Categorized | Career

Life Begins at 40

Posted on 05 April 2009

But can we change directions at mid-career?

One day, as you are heading off to work, you wonder: “Is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life?” Or, say you’ve just been laid off after ten years with the same company. You have a decent severance package and a chance to try something different. Changing careers is a fantasy most of us entertain at some point during our lives. For most of us it is just that, a fantasy. But some people do attempt it.

Take Your Time
If you have the opportunity, try to make the transition gradually. Take classes in the evenings or on weekends to learn the skills you need. Moonlight, if you can, to gain experience. Try a part-time job or start your own business at nights and on weekends. It will be much easier financially to make the move, and it allows you the opportunity to gain marketable skills without jumping immediately into a new career. Plus, you’ll find it easier to find a position that uses your new skills.

However, circumstances don’t always allow this approach. Employers are hesitant to hire someone who wants to do something different. It is risky. You have to overcome common biases that people harbor toward older career changers. They will question your motives. They don’t think you’ll be happy in your new position, particularly if you have to start at a lower level than you’re accustomed to. The difference between getting and not getting the position you desire will be your attitude. Enthusiasm and a positive attitude will go a long way toward overcoming those biases.

The difference between getting and not getting the position you desire will be your attitude.

You will also need to employ a different approach toward conducting your job search. The only way you will be able to win out over younger, less expensive candidates is to sell your experience and what you can do for the organization. That can only be accomplished during an interview. It may be difficult thing to get an interview, but you have to start by networking.

Cast a Wide Network
In short, do whatever you can to meet prospective employers. Attend business and civic functions where you will have the opportunity to meet people who are working in your chosen field. If a professional organization exists, join and become active. Make a list of everyone you know: family, friends, former co-workers, people at your house of worship, etc. Ask them if they know anyone at any of the companies you are targeting as potential employers. Then arrange to meet with those people and seek their advice and assistance.

You Scratch My Back�
Another approach is to look for a position that allows you to leverage your prior experience. If you have spent most of your career as an accountant, but want to move into HR, perhaps you can convince someone to create a position that makes use of both sets of skills. Bringing an employer a needed skill gives them a reason to hire and train you in a new field. It will help them overcome their reluctance to hire a career changer.

Reality Check
To overcome prejudices against older job candidates, it helps to project a youthful, vigorous image. Join a gym. Get in shape. Choose clothes with a youthful look, but one that is appropriate for the position you are seeking. Emphasize active hobbies like bicycling or hiking on your resume and in your resume. You might even consider coloring your gray hair.

Lastly, shorten your resume so that it only covers the last ten years. Be sure not to list the dates of any degrees. Not highlighting your age on a resume will likely prove only to be of limited success, but your goal is to use the resume to get an interview. Sometimes this approach works.

Changing careers is difficult. It is not the right choice for many people. But for those who do it successfully, it is the best decision they ever make

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