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Last Updated on December 4, 2020

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[1].

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

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 communication 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.

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.

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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 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.

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

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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.

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 towards 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[2]. 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.

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:

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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.

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.

More Tips on Making a Midlife Career Change

Featured photo credit: Brendan Church 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.

8 Easy Steps To Finding A Career Right For You How to Make Going Back to School at 30 Possible Why You Are Never Too Old for College (And How To Make It Work) How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details How To Write Minutes of Meeting Effectively (with Examples)

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Published on March 24, 2021

8 Easy Steps To Finding A Career Right For You

8 Easy Steps To Finding A Career Right For You

In the U.S., workers on average spend 90,000 hours of their lives working.[1] This means that it is likely you will spend more time working than with your spouse or partner. For this reason, it is especially important to love your job. When you are in a job you love, it feels custom-made just for you. You feel your values reflected in the company’s mission. You feel rewarded just for working there — “Thank God it’s Monday,” you think each week, and the paycheck is nice, too.

Here are 8 steps for finding the career that fits your personality like a glove.

1. Look At Yourself Carefully

Firstly, Look Inside

Some diagnostic tests help you assess who you are and what jobs make a good fit. Among free assessments you can take, the Myers-Briggs personality test is among the most popular for gauging how you perceive the world and make decisions. It consists of some 90 either-or questions that indicate whether you consider yourself an extrovert or introvert, and what influences perceptions.

Knowing yourself and the qualities associated with your personality type can help you decide whether you would be more comfortable in a front- or back-office setting, are more of an “ideas” or “execution” person, or prefer an open office or a quiet, enclosed setting to do your best work.

Career Explorer is another diagnostic careers tool, and offers a free Career Test to reveal how your interests and goals match up against some 1,000 careers. The test asks your general interest in a handful of random careers, along with your career satisfaction in previous jobs, and predicts career matches that fit your profile.

Then, Look Outside

Your friends and family members often know you better than you know yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask them, “What kind of career do you see me in?” or “How can I find a career that’s right for me? and pay attention to their answers.

Also, think back to talents you enjoyed in your younger years, particularly those that elicited comments from others along the lines of “You’re going to make a great ___________ some day.” Others often see special abilities in you that you may have overlooked.

2. Write Lists

The perfect career awaits you if you do your homework. Keep careful lists of the qualities you possess and which types of businesses will reward those qualities.[2]

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Similarly, when your friends have ideas for you, write them down. You want to be able to go back and reflect on different career paths.

Putting pen to paper — or fingers to keyboards — and allowing yourself to follow ideas where they lead is a valuable step for finding the career that is right for you.

What elements of past or current jobs and experiences stick out as the most enjoyable? List them. Think of careers where you could recapture some of those elements.

Write down the activities where you find real joy. Do you love decorating or rearranging your living room? Could this translate to fulfilling work in interior design or merchandising? Or do you find children endlessly entertaining? Perhaps you would find teaching or youth development a rewarding career path.

Generate a list of ideas, no matter how eccentric they may seem, and see if any patterns emerge.

Write a Master List of All Your Strengths and All Your Weaknesses

Be as specific as possible. If you hate waking up before 11 a.m., it is going to be hard to hold down a 9 to 5 job (unless you can work remotely in another part of the country with a different time zone). If you love talking to people, maybe the back office of a research department is too isolating for you.

Are you high energy or laid back? Do your strengths or weaknesses tend to make you a natural leader or more of a maverick? Own your particular personality strengths and quirks, and think about the various work environments where you could make the most of them. Do you like receiving direction or chafe when someone gives you feedback?

3. Set up 15-Minute Informational Interviews

All of this introspection will help you narrow your search criteria, but then it must lead to action. Ask around to see if there is anyone you know who would spare a few minutes to discuss her field with you. It could be a friend or a friend-of-a-friend or even one of your parents’ friends. You may be surprised to find that people often want to offer advice on the steps to take to start out in their field.

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Prepare some questions in advance, for example: ask how the person ended up in her field, what best prepared her for her career, which aspects she most enjoys, and how the field is changing.

Depending on how forthcoming the person is, you might also ask if she would mind if you sent a resume to keep on file in case of any future openings.

4. Read Job Postings

Before you apply for a job, start reading job postings in the two or three fields that excite you. You can find postings on LinkedIn, MonsterJobs, Indeed, Glassdoor, and Simply Hired. Do you feel goosebumps zipping down your spine when you read about certain jobs? It could be an indication that this is the job of your dreams.

Familiarize yourself with job descriptions to learn common industry terms, roles, and in-demand skills. Glassdoor, for example, gives you an insider’s perspective on what it’s like to work for a given company — but keep an open mind, too, knowing that former employees with a grudge are usually the most motivated to post reviews.

5. Write Your Resume

Your resume should reflect the skills you possess and the specific skills sought in a job. But be sure to customize and change your resume appropriately for each position you pursue. Don’t be afraid to parrot some of the words on the list of requirements back to the company. Many times, companies will actually use the key words mentioned in the job posting when screening resumes.

Research the organization that you are targeting and try to work in examples that have relevance to their customers or clients, or to issues taking place industry-wide. State how you can add value by quantifying results you achieved in former jobs or even volunteer activities. For example, “coordinated silent auctions for children’s advocacy organizations that brought in $29,000.”

Ideally, you will want to concisely recount your skills to make a riveting impression as a professional ideally suited for the position.

Check out these 10 Killer Resume Tips to Nail Your Dream Job.

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6. Watch a Movie or Two That Features a Character Working in the Field

While movies tend to exaggerate, you may see something that either confirms that you belong in that environment or scares you away from it. Career conflicts are a genre in themselves — you can find most any job represented in some form on the big screen.

The character played by Anne Hathaway in “The Devil Wears Prada,” who successfully navigated her nightmare boss played by Meryl Streep, showed the ups and downs of working on a fashion magazine. Meanwhile, “Legally Blonde” likely inspired a whole horde of young women to enter careers in law.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Risk

When it comes to job-hunting, the biggest risk is not taking a risk. Write a cover letter that truly reflects your own personality. Remember that you need to stand out, not just blend in to the hundreds of “blah-blah-blah” letters.

So, if you’re funny, be funny. If you’re serious, adopt a more measured tone. If you’re intellectual, use bigger words. Be you, not what you think you should be. When you’re authentic, it improves the likelihood that the career you find will be the right fit for you.

Think of ways to show passion for the career path you are pursuing — and then make the case for why it is the right fit for you. Hiring managers look for candidates with dynamism behind their desire to work for the company. Choose words that reveal that you are passionate, not passive: instead of “helpful,” your findings were “game-changing.” Instead of “useful,” your discoveries proved “transformational.”

Here’s How to Write A Cover Letter That Stands out from 500 Applicants.

8. Thank Everyone Who Helped You — and Especially Everyone Who Interviewed You

The gracious job-hunter lands a job faster. Even if you don’t snag a job the first time around, when you remember to thank the people who granted you an interview, those people will remember you and think of you for other opportunities. Thanks should also go to those who provided you with a recommendation or who took time with you for an informational interview.

While it may seem old school or downright quaint, a handwritten thank-you card still carries cachet. It shows that you took time to be appreciative. Or, if you send a note electronically, sincerely show gratitude and help the person remember you by bringing up something he said that you found helpful or insightful.

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A thank you to one person should not be able to be swapped with a communiqué to any other person who helped you in your search.

You Are on a Campaign to Land a Job until You Land the Job

You will likely have to meet several people in a company. Inevitably, those people will talk to each other. Make sure the emails that you write them are different from each other instead of canned notes with different names attached. Take a look at these tips on how to write a thank-you email.

Show unwavering cordiality and professionalism to everyone whom you encounter in the company. Even if you come across the receptionist entering the restroom at the same time as you, politely hold the door. Your good impression will travel throughout the office network.

Bonus: Return the Favor When You’ve Landed Your Job

Congratulations! You finally landed! Now it’s time to pay it forward.

Remember all those who helped you follow the key steps to your sought-after career, and never pass up an opportunity to help others land jobs they love.

Returning the favor will make you even more appreciative of having found the right career for you. And, when you look for your next job, you will find that you’ve built a network of helpful people on whom you can rely.

More Job Hunting Tips

Featured photo credit: Saulo Mohana via unsplash.com

Reference

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