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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.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

How to Get Promoted Fast (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Get Promoted Fast (A Step-by-Step Guide)

“Attitude is altitude,” a famous adage tells us. When it comes to getting promoted fast, maintaining a can-do attitude conquers all. Keeping up a sunny, pleasant professional demeanor will help you win friends and influence Human Resources managers. So will good work hygiene. Show up early, work late, and volunteer for assignments once yours are completed to the best of your ability.

Realize, too, that every office newbie wonders how to get promoted fast. So you are always competing against others at the company for that spot above yours. For this reason, it’s not enough to be a whiz at your given tasks. You also need to be likeable—the type of person whom others want to work with and (ultimately) work for.

Research shows that employees with high emotional intelligence (EI), such as managing relationships, are 75 percent more likely to be promoted than employees with high IQ.[1] Teamwork matters as much as your individual abilities.

Additionally, these 10 steps will help you succeed faster than you dreamed possible.

Craft a Plan for How to Get Promoted

Step 1: Have a Plan

In this world of fast-disappearing mentors, you need to be the architect of your own plan.

Ask others in your field what they did to get promoted and how long it took. Map out a general timeline for your own advancement.

One thing to consider: think of where you want to be five years from now, then work backwards to figure out when you should receive your next promotion.

Step 2: Commit Your Plan to Paper

Studies show that writing down one’s dreams and aspirations helps them happen faster.

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One Saturday when you’re not at the office, take a few hours to capture your plan on paper. Then, separately, pen the tangible steps you believe you need to take to accomplish your dream.

Perhaps you should aim to get into the office at least a half hour earlier than your direct supervisor each day. Or maybe write, “win one piece of new business per year” as your goal. Do you know someone who could throw your company a piece of new business? Consider reaching out to that person.

Step 3: Discuss Your Plan with Your Boss or Direct Supervisor

Performance reviews are a logical time to ask your boss how to get promoted. Bear in mind that any raise you receive may be an indicator of whether you’re perceived to be on the fast track for promotion or on a slower track. (To find out how your raise compares to other workers’ raises, ask around.)

If you already are on the fast track, just keep doing the excellent work you are doing. If you discover that you are on a slower track, it may make sense to first work out with your boss the steps you need to take to get a hefty raise, and from there, make the case for why you deserve a promotion.

Get It in Writing

Step 4: Ask for It in an Email

Did a client commend your public speaking ability? Did your research report exceed your boss’s expectations? Did your colleague profusely thank you for pitching in over the weekend? In the most gracious way, ask that person to send you an email thanking you and to please copy your boss on it.

When it comes to discussing a potential promotion with your boss and the powers-that-be, glowing emails really help bolster your case.

Be sure to bring those emails with you into your performance review meetings. The emails can help you prove you deserve a promotion.

Step 5: Put Any Interim Managerial Tasks in Writing

If you are ever asked to fill in for missing supervisor, ask your boss to write an email to the whole team about the process to be followed.

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This one step will help clear up confusion among your teammates and smooth the way for you to demonstrate your managerial talent. You’ll spend more time managing people and less time trying to manage the process.

The Casual Check-In

Step 6: Check In with Your Boss Now and Then

If you happen to have a boss who gives you a lot of feedback, consider yourself lucky. You will already know how you are doing long before any performance review. You can also use any negative feedback to help you make micro adjustments so that you can bring up your performance before it’s officially rated.

However, if you happen to have a boss who doesn’t offer up much feedback, make it a habit to casually check in with him or her. Wait until a calm moment, knock on the door or cubicle wall, and ask if he has a minute or two. Then, simply sit down and ask what he thought about your contribution to the latest project. (See Step 7.)

But take care. The casual check-in should be used sparingly. Do it too often, and your boss may start to consider you a bit paranoid (and then wonder why you are).

Step 7: Accept All Feedback (Positive and Negative) Gracefully

When you ask your boss for feedback, you will receive it. And you may not always like what you hear.

Maybe you thought your two-minute introduction to the new product launch was phenomenal, but your supervisor found it uninspiring.

Perhaps you thought the client meeting was a smash success, but your client said otherwise after you left the room.

Those who get promoted fast demonstrate an ability to receive positive feedback gracefully and bounce back from negative feedback equally gracefully. Even if you don’t like what you hear, thank your boss for sharing her feedback and promise her that you will work to improve. Then, draft some action steps you will take to keep your promise.

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Solve Problems

Step 8: Remember You’re There to Solve Problems, Not Create Them

Try to be easygoing and flexible. Strive to receive the plum assignments, but realize that everyone in the firm also wants the better assignments. So, be gracious when you receive a terrible assignment, and just do your best to finish it professionally.

If you find yourself with a lot of free time, volunteer for extra work, but be judicious about what you volunteer for. It’s important to be perceived as poised and professional, not desperate and clamoring.

Prove you deserve to be promoted, instead of nagging your associates about how to get promoted.

Step 9: Work Hard

Today, business moves at the speed of technology. It’s important to keep up with technology as it evolves. You may need to take additional classes or get additional certifications and digital badges just to stay ahead of change.

Be the person at your company who embraces change rather than shunning it. Do things the new way, and prove that you love to learn.

By showing your willingness to change with the times, you’ll prove that you’re an employee who’s worth keeping around.

Invest your time in learning about the business, your company, and your clients, and your investment may well pay off in a promotion.

It’s Not Just What You Know

Step 10: Get Along with Everyone

Bosses tend to promote those whom they like faster than others on staff—regardless of their talent level.

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So first and foremost: get along with your boss. But don’t kiss up because that will make your coworkers turn against you.

Strive to be known for being nice to all, fair to all, and coming up with creative solutions to problems.

To boost your popularity, try to attend some of the outings, all of the office parties, and as many office showers and office birthday celebrations as you can without sacrificing your work product. Occasionally offer to organize one of these events if you have the time.

Getting along with everyone is one is a surefire way to get ahead and be promoted faster.

The Bottom Line

To get promoted faster, it’s important to understand that ambition coupled with camaraderie wins.

When your supervisor notices that you take criticism well and learn from mistakes, and that you keep emotions in check and get along well with others, you will earn respect.

The most important mantra for those who long to get ahead: be professional.

Solve problems, so that you can be promoted to tackle and solve even bigger problems.

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Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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