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Top Career Change Tips for Midlife Workers

This career coach has ways to get over your fears


(This article previously appeared on EpicCareering.com.)

For decades, you have been driving the same road to work and going to the same destination. At first you enjoyed the drive, but after decades of doing the same thing you yearn for new scenery. You’re ready to take new roads to new destinations, regardless of the challenges ahead.

In the same way that driving new roads can bring challenge, so can reinventing yourself by changing careers. There’s the fear of entering a new industry and of not getting the position because of employer preconceptions about age. Of course, those are just fears. A career transition is possible whether you’re 40, 50 or older. As long as the desire and passion to change is present, new adventures and success are within your grasp.

With Experience Comes Value

People who have been in the workforce for decades have experience and wisdom. With their experience, they know how to get the job done and have leadership abilities. They have also seen things done wrong and have seen things done right, through their own and others’ trials and errors. Their skills have been well-honed and this can give them an edge over younger workers. If new skills are needed for a reinvention, it is possible to return to school, apprentice, take on new tasks, hire a coach, or volunteer in order to acquire them.

Take the case of Karen Love: She worked in the news media for decades at various major newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune. At age 65, Karen decided it was time for a change. She went back to school and earned a master’s degree in gerontology, the study of aging, and landed a position as an outreach coordinator at a community center helping older people. This career change allowed Karen to fulfill a long-time desire to help the aged get involved with their community, to help them stay active and to help them remain connected in retirement.

If you haven’t changed jobs lately, it may be time to bring your resumé up to current standards.

Assess Yourself and Target Your Next Employer

Mentally assessing yourself and your next employer can make a career transition easier. A few questions to consider when performing a self-assessment are:

  • Why do you want to change careers? Are you bored with your line of work? Or is a greater purpose calling you? After you determine what you DON’T want, think about what you DO want. Is it the opposite of what you don’t want? Or is it a completely new experience? If you find yourself struggling with this topic, try focusing on your passions and your purpose, as opposed to the viability for what you think you can be hired.
  • What qualities can you transfer to a new career? This goes beyond your skills and can include your perspective, approach, and methodologies.
  • What value can you bring to a new employer? How can your decades of experience be an asset?

Once you have the answers to these questions, it’s time to consider what you’re looking for from your next employer. As a general rule-of-thumb, an employer should meet about 80 percent of your personal criteria. Developing a list of criteria will help determine what you want and need from a potential employer.

Do you prefer flexible hours? What are the personal values you possess that are most important to you, that you want to share with your future employer? These are factors that can aid you in your job search.

Once you have your criteria, your next step is to create a target company list. It allows you to hone in on a potential employer and laser target them, as opposed to spreading a wide search net.

Resumé Re-evaluation

If you haven’t changed jobs lately, it may be time to reformat and bring your resumé up to current standards. Not only have resumés changed in the past few decades, they’ve changed in the past few years.

The one-size-fits-all approach no longer works and many companies use applicant tracking software to scan resumés for industry-relevant keywords. If those keywords aren’t present, the resumé is eliminated from the system. If your resumé lands in front of a hiring manager, he or she will only spend a few seconds scanning it before either contacting you or tossing your resumé. Including keywords in a customized resumé helps you to better stand out from the crowd.

Unfortunately, some employers do have a bias against age. When it comes to this, sometimes you can change someone’s mind and sometimes you can’t. It’s just like one of my favorite sayings I learned while doing door-to-door sales: “Some will, some won’t. So what? Next!”

By optimizing your ability to articulate and promote the value you can bring to an employer and by having a relatively youthful attitude and lifestyle, this challenge can be overcome.

Some employers will always have a closed mind when it comes to age. Your confidence and optimism will attract open-minded employers.

Use Technology in the Job Search

Being visible to potential employers online is an excellent way to give yourself an edge by showing how youthful and in-touch you are. Your top qualities are best demonstrated through your actions. Having an online presence on social media can show how savvy you are by making technology part of your career campaign.

Social media allows you to expand the network you’ve built over the years and allows potential employers to easily discover you. A well-maintained presence on LinkedIn can help accelerate your discoverability, since 95 percent of recruiters use this social network to discover talent and research potential employees.

Furthermore, using LinkedIn’s Pulse, Tweet chats, and attending Meetups allow you to stay on top of the latest technology.

If you anticipate working among or competing against Millennials, create and maintain a presence in the same spaces as them. This means being active on Instagram, trying out Snapchat,and even experimenting with Periscope. Knowing about the latest technology and having years of experience can make you a formidable job candidate.

Stay Fit and Active

By staying fit and active, you can help combat the idea that midlife workers don’t have the energy or stamina to get the job done. Not only does being physically fit give your mind and body a boost, it also increases your vibrancy and energy. Your can-do attitude can only go so far if you lack the energy to get the job done.

Changing careers in midlife may seem like a challenge. It doesn’t have to be. You have the skills, experience, wisdom and knowledge you spent decades acquiring. Those qualities can help you move beyond your current position and into career change you’ve always wanted.

By Karen Huller
Karen Huller, author of the upcoming book Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days, is founder of Epic Careering, a career management firm specializing in the income-optimizing power of social media and personal branding, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a game development company that turns work into play. The bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, where she became one of the first social media coaches. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and is known for her ability to identify new trends and up-and-coming technologies in hiring, job searching, individual and corporate marketing.

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