A career shift at 40?
Q : I’m a 40-something woman and am currently at a crossroads in my career. I don’t enjoy doing what I do anymore and it is increasingly becoming a pain to get up in the morning for work.
I am thinking the answer to this ‘crisis’ might be a change of job where I will meet new people and work in a new environment for that opportunity to renew myself. But will anyone hire me when there are many younger (hence cheaper) and perhaps even more qualified professionals than I? How can I make this idea work for me?
Appreciate your advice. Thank you.
Senior Manager, Corporate Services
The response: It is said that most women seriously reflect on the choices they have made and the career-life paths they are on when transitioning into a new decade of life. Many psychologists have found that our desires for change are based on having motion and meaning in our lives – we seek frequent new challenges and we want to know that the work we do is significant, meaningful and emboldens our highest potential.
I was 40-something when I went through what I think you are going through right now (there, we’ve got something in common!) although my passage was triggered by a different desire.
As we make late-life career changes because of various reasons and desires, we do face a number of challenges, the most prevalent of which is age bias. This, however, should not stop us from moving forward once we have made the decision that the status quo is not an option. I believe that the key to getting into a new job (or a new field) lies in your approach.
Recruiters are looking to screen people out, not in, so they probably won’t be of much assistance during a career shift.
1. The first step to a successful crossover is to understand, with absolute clarity, what you want to do or to happen in the new job.
What will keep your energy high? What will sustain you and keep you in flow? If this is hard to do – identify what you don’t want to happen (or experience) in your new career. Taking cues from what you are going through right now may be one way of identifying the factors. You are not just finding a new job. You are looking for fulfilment.
2. Recruiters are looking to screen people out, not in, so they probably won’t be of much assistance during a career shift.
So instead, as the next step, leverage on your relationship capital. Try utilising the contacts you’ve acquired through your decades-long career. This is the time to actively brand yourself for that dream job (check out my article last month for tips on Personal Branding). Based on recent hiring statistics, 85 percent of hiring managers use social networking sites like LinkedIn to look for potential candidates who’ve been referred by other professionals. So if you’ve built up a lengthy list of contacts over the years, you’ll be a step ahead of the 20-somethings just starting out.
3. Next, choose your industry carefully.
Some professions are much harder to break into later in life. Many people think, “I’ve always done that for myself, so I should be able to do that in so-and-so industry”. They may be right, but the point is, find an industry which has fewer barriers to entry such as non-profits or consulting organisations.
4. Once you have chosen your target employer(s), make sure to tailor your CV accordingly.
That is, assuming that you want to do something different from Corporate Services, and you don’t have experience directly related to your chosen field. You should then include and highlight your acquired transferable skills from previous years of work. Say you’re trying to make the leap to Sales, for example. You can impress them with your skills in spreadsheets, budgets and process-designs – a set of skills that is most definitely valued in that space.
5. Finally and once you’ve landed yourself an interview, prepare for ‘energy’.
This initial meeting can be a deal-breaker if you fail to match the vigour of your younger competition. Recognising that there is a bias that as we get older, and that we won’t have the energy to fight the daily fight, we should demonstrate inner energy, excitement and positive anticipation.
Here’s a small but a very important caveat to that statement: Be authentic.
Recognising that there is a bias that as we get older, and that we won’t have the energy to fight the daily fight, we should demonstrate inner energy, excitement and positive anticipation.
Setting out in a new career may also require getting new certifications or going back to school. Consider your financial ‘appetite’ for such investments and the vision of what the end will look like. By the end, I mean, at the end of your career, what would you say to yourself? I am glad I took up learning [fill in the blank] and became great at [fill in the blank]. Investing in professional and personal development training or workshops can add value to the work that you do and to those you work with. And that, in turn, will add value to your life.
Image 152H courtesy Ryan McGuire, Bell Designs. http://www.gratisography.com/