Changing Careers Later in Life
How Do You Know If It’s a Good Idea?
By Wanda Smith
Feb 01, 2018
After a stint of restaurant ownership, I was trying to decide what I wanted to do next. While in retail furniture, I was troubled by the lack of service the manufacture’s representatives gave to the buyers. They were focused on writing the order and didn’t support the buyers in any meaningful way. This seemed like my next opportunity. After calling numerous manufactures, I began to see a pattern. While they were delighted to hear about my experience in retail sales, I was not qualified to be a manufacturer’s representative. The reason was simple – in retail sales, buyers came to me by walking into the store. As a manufacturer’s representative, I would have to find my customers.
They tried to convince me that I wasn’t right for the position, which seemed senseless to me. I had been selling for most of my life, but I didn’t do my research. I lacked the ability to communicate my transferable skills. I did not back up my claims with facts. If you are looking to change careers at 40, 50 or even 60 years of age, you need to be prepared to maximize your chances for success and do your homework.
Evaluate Your Reasons for a Career Change
First, ask yourself: Why do you want to change careers? There can be many reasons, and they all need to be evaluated from your unique perspective. Is the company closing or in poor financial condition? Are you are concerned about the future? Do you feel undervalued? Is there poor leadership? Are you looking for a better work life balance? Have you stopped growing and learning? Or did you just have a bad day or week at work and someone planted an idea for you to change careers?
When you speak with individuals in other industries, do you feel envy and excitement? The biggest question is how much are you willing to compromise to make this change. Are you willing to work for a lower salary and are you flexible and realistic about the loss of income when making this change? On average, Americans change careers 10 to 15 times throughout their lives. Most importantly, do not make an impulsive or emotional decision. Make sure you’ve reviewed this decision from many perspectives and weighed all the possible outcomes. If you are ready for change, make sure you do your research.
The web is a wonderful treasure trove of information. You are able to get an idea of the training and education needed for your next career. Look at a large array of resources on the subject of changing careers. Find those written about specific industries you have interest in and spend the time needed reading about the change. Find a mentor – someone who you can speak with and honestly answer your questions. Some changes of careers are easier than others because education and training may or may not be required. This is a good time to consider furthering your education or acquiring additional training (perhaps in a trade school). If an internship is offered, this is an excellent opportunity to experience firsthand what it is like to work in this career. Do your research before making a decision to change careers. Once you’ve resigned from your current position, your options are limited.
Once you’ve decided to change careers, you’ll need to work harder than ever to make it successful. It will require confidence, goals and focus. Know what you want, be clear and do not waiver from one industry to another. Focus on your path and be able to communicate your transferable skills, strengths, values and experience that you can bring to your new career and company.
Putting Your Best Foot Forward and Achieving your Goals
Now that you have evaluated, researched and made your final decision, it’s time to look at openings in your new field, and craft a cover letter and resume. Read the help wanted postings online … this will aid in helping to develop your new resume. Your cover letter should be strong and compelling. Your resume should reflect results you have achieved – do not list duties, as you are moving to a different industry with different responsibilities. You have to differentiate yourself. Always be honest and list internships, awards and accomplishments. Write with confidence and use a thesaurus. In your cover letter, express your desire for the new position in the new industry and what you and your overall work experience can bring to the company.
There are many resume formats, but for a change in industry or career I recommend you present the current and former positions on the bottom, education on top and a listing of strongly worded attributes and accomplishments. Decision makers receive countless resumes. In many cases, the applicant’s experience, education and characteristics have little in common with the position they are applying for. Online resources make it very easy to write a resume. But, don’t discount working with a good resume writer and paying the money to have a professional write it for you, especially if you’re moving into a technical industry. Lastly, consider working with an established recruiter. There are many open positions that never reach job boards. After meeting with you and learning about your expectations, goals and aspirations, they will become your advocate. You now have an excellent resume and an experienced recruiter selling your skills and work experience. Good Luck and Happy New Career.
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Wanda Smith is Founder, CEO and President of Symphony Placements. She founded two prior companies before launching Symphony Placements, one of the most successful and fastest growing woman owned flexible staffing firms in Maryland. Symphony Placements is a full service flexible staffing and human resource solutions company.