If you’re a mid-life, mid-career executive or professional, career change may feel like you’ve gotten lost with Dorothy in Oz. You’ve achieved success in your career. You’ve built skills and a strong work ethic. And now you’re ready to move on…and it’s not working.
Many of my clients tell me, “I haven’t had to look for a job for 20 years.”
Twenty years ago, you probably didn’t have a cell phone or an email account. A worm was something you put on a fish hook and a virus was something you caught from visiting friends. You could bring your whole set of kitchen knives onto an airplane and gas prices…well, we won’t go there.
Career change often begins with a statement. “I hate my current job. I want a totally different environment. What are some steps I can take to make a move?”
Alas, many career books give a false impression. They suggest that career change proceeds at an orderly and very linear pace. [Read more…]
“Norman” had been working for 15 years with great success. His mid-life career change came from a decision to move to a new state to be closer to his family, he discovered he would need a certification from an approved university. He found certification programs at a variety of venues, from a community college to a state university to a private school.
When Norman asked for help in evaluating his options, I suggested that he find out how he’d be viewed by prospective employers when he conducted his job search. My hunch was that employers would look first at his experience. At this point, the certificate was just getting his ticket punched. He didn’t need a school with a big name. He could choose the cheapest, fastest option with no loss of opportunities.
“Cynthia” had a successful professional career as a veterinarian. But after ten years she wanted a career that would let her spend evenings and weekends with her family. She considered getting an MBA to seek a corporate job. Harvard? Wharton? Northwestern? Those programs were high on her list.
Cynthia needs to find a way to use her skills to transition into the business world. She might find a pharmaceutical company where she could use her experience to market to veterinarians. She might develop software to help veterinarians keep track of their expenses and income.
Would a Harvard MBA help? Like Norman, she needs to research how she’d be received by prospective employers. I’d suspect she would be evaluated by the question, “What can you bring to the table? How can you contribute immediately?”
Both Norman and Cynthia need to be aware that they cannot forget their experience. When I talk to workers who agree to take a big pay cut and step back to a lesser position, they almost always report more frustration – not less.
On the other hand, if they are starting in a whole new field, they may be advised to take an entry level position. If they do, they need to pick organizations where they can move up quickly, rather than rigid companies that cling to outdated norms and timelines. Experienced workers learn fast and when you are bored, everybody knows it.
Bottom Line: For a career change at mid-life and mid-career, look at the whole picture. Before investing in the top schools with big names and big tuition bills, find out if you can make the same progress with a lower-cost program. You will be surprised: you may be equally challenged in those programs.
Of course, if you have the funds and you want the experience, you have little to lose with an Ivy League degree or a top-rated certificate program. Just be aware that you will respond differently to the program, compared to millennials. And you need a realistic evaluation of the opportunities that present themselves when you hold that coveted diploma in your hand.
More? Download my Ebook: Back To School For A Mid-Life Mid-Career MBA.
I just came across a good post about LinkedIn profiles – read it here.
The author, Phil Rosenberg, points out that LinkedIn can be a gold mine for job seekers, but it’s also a potential trap. Here it is:
You know you’re supposed to tailor your resume for each job opening.
LinkedIn gives you ONE profile that prospective employers and colleagues will use to search for you.
If an employer sees contradictions between your LI profile and your resume, you risk being labeled inconsistent at best. You are juggling identities.
He offers three solutions: maintain one resume and one LI profile. That’s fine if you’re targeting a field narrowly where jobs are almost identical across companies.
Keep one profile and tailor your resumes. Since you’re targeting very similar jobs, you should be okay.
Create a broad umbrella that covers all your job and all versions of your resume.
Rosenberg doesn’t go into the question of career change, but you can probably see the problem here. When you’re changing careers, you may not be ready to focus on one target.
Well., here’s the thing. During a career change you might not want to be found on LinkedIn until you’ve got some clear idea of where you want to be and who should find you. The truth is, you might find yourself stumbling across a job or career you hadn’t heard of.
So I’d favor the broad approach to start. Be very honest about what you’ve done, but ramp up your explanation of possibilities. For instance, you could say, “Led 3 successful teams, demonstrating results from my ability to get six total strangers to work together cohesively.”
You can also contribute to forums so people get to know you.
What I would NOT do is admit, “I’m not sure. I’ll consider anything.” Prospective employers want to see your moves in a game -any game – instead of watching you getting in shape in the weight room just in case. And hopefully you’ll get introduced before your resume shows up, so you’re seen as playing a transition game, not wandering around looking for something to do.
Mixed metaphors? Guilty! Get in touch if you want me to look over your LI profile and/or resume