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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

How to Change Careers Successfully When It Seems too Late

How to Change Careers Successfully When It Seems too Late

The wake-up call often comes when you least expect it. Maybe you’re enjoying a relaxing get-together with your old college buddies when someone turns to you and says, “Wow, I never thought you’d become an investment banker. I always thought you’d write a novel!” If this leaves you wondering how to change careers, you’re not alone.

Before you know it, you find yourself remembering your old dreams—and comparing them to the career field where you are now. Life rarely goes according to plan. Marriage, kids, and grandkids often come earlier than imagined—or later.

Maybe you pursued one career path because you were considered the breadwinner, but now someone else in the family is the breadwinner. Conversely, maybe you landed a job, thinking you’d stay for six months, and now you’ve been there for sixteen years.

A recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics pointed out that “baby boomers held an average of 12.3 jobs from ages 18 to 52″[1]. For millennials, who are more technologically apt, that number is likely to be much higher.

As this proves, it’s perfectly normal to change careers and begin a job search even when it seems too late! Steering your way through a career change is part calculation, part chance, and part leap-of-faith.

If you feel stuck and are ready for a career change, take these steps to guide you.

Step 1: Be Mentally Prepared

These points can help you master the psychological aspects of a career change at any age.

Now or Never Is a Fallacy

For most professionals, there is no cut-off age for striking out in a new direction. People do it at all stages of their careers.

If you’ve ever dreamed of leaving a large company to start your own business, you are not alone. Similarly, thousands of entrepreneurs and people working for one-man shops decide each year that they’d like to work for larger organizations.

You’ll find hordes of baby boomers looking for a redo alongside mobs of GenXers and Millennials—especially as the boomers now remain in the workforce longer than their predecessors.

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Your Career Is not a Straight Line From A to B

You don’t have to have your career trajectory completely decided from the start. In fact, that’s an unrealistic expectation, no matter how methodical you are.

People change. Industries merge, morph, and in some cases, disappear. Careers rarely follow the straight and narrow.

Many careers can be compared to journeys—there are the adventurous patches, boring patches, downright scary patches, and the hills and valleys, too. The trick is to try to have a little fun while you’re charting out your various careers.

Don’t panic if you find you need to change your career. It may take some work as you sort through job posts, write cover letters, and pursue your dream job, but you’re up for it.

Career Changers Are Among Good Company

Consider these well-known trailblazers whose careers took a radical turn:

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com, studied computer science and electrical engineering at Princeton, went on to establish himself as a Wall Street prodigy, then quit to launch Amazon.com.

Sara Blakely, a billionaire businesswoman, was a fax machine salesperson before creating her signature slim wear line, Spanx.

Jonah Peretti, co-founder of the media sites Huffington Post and BuzzFeed, initially taught computer science to middle schoolers.

Be Ready to Take on the Naysayers

Expect plenty of advice—usually of the discouraging kind—from friends and family when they learn that you’re exploring a career change. Those you know best are often the most vocal in trying to thwart your plans.

Be prepared to field a flurry of pessimistic conjecture and doomsday scenarios. Know, though, that when your loved ones question your judgment, they’re not necessarily doubting your talent but trying to look out for your wellbeing. Stepping out of your comfort zone will make anyone close to you uncomfortable.

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Keep in mind that pessimists avoid the unknown, while optimists invite new challenges. Above all, believe in yourself and follow your instincts. Don’t let your fear of change paralyze you from seeking out your new career path.

Project an aura of enthusiasm, energy, and passion. You’ll find it’s contagious.

Step 2: Be Proactive

These tips can help you master the practical aspects of changing careers at any age.

Take Baby Steps

Ease into your new direction. Start building the skills you’ll need to make the switch.

Find out what skills you will need, and do whatever it takes to add them to your skills arsenal. Make the time to invest in additional training.

Start by devoting a half-day each week to your new pursuit until you’re ready to confidently make a move.

Clearly define where you want to go and what you’ll need to do to get there. Take an inventory of your strengths. Read trade magazines, and study up on industry trends.

Volunteer

Charitable organizations are often looking for volunteers to help them with their outreach, social media, and engagement. You can show up without the requisite skills and learn as you go in a fun, convivial, low-pressure environment, which will help you expand your experience and skills.

Take Online Courses

Today, LinkedIn and many other providers offer online courses in everything from accounting software to time management to mastering Excel. For extra credit, see if you can find classes that award online badges for completing each course.

Don’t be shy about adding these certificates to your online profile. Keep your profile fresh by adding more and more skills to it.

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Take a Temp Job

Depending on your field, it may be possible to freelance at a company where you learn on the job.

Remember that you can’t just show up at a potential employer’s claiming you have the skills. Taking a temporary job that allows you to polish your skills is proof that you’re serious about your career change.

Network!

Build a family tree of contacts. Explore beyond the main branches of your work acquaintances, industry groups, and social contacts. Join your alumni organization. Tell everyone.

Ask friends and friends-of-friends to meet you for coffee to explain what it is they do and tell you which skills you’ll need to succeed in your chosen field[2].

When you want to learn how to change careers, start by networking!

    If you have friends or associates with ties to the organizations where you want to work, ask your contacts to make an introduction. The majority of today’s jobs are found through one’s own networks. When jobs open up, companies invite informal recommendations from internal and external channels.

    Step 3: Take It Online

    This last step can help you master the online aspects of a career change at any age.

    Develop an Online Presence in the Field of Your Dreams

    Reconfiguring your online presence will be a critical step in your career change. Fine-tune your digital identity to reflect your new direction, tailoring your profile to the role and industry you’re after. Include keywords that are relevant to the industry so that recruiters can find you.

    Craft a clever personal statement that states your interests, your values, and your dreams. Once you’ve zeroed in on your message, also pick and choose which outlets make the most sense for it.

    Will your personal statement resonate on LinkedIn? Or is it highly visual—making it a better fit for Instagram?

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    Polish your sites until they gleam, then get active so others take notice. Add insightful content to your social media pages that goes deeper than the information on your resume, such as commentaries on something taking place in your newly chosen field.

    For more on how to build an online presence, check out this article.

    Final Thoughts

    Americans spend 1,800 hours or more each year working. That’s nearly one-third of your life, and it goes without saying that your job satisfaction and career goals have a great bearing on your life’s happiness barometer.

    Set out to intentionally pursue career satisfaction, looking for opportunities to fine-tune your working life so that you find fulfillment.

    If playing the piano is your personal bliss, could you meld your love of music with your clinical psychology background and find a job using music to promote healing? Perhaps there’s a foundation that would fund you in a multiyear study.

    Or, if you’re a movie buff for whom every encounter has the makings of a screenplay, why not sign up for an evening class and see if your years of writing advertising copy could morph into a career move into the film industry?

    Achieving your career change successfully will occur when you mentally prepare, take a proactive approach, and mine your personal and online networks. The pay-off will be in a life well-lived in a successful career.

    More Tips on How to Change Careers

    Featured photo credit: Jason Strull via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Vicky Oliver

    Author of 6 best-selling books on job-hunting and job interview questions, business etiquette, frugalista style, advertising, and office politics.

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    Last Updated on December 1, 2020

    9 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Advancement

    9 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Advancement

    Are you focused on career advancement, or is it not your priority?

    For many of us, having a secure job to go to each week is important and career is not much of an interest. It may not be an issue until we start to feel discontent at work. When this happens, we naturally start to look for another job.

    By this time, desperation has often crept in and we go into reaction mode. We become impatient for change and may jump out of the frying pan into the fire.

    The more interested we are in career advancement, the less likely we are to get to that stage. This is because we make conscious and objective choices, and we are more proactive about them.

    There are many benefits to advancing our career. These include salary raises, increased work satisfaction, travel opportunities, building skills, and personal growth. All of these contribute to our quality of life in general.

    For many people, career advancement happens organically. I know it always did for me. It was not something I consciously pursued; my employers just saw potential in me. I guess, in a way, I was lucky.

    But for most of us, if it is something we want, then we need to make a conscious choice.

    If you’ve had an intention to advance your career from the onset, you possibly have a good idea where you’re heading and how to get there. But if you’re new to the concept, you may not know where to start.

    Because of this, I have put together what I consider to be 9 powerful steps to achieve career advancement.

    1. Set An Intention to Advance Your Career

    Starting with the outcome in mind is always a good place to start when you want to achieve something.

    Forbes magazine says that it is about defining what success is in your career.[1] Success is different for everyone, so it is important to make this clear from the beginning.

    This can be challenging from the onset, especially if you are not really sure. But if you spend time exploring this early, it will guide you to make the right decision and help you choose the right company to work for and roles most appropriate for you.

    Even more essential is to regularly check in with your intentions at different points throughout your career path. This will help you see if it is still relevant to what you want as you change and grow. Because what you want now will more likely be very different from what you want in five years.

    A favorite interview question is, “What is your five-year plan?

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    This is because it is helpful to know this when your potential employer makes a decision. It is also beneficial for you because it gives you direction and helps you make effective decisions.

    Imagine how you want your career to look like five years from now. Think about how this may benefit your whole life. Remember that your career is just a part of your life; it is important that it benefits your life in general.

    2. Explore What You Enjoy

    The more we enjoy our work, the more satisfied we feel. And increasing job satisfaction gives us more potential for career advancement. We become more productive when we see greater opportunities that lead us to be noticed.

    In general, we enjoy what we are good at, but that is not always the case. Sometimes, we develop strengths just because we have been doing them for a long time, or we have been trained well.

    My career is probably a really good example of this. I am strong in numbers and was a skilled bookkeeper. Yet, I have chosen a career in human services. This career is the love of my life, and I have been very successful in it.

    It’s also easier to learn new skills when they are related to what you enjoy. Even out of comfort zone skills become more doable. For instance, I was a C grade student in English, and now I have become a skilled writer because I write about my passion.

    We can be doing something for years without fully enjoying our work. Getting clear on what most lights you up from the inside and working with that creates fulfilment. This contributes to your prospects of career advancement.

    Write a list of all the things you have enjoyed, even what you loved to do as a child. Look for a common thread that could be part of your career.

    3. Be a Forward Thinker in Your Job Choice

    If career advancement was not on your horizon before, you might be in the pattern of accepting a job just because it is offered. It is easy to do, especially if you are unhappy in your current workplace.

    Doing this can eventually lead to more of the same; even if you are happy in the role, to begin with. This can limit your career and even set you back for a few years.

    When you have a big picture outcome for your career, you can use a simple process to ensure you make choices serving that outcome. This can fast track your career success.

    For each role or job that interests you, check for its alignment with the bigger picture.

    Look for where it can contribute to your ultimate goal and how you can use it as a stepping-stone. For example, will it mean you have to learn new skills or open you up to new networks? Is there potential for promotion or not?

    4. Do Not Keep Your Plans a Secret

    In business, there is a fantastic saying:

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    “You can be really good at what you do, but if it’s a secret you won’t attract clients.”

    The same goes for career advancement. You can have wonderful plans for professional growth, but keeping it a secret delays your development.

    When you have decided what you want to achieve in your career, it is a good idea to let the appropriate people know. This might mean being prepared for that “5-year plan” question at your interview and answering honestly. Or actually ask if there are opportunities for career advancement.

    And if you are in a company you love working for, let your superior know your aims. Freely sharing this information and asking them to keep you in mind puts you on their radar. This makes them more likely to give you the chance to develop yourself or trust you with extra responsibilities.

    As you take on more, it gives you a chance to show what you are capable of. And this puts you in the forefront for future opportunities.

    5. Stand Out by Believing in Yourself

    When we believe in ourselves, it increases our self-confidence. And we all know that confident people tend to stand out in the workplace.

    Believing in yourself and what you are capable of also leads others to believe in you too. This makes you more likely to be considered for promotion when it becomes available.

    We are all very good at noticing our negative qualities. Many of us are also very talented at beating ourselves up for those things. This lowers our self-belief and in turn, our self-confidence.

    When we flip this pattern and notice our wonderful qualities instead, our self-belief increases. Plus, our superiors are more likely to notice those strengths too.

    One of the greatest self-confidence boosting exercises I like to do is writing a list of all your amazing qualities in a journal. Then write a list of all the things you are good at. Allow yourself plenty of time to do this and keep coming back to it as the answers come to you.

    You will be astonished at how much you have on your list. And you may realize that you are a great catch for any employer.

    6. Identify Your Strengths Using Profiling Tools

    Profiling tools are a fantastic way to identify what we are good at. It can cut out the guess-work, and it hones in on our professional strengths. These days, there are many different types available.

    Extended DISC is a tool I have used for myself and my clients for a long time. I prefer this method because it doesn’t pigeon hole us. Instead, it helps us build on the strengths and developmental areas that we naturally have.

    This profiling tool is based on the works of Carl Jung and William Marston. It helps us build on our strengths and modify our behaviors to improve our performance. And when we improve our performance, we increase our opportunity for career advancement.

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    We can identify our strengths by writing our own list in a journal. We can also ask our work colleagues or honest friends to help us with this. Other people close to us can often see our strengths easier than we can.

    Once you know your strengths, identify ways to build on them to improve your performance. You can try to volunteer for responsibilities where your strengths can be utilized.

    7. Be Prepared to Level Up Your Knowledge and Skills

    For every strength, there is an underside, and we must work on those to increase our opportunities.

    Einstein’s definition of insanity is:

    “Doing the same thing and expecting a different result.”

    This means that if we want to advance our career, we might need to do different things and learn new skills. We can also develop in areas that we are not that strong at.

    Be willing to study further to support your career advancement. In many instances, the company you work for will chip in with the financial side. But if not, be happy to fund it yourself. After all, it is for your own benefit.

    Also, volunteering for extra responsibilities that are out of your comfort zone allows you to learn new skills. You can sometimes do this by offering to cover someone when they are away or on holiday.

    8. Show That You Want to Advance Your Career

    We can have the best skills in the world, but if our outer image does not reflect our inner success, we can still be passed over when it comes to promotion.

    Our image gives others an impression of our personal brand. Our personal brand is what we stand for, which includes our qualities, beliefs, and values. Therefore, it is important to look the part.

    Sally Mlikota from CBC Staff Selection says it is important to dress for success. Research conducted by various career agencies showed that 65% of hiring managers say that clothes can be the deciding factor between two similar candidates in an interview.[2]

    I believe this also applies when already working in a company you want to advance in. Promotion really is like applying for a new job.

    Think about the new role you want and the responsibilities along with it. Consider the qualities, values, and strengths the role might require. Do you have those attributes, and if not, how will you develop them?

    And once you have those qualities, how would you dress and present yourself? A personal stylist can also help you with this.

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    This is not about becoming something you are not. It’ is about developing and building on who you already are. Then, acting and dressing as if you already have the role.

    9. Find a Good Mentor to Help You Advance Faster

    For anything we want to achieve, there is always someone else who has already done it. And if we have a successful career, we are often eager to share how we did it.

    Achieving success in anything involves making mistakes and overcoming many challenges. Working with a mentor or a coach can help you minimize these and fast track your career success.

    That is why many network marketers do so well. They always have mentors on hand to tell them step by step how they did it.

    You can find a mentor in your current workplace, or you can meet them while networking.

    In my experience, networking in appropriate circles always expands opportunities. It gives us the chance to get to know people. And this allows us to make the best choices.

    When deciding on a mentor, make sure that the person has the results you want. Just because someone has the kind of role you want doesn’t necessarily mean they are doing it well. It’s essential to build the relationships first, so you can get to know the person before you decide.

    Lastly, don’t be shy about it. Just ask them. More often than not, you will find they feel honored.

    To Sum It Up

    We spend many hours at work each week. For that reason, it is vital that we feel satisfied with our roles. Feeling happy at work has a positive effect on our health and every relationship we have both at work and personally.

    There are two choices:

    You can either take it as it comes and change jobs when you feel unhappy. This means leaving it to chance, and you might never feel long-term fulfillment.

    Or, you can consciously choose career advancement and know where you are heading. This one has positive effects on all aspects of your life, not to mention the potential increases in salary.

    Which one will you choose?

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    Featured photo credit: Jud Mackrill via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Forbes: 5 Things You Can Do to Advance Your Career
    [2] CBC Staff Selection: Dress for Success

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