How to make a successful mid-career change
There could be any number of reasons why you might find yourself seeking a new career in mid-life: you held onto that rock star dream a little too long; your chosen career has taken a hit in the recent tech explosion; you spent 15 years raising kids and have simply been out of the workforce.
Don't worry. It can be daunting but it's never too late. If you think you're too old and nobody will hire you, try not to think that way.
"Employers want to hire the right person," says Andrea Kay, career consultant and author of Life's a Bitch and Then You Change Careers. "Yes, you may have perceived liabilities if you are older. On the other hand, an employer may thank and appreciate an older worker who has a level of commitment, a level of maturity and wisdom that you otherwise don't have as a younger worker."
Kay adds, "I'm not saying that there won't be some employers who will be prejudiced and who will misunderstand your abilities. You just have to know that that's a possibility, but you can't let it stop you."
And hey, a lot of employers probably don't even like young people. Young people can't string a coherent sentence together and they're entitled and arrogant. (Sorry kids, it's true. You are irritating and not nearly as awesome as you think).
To help you out, here are six key questions to ask yourself as you move towards changing careers.
"What's in me?" Kay says, "You make your career change based on two key pieces of data. The first is what's in you. Most people ask the question "What's out there?" But that's the wrong place to start. There are all kinds of things you could do. It's overwhelming to look at it that way. You need to start with what's in you. What's nudging you to make this change? If there's something you've always wanted to do, that's one place to look.
"What are the skills and talents and abilities that I have that I would take to a new place?" This is the second piece of data, says Kay. "You always are using the same skills talents and abilities. You may learn new knowledge, but your basic skills and abilities don't change. You have developed a certain set of skills and abilities, like the ability to communicate or the ability to write, the ability to organize something, to problem solve. That's what you also need to look at."
"Where can I be of use?" Does the world REALLY need another "writer" or English teacher? Probably not. Last time I checked, nobody knew what to do with all the lawyers either. Ask yourself where you can use those skills we just talked about. Kay says, "The world of work is based upon need. Instead of thinking ‘I'm going to be a nurse,' look at what is needed to be a nurse. What kind of person does that take? Somebody with empathy, somebody who cares about people but also is very detail oriented or good with science. Then look at yourself and say 'Is that a good match?'"
"What do I need to know about this new career?" Kay says, "Get lots of information. Go and shadow somebody, and ask lots of questions, ask what's it's truly like and ask 'What's your worst day like?' People make that mistake all the time, they don't get enough information. Research, research, research! You can never do too much research.
"What do I need to do to be valuable?" You might need to go back to school. You might not. You might already have more value than you think. Kay says, "Everybody thinks they need to go back to school for four years. Not necessarily. Maybe you want to get into project management and you're not necessarily going to need a new degree, because maybe you have a lot of experience in managing projects but that was never your title before. You could move into that arena with a class or two or the way you market yourself."
"What are the trends out in the world?" Knowing what's going on out there can help you decide in which direction you want to move. Kay says, "We don't know where everything is going. Ask 'What are the trends of the world in general?"
Smart technology offering remote access to health care and education will change both those sectors dramatically, for example. Demographic shifts, renewable energy, any number of things can have an impact. Stay as informed as you can.
There you go. Sit down and have a conversation with yourself.
Finally, don't get stuck on an idea what you're going to pick a career and that's going to be it.
Kay says, "People always want to make the perfect right decision, especially as they get older, they think 'I've only got 15 to 20 years left, this has to be it.' I'd really urge you to take that expectation off of the table. It will help you greatly if you can be open to the possibility that this might change."
Category: Career dilemmas, Job search strategies