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Last Updated on August 26, 2021

9 Ways to Swiftly Make a Midlife Career Change

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9 Ways 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 pay check 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].

Why Change Your Career?

If you’re here, you’re thinking about a midlife career change quite seriously. And if you feel alone, rest assured. It’s a lot more common than you’d think.

A recent Indeed poll found 49% of people had dramatically changed their original careers.[2] And at what age? On average, 39 years old.

The job market is changing. People are no longer willing to stick out a job that makes them unhappy.

So what’s driving this trend? Making a midlife career change is tough. And people tend to be risk averse. So if so many are opting to do it – they must have some pretty strong motivators.

Here are some personal reasons you might desire a career shift:

1. Job Satisfaction

Getting stuck in the same job for years can get stale. Maybe you’re looking for the thrill of a new challenge. Or you’re eyeing that passion project you put on the back burner all those years ago. When people age, they realize it’s time to put their happiness first.

2. Earn More Money

Chasing a higher pay check? A new line of work can come with higher earning potential. Some careers just don’t have much of a ladder for their employees to climb. If that’s you, you can find more opportunities to advance elsewhere.

3. Job Flexibility

Right now, the remote job market is booming. And with it, we’re rethinking the 9 to 5 work day. Flexible schedules offer a better work-life balance. As a remote worker, you can get more freedom and time for travel, family, and pursuing other passions.

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Chances are, if you’ve made it this far, you’ve already figured out your ‘why’. Whatever that is, you’re going to need a ‘how’ as well.

Below, find your 9-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:

  • 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. Test the Waters Before You Plunge

You don’t have to go from 0 to 100. Way too often people quit their jobs too abruptly. Then they’re disappointed to find that their ‘dream job’ isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

But there is a middle ground. You can test out a career before leaving your day job. Figure out if it’s a good match for you before you make a commitment.

There are different ways of doing this:

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  • Start a part-time side hustle in the industry you’re interested in.
  • Job shadow someone to get a ‘day in a life’ of your ideal career.
  • Interview somebody in that position to learn the nitty-gritty of their job.

By testing it out first, you’ll soon find out if your dream job really is so dreamy. And you’ll get a head start by meeting new contacts and building up some experience.

4. 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.

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.

5. 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:

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.

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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.

6. Sort Your Finances Out

Make sure you’re financially stable enough to support a big leap before you take it.

It’s great to dream big. But bad news: there will always be bills to be paid. You’ve got to be realistic about your financial situation as well.

If you’ve never bothered with budgeting, now’s the time to start. Take a full audit of your finances. Calculate your monthly expenditure and work out where you can cut back. You’re going to have to live a little leaner, so work out the difference between your ‘needs’ and ‘wants’.

And save while you can. Bite the bullet and build a fund while you’re still earning. That way, you can weather a period of unemployment while you look for a job.

Especially if you have dependents, fiscal responsibility is important. Some preparation can hugely alleviate the anxiety of being unemployed.

7. Attract Notice Through Smart Networking

Along with gaining requisite skills, you’ll need to ramp up a robust networking campaign[3]. 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:

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.

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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.

8. Take Any Experience You Can Get

Most of the time, employers just want to know that you can do the job. So it’s a smart move to build a record of work that shows them you’re capable.

How do you get experience when you’re first getting started?

Anywhere you can get it. Be prepared to work for free – at least at first.

This will look different for every career. If you’re going into graphic design, for example, you’ll need to establish a portfolio of work. Are you going into marketing? Volunteer your consulting skills for NGOs in your area. Know a friend with a car wash business? Offer to work as a personal assistant pro bono.

Everything counts when you’re trying to prove yourself. You’ll start to fill in the gaps in your resume. And you’ll show a potential employer that you’re a person who takes initiative.

9. Nail the Interview

I know. It’s been years since you last interviewed. You’re going to be rusty. But as a rookie, you need to make up for your lack of experience by interviewing better than anyone else.

So do the homework for every application. Get to know the company inside and out. Make a list of what the company is looking for in the position. Then write a cover letter that is tailored to that job – and don’t be tempted to recycle it.

And when you score your first interview, brush up on your skills. By preparing thoroughly, you’ll enter the room with much more confidence. Be ready to defend your career change, articulate your transferable skills, and tell a compelling story about who you are.

Popular Fields For Career Changes

People find success in all sorts of fields when they make a midlife career change. But here are some of the most popular:

  • Writing and editing
  • Real estate
  • Social media campaigner
  • Consultancy
  • Event planning
  • Recruiting
  • Teaching
  • Web development
  • Administration

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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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 September 5, 2021

How To Be Proactive At Work: 7 Habits To Build

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How To Be Proactive At Work: 7 Habits To Build

I don’t know about you, but it was nearly impossible for me to be proactive at work last year.

Every week, I would map out my game plan and color-coded my calendar. But when I tried to set things in motion, I faced ten-foot barriers that would force me to change direction. I’d have to reschedule meetings, push deadlines back, and reorganize my life because of all the twists and turns. Pivoting became my life, and it was taking over every part of it.

When I think back to 2020, it was like trying to survive the Tour de France blindfolded. By the end of the year, I was worn out, and I was in no mood to organize my 2021 goals. Being proactive was the furthest from my mind. In many ways, I didn’t even want to dream about new projects.

When January 1st entered the scene, I crawled back under my covers and hoped for the best—or at least a year that would be more predictable with less pivoting.

You want to be hopeful for this year, but a part of you is afraid of another year filled with more barriers and you’re tired of trying to survive the chaos. You’re not alone.

Over 100,000 businesses have permanently shut their doors because of Covid-19.[1] Start-Ups aren’t getting a second chance.[2] And according to Pew Research, one in four adults still have a hard time finding money to pay their bills.[3]

This reality is not the most inspiring for those of us who are business leaders. If anything, it feels like the grim reaper is right around the corner to destroy our dreams and add us to the rising number of failed companies.

Being proactive is one of the most challenging things to muster right now. But it is one of the most imperative traits that we need to embrace.

But first, let’s be clear, what does being proactive mean?

Defining the Term “Proactive” In-Depth

The word proactive often floats around the workplace, usually by well-meaning managers asking employees or their team to, “Be more proactive!” But have you ever stopped to think about what that actually means?

The dictionary definition of proactive is, “acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes.”

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Being proactive is about dealing with any obstacles or challenges before they even happen. Simply put, a proactive person plans ahead.

For example, you’re buying an older home. The seller tells you that it has a sturdy foundation and an engineer confirms it. Most people would be satisfied with this answer.

A proactive person, however, would think beyond what’s presented and look into any potential issues. They may ask questions like, “How long is the lifespan of the foundation?”, “Is it earthquake ready?”, or “Does insurance cover the foundation?”

Depending on the answers, proactive people would respond accordingly and put safeguards in place to avoid these problems or minimise its impact. While it seems like a lot of resources and effort are spent at the beginning, it can actually lessen your stress and save you time and effort because you’re either preventing a problem or already have a solution at hand when the challenge arises.

This doesn’t mean that proactive people never have to put out fires on occasion. However, when you have a proactive mindset, most of the issues that come up seemingly out of left field are already something you’ve considered. And this makes you better equipped to handle situations calmly and enact a solution.

If you want your business to succeed this year, you need to be proactive at work. Situations around the world are constantly changing and you never know what the next month, year or even hour might bring and how it would affect your work. Planning ahead and preparing for the future is incredibly vital in our current climate.

Proactivity vs Reactivity

We can’t discuss proactivity without exploring the other side of the coin: Reactivity.

Being reactive is the complete opposite of being proactive. A reactive person doesn’t feel the need to address a problem until it’s already occurred. They simply react to a situation because it’s already there.

Spontaneity and the ability to address problems as they arise is important in leadership, and in life. After all, we cannot predict the future no matter how hard we try. But oftentimes reactive people encounter problems because they refuse to take action even though there have been warning signs of imminent trouble.

Reactivity also comes from a place of panic. Because you have not thought or planned ahead, you react instantaneously. You may not offer the best solution because you haven’t had time to fully review the situation, and maybe even create more problems.

It won’t be easy, but it will be a lot easier with the following practical habits that I’ve put together for you. These tools will make all the difference for you and your organization.

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7 Practical Habits to Turn Reactivity into Proactivity

Even proactive people can exhibit reactive behavior. No one is perfect and the corporate and business world can be unpredictable. But you can turn things around and be proactive even when you have not anticipated challenges that face you. Here are some tips:

1. Don’t Be Busy

Repeat after me: only do what is necessary—no more and no less.

If you’re anything like me, as soon as January 1st comes along, you cram in all your five-year goals into one packed year. You love seeing your schedule filled. But being busy isn’t the same as being productive. Being proactive requires you to take a step back, reevaluate your priorities, and actually take things off of your plate before adding new goals.

The brain is not designed to always operate at full capacity twenty-four hours a day.[4] It needs a break. If we’re constantly immersing ourselves throughout the day with frivolous tasks, then we don’t have time to concentrate on our goals.

This year, I’m taking a break from the chaos and learning to do fewer tasks with more investment.

Think of it this way. Planning takes time. It’s like painting an apartment. Before you can add color to the drab walls of your living room, you have to plan and prep the area. The same is true for being proactive at work.

2. Stop Trying to Run Everyone’s Race

If you want to direct the narrative of your life, you need to take a step back and get rid of the clutter. Figure out what you can delegate and then, focus your energy away from the distractions. Not every email needs a reply, and not every job is right for you.

Shakespeare said it best,[5]

“To thine own self be true.”

These six words need to become your mantra.

If you want to reach your goals this year and be proactive, you need to walk forward with laser focus. If you compare yourself or your business to the next big thing, you won’t contribute anything except a lesser copy of yourself and your organization.

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Part of being proactive is being creative. You have to be able to see the different angles and nuances in a situation or project in order to anticipate potential issues and come up with creative solutions. If you’re constantly looking over someone else’s work, you’re not focusing on what’s in front of you. And you could end up missing a lot of obstacles that you could’ve avoided if you were paying attention.

Stop looking around. Your purpose is not to run the race of someone else. If you want to be proactive at work, you need to stop comparing yourself to your neighbor and stick to running your own race. It’s the only way that you’ll win.

3. Make “Essentialism” Your 2021 Word

When you’re figuring out your 2021 goals, take time to weigh the cost. Ask yourself if it’s worth the investment. Being proactive means that you take into consideration all the variables before cementing your goals.

Before you map out your plan or get crazy with those highlighters, ask yourself these two questions:

  • Will this goal help create balance in my life?
  • Will this goal produce a return on investment?

If you can answer a resounding “yes” to both of these questions, then take these ideas and write them down on a piece of paper.

After you’ve compiled a list of 15 to 20 ideas, take a new sheet of paper and break it into two columns. The first section should contain a list of goals that take priority. These ideas would fall under the umbrella of being trend-related and financially profitable.

The second section should contain a list of goals that will increase your social proof and promote your priority goals. This column drives traffic and promotes awareness of your business and your product.

After you’ve compiled this list, break it in half and cut it down to three goals in each section. Three is the perfect number because it gives you leeway to pivot and bend if you need to make changes throughout the process.

The two excellent tools that have helped me develop a schedule of essentialism are Hilary Rushford’s Elegant Excellence Journal[6] and Jill Konrath’s book, “More Sales. Less Time.

Both of these tools have helped me focus on what’s important, make the best decisions for my business, and make a profit without sacrificing my health.

4. Order the Same Latte

When you look at the greats in the business world, they all encompass one thing: simplicity.

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If you minimize your choices and stick to the basics, you’ll have the ability to save time and focus your energy on decisions that require your creativity. Keeping up with the latest fashion trends not only sacrifices your time but also sacrifices your budget.

Remember, it’s not about looking successful. It’s about making choices that give you the ability to be successful.

Here are four things that you can do to save time to make you more proactive at work:

  • Buy multiples of the same outfit and mix and match throughout the week.
  • Order the same drink each day from the same coffee shop.
  • Prepare meals at the beginning of the week for lunch and dinner.
  • Set your alarm for the same time each morning, including weekends.

5. Don’t Pressure Yourself to Respond Immediately

It’s okay to be surprised or be blindsided. Sometimes things just happen that is out of your control. What you are in control of, however, is your reaction. There’s nothing wrong with not having a solution or response at hand. It’s okay to take a step back and think about it first before responding.

6. Put a Pin on It

If you find yourself being unable to come up with a good solution, you can put a pin on it. You may want to address another matter first, one you already know how to deal with. It may give you inspiration and confidence when you come back to your other issues. Unless of course the imminent problem is fire outside your door.

7. Prioritize What’s Important

The thing with problems that come up suddenly, is that they may have already caused damage you can’t reverse. You have to learn to accept the situation and instead of trying to solve the unsolvable, prioritize what’s important, see what you can salvage and take note of lessons that will help you in the future.

It’s impossible to be proactive if you feel rushed. But if you follow the above tips, you’ll gain more time in your schedule and have more energy to lead your business and operate with a well-organized game plan.

Final Thoughts

I think the majority of us are tired of feeling like we’re contestants in Survivor. After all, who wants to be filmed while living in the woods and surviving off of bugs and tree bark?

All kidding aside. This past year has been challenging. But we can learn a lot from these past twelve months.

If you want to be proactive, simplify your schedule, focus on your path, only take what you need, and be purposeful with your time and energy. Being proactive is not about filling up your schedule. It’s about creating balance in your life.

I know it seems daunting right now, and many of us are still trying to figure out how to pay this month’s rent with spare change from the couch. But if you take the time to prepare and figure out what’s a priority this year, you’ll not only meet your goals, you’ll enjoy the journey.

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You have all the tools you need to be proactive at work. Now, go map out your 2021 goals for the year!

More Tips on How to Be Proactive

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

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