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Published on May 20, 2019

How to Swiftly Make a Midlife Career Change

How to Swiftly Make a Midlife Career Change

You wonder how they did it… How did your friend, a librarian at your public library, snag the fabulous marketing job at a digital ad agency? And how did the TV producer you’re acquainted with just become the prestigious publisher of an online parenting magazine? While you were watching “Game of Thrones,” how did so many of your peers manage to make a midlife career change that landed them in exciting new jobs?

One thing your friends probably didn’t do: listen to the naysayers. There will always be some well-meaning family member or acquaintance who will counsel you against any sort of career change, saying it’s too big a risk.

Aren’t your mid-30’s to early 50’s meant to be your optimal earning years where you advance up the ladder in your current field, this person may argue. Why would you want to sacrifice spectacular earnings for the paltry paycheck you will likely earn when you change careers?

Because maybe it’s not all about money. Maybe you’ve decided that your chosen career path doesn’t have the allure it once had. Or maybe the change you’re after is about money!

You realize that you’ve already reached the pinnacle of your earning potential at a figure well short of your original goal. Instead of being held back by this fact, it forces you to really examine your long-term career trajectory.

Below, find your 5-Point Plan for how to swiftly make a midlife career change.

1. Allow Yourself the Luxury to Dream Big

Now that the idea has taken hold, what is your next step? You may have to reckon with financial responsibilities such as a home mortgage, a car payment, and a family to support, so making a rash move isn’t in your best interest. Still, give yourself the luxury of dreaming big.

Give some thought to what your ideal career looks like:

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What’s your perfect job title? What responsibilities will make up your workday? What qualities would make for an outstanding boss and great colleagues?

Make a list, and refer back to it as you consider new opportunities.

2. Do Your Due Diligence on Your Midlife Career Change

Next, do your homework. Understand the fundamentals of your dream job so there won’t be any unwelcome surprises later.

Find out whether this occupation offers a respectable starting salary and is in a growth cycle. Explore any additional educational requirements and available programs.

In this investigative stage, take an inventory of all the hard and soft job skills you have to offer. You probably have more transferable skills than you realize.

For example, if you’ve been teaching high school science but want to venture into the medical research field, your classroom experience may have more crossover potential than you first thought.

A scientist working in a medical university lab, for instance, may oversee undergraduates helping to carry out the research. Similarly, strong communications skills honed from teaching classes may make you a whiz at presenting research findings.

3. Think of Yourself as a Matchmaker

Look at job postings for your dream position — and for a tier or two below it if you’ll need to work your way up. Consider how to adapt your abilities to the job requirements.

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Think of yourself as a professional matchmaker, creating a match between yourself and your potential employer. Pinpoint and promote those traits that make you most desirable, and know how to put your best attributes forward.

Employers will be attracted to your technical expertise, but also to your people skills — the soft skills that make you a good communicator, a reliable team player, and a value-driven employee.

Suppose that you’re applying for a financial analyst or financial planner position. Hopefully you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree in a major that qualifies you, such as business or economics. Then showcase your accounting skills, analytical acuity, and dexterity with a spreadsheet. Many firms have their own software, so you’ll want to plug your overall knowledge of technology along with your talent for navigating computer platforms.

Beyond proving that you possess these hard skills, you’ll shine if you can also highlight two or three people skills. Provide relatable examples. Strong verbal communication and unwavering integrity are two skills with particular relevance to careers in finance.

Beyond that, it’s always a good idea to remember that every job involves interacting with people. People skills are always in demand.

Ideally, you will perfectly match your skills with the skills needed in the job of your dreams. For those skills that you already possess, be sure to describe them in the exact way they’re stated on a job posting. As for the skills you don’t possess, put a plan in place to acquire them.

4. Carve out a Path for Mastering New Skills

The radically changing nature of most industries today can actually work in your favor. Even veteran workers in professions such as consumer electronics, retail and service industries, to name a few, need to re-educate themselves to stay on top of the changing way business is conducted in today’s technological world.

Still, before you spend the time and money on any program, check out reviews by previous students, ask colleagues for recommendations, and carefully read the course descriptions.

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Here’re some options for you to master new skills:

Online Courses

If you’re a self-starter who is pressed for time, online courses may be the easiest way to pick up needed skills for the job you’re after. Online courses run the gamut from providing a quick 2 to 3 hour introduction to a potential career path to offering specific training. Some online programs even reward you with a full-blown degree from a prestigious university.

Do you dream of wading into the cyber security field? Today you can earn a Bachelor of Science in Security and Risk Analysis from Penn State completely online! You’ll need to finish coursework by the stated deadlines, but be able to do the work in the timeslots most available to your schedule.

Continuing Education Courses

Another route to acquiring new skills for a midlife career change is to take continuing education courses at a local university or community college. Weekly, in-person classes will allow you to keep your day job.

Consider discussing your goals with your boss. Some companies encourage continuous learning. Home Depot, for example, offers employees up to $5,000 toward approved courses. Ask your supervisor whether your company has an educational assistance program. You will save your hard-earned money, and your employer will be investing in a very important asset: You.

Career Training Programs

Many high-skilled, high-paying careers require a specialized industry certification. Moreover, today’s career training programs are a far cry from the vocational education centers of the past. They’re now driven by technology and often taught by instructors working in the field. These programs are career-focused and can be completed faster than traditional community college and four-year college programs. It’s often possible to set up a class schedule that includes online, evening, or weekend classes.

Academic Degree Programs

If you decide to go all-in and enroll in an academic degree program (MBA, MFA or other), discuss low-residency options with your academic counselor that will allow you to earn the degree while being flexible about hours spent inside a classroom. Fellowship programs, while intensely competitive, can fully fund a master’s degree in some fields.

5. Attract Notice Through Smart Networking

Along with gaining requisite skills, you’ll need to ramp up a robust networking campaign. Seventy to eighty percent of jobs never reach the open market in an online listing. Why? Because the jobs are filled before they go public.

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When you network, which, broadly speaking, means reaching out to employers and employees in the field of your dreams, you increase your chances of hearing about a job long before it hits the open market.

Smart networking means taking a two-pronged approach:

First, target your friends, acquaintances, and industry connections who may be able to give you a foothold for making a contact inside a particular firm. While it may be considered old-fashioned to tap your organically grown network, it still comes with the best odds of success.

Make a point of meeting face-to-face with anyone who can offer you a lead or provide a reference. You never know what kind of opportunity will unfold from these offline connections. For a midlife career change, face to face networking is a great strategy to pursue.

But don’t stop there. Employ social media, which will exponentially increase your networking opportunities. Today, first impressions are mostly made in cyberspace. Making a strong online impression through a carefully curated social media profile may attract hiring managers and recruiters to you.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, every good match comes down to a “speed date.”

Throughout your career transition, you’ll be working to effectively make the case that your skills are the skills that your dream company needs.

Just like speed dating, where strangers make snap decisions on your “date-ability,” employers will decide your hire-ability in less time than it takes to eat lunch. With both, first impressions are key.

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Featured photo credit: Brendan Church via unsplash.com

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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 January 21, 2020

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Do you think of yourself as a creative person? Do you play the drums or do watercolor paintings? Perhaps compose songs or direct plays? Can you even relate to any of these so called ‘creative’ experiences? Growing up, did you ever have that ‘artistic’ sibling or friend who excelled in drawing, playing instruments or literature? And you maybe wondered why you can’t even compose a birthday card greeting–or that drawing stick figures is the furthest you’ll ever get to drawing a family portrait. Many people have this common assumption that creativity is an inborn talent; only a special group of people are inherently creative, and everyone else just unfortunately does not have that special ability. You either have that creative flair or instinct, or you don’t. But, this is far from the truth! So what is creativity?

Can I Be Creative?

The fact is, that everyone has an innate creative ability. Despite what most people may think, creativity is a skill that everyone can learn and hone on. It’s a skill with huge leverage that allows you to generate enormous amounts of value from relatively little input. How is that so? You’ll have to start by expanding your definition of creativity. Ironically, you have to be creative and ‘think out of the box’ with the definition! Creativity at its heart, is being able to see things in a way that others cannot. It’s a skill that helps you find new perspectives to create new possibilities and solutions to different problems. So, if you encounter different challenges and problems that need solving on a regular basis, then creativity is an invaluable skill to have.Let’s say, for example, that you work in sales. Having creativity will help you to look for new ways to approach and reach out to potential customers. Or perhaps you’re a teacher. In this role you have to constantly look for new ways to deliver your message and educate your students.

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How Creativity Works

Let me break another misconception about creativity, which is that it’s only used to create completely “new” or “original” things. Again, this is far from the truth. Because nothing is ever completely new or original. Everything, including works of art, doesn’t come from nothing. Everything derives from some sort of inspiration. That means that creativity works by connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value.From this perspective, you can see a lot of creativity in action. In technology, Apple combines traditional computers with design and aesthetics to create new ways to use digital products. In music, a musician may be inspired by various styles of music, instruments and rhythms to create an entirely new type of song. All of these examples are about connecting different ideas, finding common ground amongst the differences, and creating a completely new idea out of them.

What Really Is Creativity?

Creativity Needs an Intention

Another misconception about the creative process is that you can just be in a general “creative” state. Real creativity isn’t about coming up with “eureka!” moments for random ideas. Instead, to be truly creative, you need to have a direction. You have to ask yourself this question: “What problem am I trying to solve?” Only by knowing the answer to this question can you start flexing your creativity muscles. Often times, the idea of creativity is associated with the ‘Right’ brain, with intuition and imagination. Hence a lot of focus is placed on the ‘Right’ brain when it comes to creativity. But, to get the most out of creativity, you need to utilize both sides of your brain–Right and Left–which means using the analytical and logical part of your brain, too. This may sound surprising to you, but creativity has a lot to do with problem solving. And, problem solving inherently involves logic and analysis. So instead of throwing out the ‘Left’ brain, full creativity needs them to work in unison. For example, when you’re looking for new ideas, your ‘Left’ brain will guide you to a place of focus, which is based on your objective behind the ideas you’re searching for. The ‘Right’ brain then guides you to gather and explore based on your current focus. And when you decide to try out these new ideas, your ‘Right’ brain will give you novel solutions outside of the ones you already know. Your ‘Left’ brain then helps you evaluate and tune the solutions to work better in practice. So, logic and creativity actually work hand in hand, and not one at the expense of the other.

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Creativity Is a Skill

At the end of the day, creativity is a skill. It’s not some innate or natural born talent that some have over others. What this means is that creativity and innovation can be practiced and improved upon systematically.A skill can be learned and practiced by applying your strongest learning styles. Want to know what your learning style is? Try this test. A skill can be measured and improved through a Feedback Loop, and can be continuously upgraded over time by regular practice. Through regular practice, your creativity goes through different stages of proficiency. This means that you can become more and more creative! If you never thought that creativity was relevant to you, or that you don’t have a knack for being creative… think again! You can use creativity in any aspect of your life. In fact you should use it, as it will allow you to to break through your usual loop, get you out of your comfort zone, and inspire you to grow and try new things. Creativity will definitely give you an edge when you’re trying to solve a problem or come up with new solutions.

Start Connecting the Dots

Excited to start honing your creativity? Here at Lifehack, we’ve got a wealth of knowledge to help you get started. We understand that creativity is a matter of connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value. So, if you want to learn how to start connecting the dots, check out these tips:

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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