Let’s say you’re 30, 40, 50 or even 60. You want to start a whole new career. Maybe you’ve been a massage therapist and now you want to work on a help desk for an IT department. Or you’ve been a psychotherapist and now you want to work in the marketing department of a large company.
I’ve seen articles about mid-life career interns. This article, from a human resource perspective, offers a balanced view: Mid-Life Career Internships
If you read this article carefully, you’ll see that experienced workers are advised to avoid working for free. You’ll also note that these “older” interns present a puzzle to employers and HR departments. When you hear people saying, “It’s sad that we’re seeing people do this,” you have to question how you’d be treated if you were hired. And most of all, you have to ask if you really want to take this kind of step backward. If you’re really miserable, you might start to sabotage your own career success and you’ll be even worse off than before.
When I work with clients one-to-one, I discourage those who want to seek internships or return to school as a transition. A career change at mid-career needs to be handled differently than a career change for 20-somethings.
So what can you do instead?
Instead of internships, I recommend leveraging your current skills and credentials to make a move. When you brainstorm creatively, you can almost always come up with ideas to apply your experience so you start at a higher level in the new company. You skip the beginning stages.
For example, let’s imagine “Cynthia” is a 40-something clinical psychologist who wants to work for a marketing department. She could explore 2 options. First, she could start by seeking jobs with a company’s HR department or even join a program designed to provide mental health coverage to company employees. She would learn the corporate culture and perhaps make valuable contacts.
Even better, she could begin to explore opportunities in market research. Many sophisticated market research firms use techniques that resemble clinical psychological interviews.
Should Cynthia take courses or get an MBA?
I would encourage her to take some marketing courses to learn the jargon and style of thinking. However, I would not encourage her to dive into a full-scale MBA unless she can comfortably afford a strong program where she will make contacts for her new field. A mid-career professional will benefit most from an Executive program, where you attend on weekends and/or evenings, because you are most likely meet senior level managers and you can network.
At the same time, Cynthia probably won’t increase her chances of getting hired by getting a new degree. An employer is going to ask, “What can you do for us now?” You can leverage an MBA most effectively when you’re in your twenties – just a couple of years out of undergraduate school.
If Cynthia does choose an MBA program, I would encourage her to do a lot of research. The program that’s most convenient, least expensive or least time-consuming may not give her what she needs right now. I’ve written a low-cost ebook on returning to school as a mid-career move: http://www.MidlifeCareerStrategy.com/schoolbk.html
Cynthia might also consider developing her own online business as a career bridge. That’s not as far-fetched as you might think. I recommend starting with Dr. Jeanette Cates and her Success Incubator.
Recently I came across a good blog post from another career consultant, supporting this position: Click here to review it.
And if you’d like to set up a consultation to discuss your options with someone who’s made changes, returned to school and consulted with dozens of professional mid-life, mid-career professionals, visit my services page. Or click on the “services” tab above.
Just reading about Shaq O’Neal and LeBron James as an unlikelu duo of the season’s Cavaliers. LeBron, the younger guy, is the rising star while Shaq is…well, Shaq. I read his autobiography a few years ago. Let’s just say the dimensions of Shaq’s ego are proportionate to Shaq’s height and weight.
The WSJ article shows that Shaq agreed: LeBron will be the leader. But it’s not clear whether the new teammates share a definition of leader. Both have short contracts and a determination to win a championship. LeBron has never won a championship; Shaq has won four and says winning the fifth is “a guy thing.”
Another famous pairing: Tom Hanks took a subordinate role to Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie, Catch Me If You Can. I read that Tom actually went to Leonardo, saying something like, “You’ll be the star. I want this part.” Of course, we remember both equally. In the stage play (I saw the preview version) the agent was more of a star than the would-be pilot. And to be honest, Tom Hanks was so good in the movie, didn’t recognize him.
Today’s WSJ also has an article about the new Peace Corps. A new college graduate, serving in Ukraine, writes that many of her fellow volunteers could be her grandparents.
Some of my own distance mentors and colleagues are considerably younger than I am. Of course I see them rarely, if ever. The Internet makes everyone seem ageless.
On the one hand, it would be nice if we got to be elders and sages as we grew older. I think humans are programed to expect increasing growth on all levels. I’d like to be known as a wise old something-or-other as I get older. But on the other hand, maybe seniority takes on a new meaning of supporting the younger players, sometimes literally.
Mid-life career changers frequently consider relocation as part of their career planning. Sometimes they want to move to be closer to family and they wonder if they can find jobs in a new location. Or they’re experiencing layoffs, industry changes or just general boredom and they want to move to a new place.
Moving can give your career a boost if you plan ahead. In fact, if you are considering a major career change, moving makes a lot of sense. Often it’s easier to reinvent yourself when nobody remembers you, especially if you are making a major shift. For instance, friends who remember you as a buttoned-up corporate executive may have trouble viewing you as a laid-back life coach.
Unfortunately, many people decide to move before they are ready. They get out a map, choose a destination that sounds good on the Internet, and take off. Often they anticipate the biggest expense will be the moving van. In fact, your greatest expense will involve relocating or even moving back if you realize you’ve made a big mistake.
Learn more by downloading this ebook at http://www.RelocaitonStrategy.com
Not strictly about mid-life career change, but addresses some concerns of mid-life career changers with aging parents or concerns about their own aging process: A very good article here.
Should an MBA degree be included in your mid-life, mid-career game plan? The answer is, “Getting a degree can be the best *or* the worst career decision of your life.”
Recently a national newspaper featured an article questioning the wisdom of escaping tough economic times by returning to school. Their article was targeted to twenty-something managers. What if you are mid-life and mid-career?
As a former college professor, I’ve learned that university enrollment is counter-cyclical: many people go to school when they have a hard time finding jobs. Many are in early career stages but we’re seeing more and more mid-life professionals following this pattern.
If your career has stalled or hit a few speed bumps, a return to school may be a good move. But “school” may not mean a conventional degree and your choices will be different from those of an entry level colleague.
School might mean a certificate program, an online distance education program, a continuing education course and/or a conventional degree program. Each offers benefits as well as downsides.
Some programs are so bad they’ll actually harm your career. Others are so valuable for specific professionals that I would encourage a client to negotiate for reimbursement as part of an employment or severance package.
(1) I recommend online distance education only if you have a very specific career goal and attending a live class is just not practical. For example, you might want to become a librarian, but the nearest live program is a few hundred miles away. You can’t leave your job and/or your family. If you’re a military officer deployed to a war zone, online education makes a lot of sense.
(2) A graduate program with a live component will offer valuable networking opportunities. Even if you just get together for weekend classes, you get to make connections and learn about other companies. I’ve heard many success stories from mid-career professionals who chose this path.
(3) Before investing time or money, investigate any program (especially if you’re hoping for a degree or certification). Degree programs should be accredited, but that’s a minimum standard. You need to find out who completed the program and where they are now.
(4) Enrollment and admissions counselors will help you, but you should not rely solely on their promises to make a decision. And if you rely on promises, get them in writing.
For example, “James” had a tough travel schedule. His enrollment counselor assured him that professors would be flexible about deadlines. In fact the school had a very strict deadline policy. The counselor honestly didn’t know: in many academic places, faculty and admissions staff rarely cross paths.
(5) You may be able to get a job at a university that comes with tuition for yourself and your family. Be sure you will get time off to attend the classes you need. If you need that 9 AM accounting class, but you can’t leave your job before 4 PM, you won’t enjoy the benefit.
And now I invite you to learn more by downloading my Mid-Life Back to School Guide. I got so frustrated with inaccurate info out there, I wrote my own.