age, be careful not to be too self-deprecating or in any way suggest that you are anything less than proud of the experience your age has afforded you. You do not want to involuntarily give hiring managers reason for pause.

9. Inquire about Benefits and Vesting Schedule

If you are changing careers after 40, you will need to pay careful attention to not only the employee benefits package, but also the vesting schedule.

Since retirement and estate planning is likely top of mind, you will want to learn as much as you can about how the company will support your financial and benefits needs. This is also the place where you can apply the negotiating skills you have acquired over your career.

Just because a benefit is not voluntarily included does not mean you should not acquire about it. For instance, I always negotiate more than the standard vacation package. Even if an employer offers new hires two weeks for the first year, I almost always ask for more and I use my years of experience as a negotiating tool.

Final Thoughts

In the end, the weight of Burgett’s words still speak volumes. The people who defy expectations, are the people who have courage and insight to imagine that great things are possible. They also have the fortitude to implement a plan to reach their goals.

So as you contemplate your next move, adopt the tips outlined in this article, and be sure to pass on what you are learning to others you meet along the way.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

More by this author

Jennifer R. Farmer

An author and public relations expert specializes in helping socially-conscious entrepreneurs, celebrities and activists

10 Signs of a Bad Boss and How to Deal with Them 5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You) How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship 9 Powerful Techniques for Building Rapport with Anyone Conflict Management Styles for Effective Communication at Work

Trending in Smartcut

1 10 Killer Cover Letter Tips to Nail Every Interview Opportunity 2 How to Sharpen Your Transferable Skills For a Swift Career Switch 3 How to Make Going Back to School at 30 Possible (And Meaningful) 4 What to Do When Bored at Work (And Why You Feel Bored Actually) 5 30 Best Procrastination Quotes to Get You Back to Work

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 22, 2019

10 Killer Cover Letter Tips to Nail Every Interview Opportunity

10 Killer Cover Letter Tips to Nail Every Interview Opportunity

A cover letter is an introduction to what will be found in the resume. In a cover letter, the applicant is able to use a conversational tone, to explain why the attached resume is worth reviewing, why the applicant is qualified, and to express that it’s the best application the reader will see for the open position.

Employers do read your cover letter, so consider the cover letter an elevator pitch. The cover letter is the overview of your professional experience. The information in the body presents the key qualifications, the things that matter. The cover letter is the “here is what will be found in my presentation”, which is the resume in this case.

Something really important to point out- a cover letter should be written from scratch each time. Great cover letters are the ones that express why the applicant is the best for the specific job being applied to. Using a general cover letter will not lead to great results.

This doesn’t mean that your cover letter should repeat your most valuable qualifications, it just means that you don’t want to recycle a templated, general letter, not specific to the position being applied to.

Here’re 10 cover letter tips to nail every interview.

1. Take a few minutes to learn about the company so that you use an appropriate tone

Like people, every company has its own culture and tone. Doing a bit of research to learn what that is will be extremely beneficial. For instance, a technology start-up has a different culture and tone than a law firm. Using the same tone for both would be a mistake.

Advertising

2. Don’t use generic cover letter terms — be specific to each company and position

Hiring managers and recruiters can easily identify generic cover letters. They read cover letters and resumes almost every day. Using words and terms like: “your company” instead of naming the actual company, and “your website” instead of “in your about us section on www.abc123.com”, are mistakes. Be as specific as possible, it’s worth the additional few minutes.

3. Address the reader directly if you can

It is an outdated practice to use “To Whom it May Concern” if you know the person that will be reviewing your documents. You may wonder how you’ll know this information; this is where attention to detail and/or a bit of research comes into play.

For example, if you are applying for a job using LinkedIn, many times, the job poster is listed within the job post. This is the person reading your documents when you “apply now”. Addressing that person directly will be much more effective than using a generic term.

4. Don’t repeat the information found in the resume

A resume is an action-based document. When presenting information in a resume, the tone isn’t conversational but leading with action instead, for example: “Analyze sales levels and trends, and initiate action as necessary to ensure attainment of sales objectives”.

In a cover letter, you have the opportunity to deliver your elevator pitch: “I have positively impacted business development and growth initiatives, having combined two regions into one and achieving 17% in compound growth over the following three-year period”.

Never use your resume qualifications summary as a paragraph in your resume. This would be repeating information. Keep in mind that your cover letter is the introduction to your resume- the elevator pitch- this is your opportunity to show more personality.

Advertising

5. Tell the company what you can do for them

As mentioned above, this is your chance to explain to the company why you are the best person for the open position. This is where you tell the company what you can do for them: “If hired as the next (job title) with (company name), I will cultivate important partnerships that will enhance operations while boosting revenue.”

Many times, we want to take the reader through the journey of our life. It is important to remember that the reader needs to know why you are the best person for the job. Lead with that.

6. Showcase the skills and qualifications specific to the position

A lot of people are Jack’s and Jill’s of all trades. This can be a great big picture, but not great to showcase in a cover letter or resume.

Going back to what was mentioned before, cover letters and resumes are scanned through ATS. Being as specific as possible to the position being applied to is important.

If you are applying for a coding position, it may not be important to mention your job in high school as a dog walker. Sticking to the exact job being applied to is the most effective way to write your cover letter.

7. Numbers are important — show proof

It always helps to show proof when stating facts: “I have a reputation for delivering top-level performance and supporting growth so that businesses can thrive; established industry relationships that generated double digit increase in branch revenues”.

Advertising

8. Use testimonials and letters of recommendations

A cover letter is a great place to add testimonials and information from your letter of recommendations. Mirroring the example above, here is a good way to use that information:

I have a history of consistently meeting and exceeding metrics: “(Name) rose through the company and became a Subject Matter Expert, steadily providing exceptional quality of work.”- Team Manager.

9. Find the balance between highlighting your achievements and bragging

There is fine line between telling someone about your achievements and bragging. My advice is to always use facts first, and support that with an achievement related to the fact, as shown in the examples above.

You don’t want to have a cover letter with nothing but bullet points of what you have achieved. I can’t stress this enough — cover letters are your elevator pitch, the introduction to your resume.

10. Check your length — you want to provide no more than an introduction

The general rule for most positions is one page in length. Positions such as professors and doctors will require more in length (and they actually use CV’s); however, for most positions, one page is sufficient. Remember, the cover letter is an introduction and elevator pitch. Follow the logic below to get you started:

Start with: “I am ready to deliver impeccable results as (name of company) next (Position Title).

Advertising

What you know and like about the company, what initiatives, missions, goals resonate with you: “I read/listened to an interview that your Chief of Staff did on www.abc123.com. His/her statement regarding important up and coming employee engagement initiatives really resonated with me”.

Overview of your qualifications and experience: “I have a strong background in developing, monitoring, and controlling annual processes and operational plans related to community relations and social initiatives”.

Highlight/ Back up your facts with achievements: “I’m a vision-driven leader, with a proven history of innovation and mentorship; I led an initiative that reduced homelessness in four counties and received recognition from the local Homeless Network and the County Commissioner”.

Close with what will you do for the company: “As your next (job title), I am focused on hitting the ground running as a transformational leader who is driven by challenge, undeterred by obstacles, and committed to the growth of (name of company).

Bonus Advice

When applying for a job online or in person, a resume and a cover letter are standard submissions. At least 98% of the time, both your resume and cover letter and scanned via ATS (applicant tracking systems). You can learn more about that process here.

The information provided in a cover letter should be written and organized to be compatible with these scans, so that it can make to a human; from there, you want to make sure that you capture the recruiter and/or hiring managers attention.

More About Nailing Your Dream Job

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

Read Next