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: https://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.