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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

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 September 18, 2019

11 Organizational Skills That Every Smart Leader Needs

11 Organizational Skills That Every Smart Leader Needs

Failing to organize will often lead to chaos or, at the very least, an increase in stress levels. This occurs as you attempt to make sense of everything that surrounds you for the sake of making life easier.

The need to have organizational ability becomes even more important when you are the leader. After all, people turn to you for inspiration and it will hardly be inspiring if they see you freaking out.

But where do you start by becoming more organized? Well, I’m about to guide you through 11 key organizational skills that every leader needs to know. By the end, it will mean that you are in a better position to be a more effective leader.

So, let’s get to it!

1. Time Management

Poor time-management is at the root of so many issues within a company. As the leader, it’s your responsibility to ensure that things run like clockwork. This is only possible by having a firm understanding of what it is to be organized.

Failure in this area will lead to you being unable to stay on the task in front of you. Suddenly, your ability to juggle everything at once diminishes before you. It won’t take much before it all comes crashing down, resulting in you being viewed as rather unreliable.

Be aware of the following: the tasks for completion, their deadlines, the amount of work required and anything that cannot be delayed or avoided at any cost. Make a note of it daily and see how you fare with your list.

Also, take a look at these 7 Effective Time Management Tips To Maximize Your Productivity.

2. The Ability to Plan

Planning makes organizing easier but we are often lacking when it comes to being able to plan ahead. Again, poor planning leads to disorganization and more pressure on you.

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Remember that planning takes different forms including dealing with time and how a project must proceed. However, a smart leader has to take things one step further to make a difference. You must also be aware of the plans of others and how they fit into your own approach if they are to make a difference. This becomes more important when dealing with a multi-disciplinary team where co-ordination can be problematic without adequate planning.

This is achievable even on a minute level although that is not always necessary. A complete absence of planning will only ever lead to problems.

3. Scheduling

Even though this skill does overlap with those mentioned earlier, it’s still important enough to merit its own individual point. Having a schedule, followed by keeping to it, is known to be an effective tool for organizing your life.

Scheduling indicates to others that you have an awareness about what they are doing. It also shows you have a firm grip on what is being done and that there are no issues with balancing a number of projects.

Thanks to scheduling, your understanding of the time taken for different aspects becomes improved. This helps you to keep control of a project as well as coping with problems thanks to an understanding of events.

4. Resources Organization

It’s important to get the most out of your resources and this too requires organization. Even knowing when to use those resources is important to prevent them becoming exhausted or used at incorrect times.

Organization in this sense means being acutely aware of the resources at hand and those you may call upon with a project. Your strength should also be in linking the correct resource to the right requirement to ensure it fits into their own abilities. Failure to do this means wasted resources and this will not reflect well on you.

To be certain of organization in this sense, you must first of all identify resources that may be relevant before beginning a new project. This prevents you from scrambling around searching for help when you need it the most.

5. Delegation

Delegation is an art form and not everyone has mastered it. An effective leader also understands its importance for a project to run smoothly.

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It’s impossible to handle each aspect of a project yourself, and that is where delegating tasks can help. Being aware of who is best for a particular task prevents that overwhelmed feeling which will free you to oversee each aspect of the project.

An organized leader will know their team and be aware of their strengths and weaknesses.[1] Being aware in advance means you will not stress when a problem arises as you know who to call for help

Thanks to organization, your team will work more efficiently and complete each task with less stress on your shoulders.

Take a look at this guide and learn how to delegate effectively: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

6. Priorities Management

Being capable of prioritizing things will make your life easier. Creating a ‘to-do’ list and understanding which deadlines come first then leads to better planning as well as less stress. As your experience builds, you become more confident at knowing which tasks are the most important.

Disorganized individuals tend to cope in a haphazard way and deal with things as they arise. This is incorrect as you put energy into the wrong areas, and the most important things fall by the wayside. Prioritization keeps you on track with the order in which you need to complete things.

For this, you must be aware of the tasks at hand and the process for each one. Check deadlines and other pressing details in advance to allow you to be better organized.

This article will help you prioritize better: The Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life

7. Cooperation Skills

The correct collaboration makes life easier. The only problem is that it does require organization on your part. An organized leader is aware of those individuals that may be the best person for a particular task. Not organizing leaves you in a position of searching for help when it should be plain sailing.

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This is about more than mere delegation. Instead, the skill is with knowing in advance who you can call upon to make a project run as smooth as possible. This may also involve other leaders of various departments, so working in unison is key.

With this skill, you must become aware of who you may need to collaborate with before the need arises. Do your research and know who to call upon at any point. This allows you to then cope with any problem in a cool and efficient manner.

8. Setting Targets and Goals

An organized individual will find it easier to set goals and targets, and then achieve them. A smart leader is able to show others that they can set goals, work towards them and ultimately achieve them. The only way in which this is done is by organization.

It will be impossible to reach a target if you are unaware of the path to follow. You must understand the actions that are required or you will never achieve anything. Organization also helps you to identify each step and any problems connected to it.

Here, you must identify the target or goal at the earliest opportunity and then bring forward the other organizational skills that I have mentioned.

9. Maintaining Efficiency

Organization and efficiency go hand in hand as you cannot have one without the other. Efficiency leads to the need for planning as the smoother something runs, then the fewer problems you encounter and the happier everybody tends to be.

Being efficient also allows you to know where you are in a project at any moment. This is due to you having organized things to such an extent that you are able to counteract problems before they occur. Remember that efficiency and your ability to identify issues work in unison. If you fail to be organized, then it is impossible for this to happen.

To learn this skill, you must set aside time for each project and break it down into individual segments. Understand how each step must progress and who will be responsible for each part. Identify problems and how to resolve them to allow in such a way that everything can run like clockwork.

Efficiency is a skill that develops over time, so continue working on it and how to improve problem areas to become a stronger leader.

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10. Clear Communication

A strong leader needs to be able to communicate clearly at all times.[2] With your organizational skills, you will find that this is easier to do.

Thanks to these skills, you always know what is happening and can clarify any issues. You are also able to communicate exactly what you need simply because you are organized and know the status quo at that point. You will find it easier to get things started in any way that you wish due to your ability to put things across in an easy and concise manner.

To have good communication, you have to be confident in your own abilities as a leader. If you use the different skills discussed above, you will notice a greater confidence in your voice which then has a positive influence on the rest of the team.

If you want to be more confident in your communication skills, check out this article: How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home

11. Self-Care

Nothing mentioned above is possible if you are not organized in your own life. The ability to look after yourself is the glue that holds everything else together.

You need to eat and sleep well, along with taking care of your general health. Organization in each aspect of your life is essential to ensure you have a healthy balance. Feeling under the weather, tired, stressed or anything else negative will have a profound impact on your abilities as a leader.

Look at what people expect of you in each part of your life and adopt the same strategies for each aspect. You can then expect a certain synergy to occur between the different areas allowing them to work with a certain fluidity.

This simple guide will be helpful for you to take better care of yourself: The 5-Step Guide to Self-Care for Busy People

The Bottom Line

These 11 skills are, in my opinion, essential for any smart leader who wishes to be more organized in everything that they do. By bettering yourself along these lines, it will lead to not only a greater sense of confidence in yourself, but also towards those that look to you for both guidance and inspiration.

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Featured photo credit: Emma Matthews via unsplash.com

Reference

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