Whether it's something you determine on a whim or a decision you've been slowly making for years, changing careers in midlife can be a daunting prospect. Here are a few tips to help ease the transition.
- Take some time to explore your options.
Whether your career change is by choice or not, you will need some time to regroup and plan your next move. Don't be afraid to take a breather for a bit while you look at all of your options. Can you afford to take an internship or part time position to test out a new industry? It's also helpful to take a job assessment test or speak to a career counsellor. There may be a way to use your skills and experience that you've never even thought of.
- Determine which skills need some upgrading.
Even if you're switching from teaching to working for the pharmaceutical industry, your previous experience is worthwhile. Although industries and careers may vary, skills are transferable. However, you need to take a hard look at your current skills and experience to see what you need to brush up on. You'll most likely need to take some courses to supplement your existing education and experience, however. Whether you want to become a teacher's aide or a graphic designer, practical skills can be obtained in short courses that will also help give your resume a lift.
- Brush off your old list of contacts.
Upskilling is one piece of the puzzle. Another is networking. If you've been working for many years, you should have some sort of network of professional contacts. Use your personal social media networks as well as your past list of contacts and reach out. Be willing to share your goals and ask for advice or connections. It's particularly helpful if you already know someone who's made a similar switch, but even if you haven't you may have friends who know of an opening in your target industry. Ask for referrals and start working on those professional relationships.
- Get professional help.
If your personal networks aren't getting you where you want to be, another option is to bring in the big guns. A big career transition might require the help of a professional career coach or counsellor. They can give you tailored advice to help you break down your ultimate goals into smaller, more achievable steps.
- Start small.
It's scary to leap into the unknown during middle age, particularly if you have factors like a mortgage and your child's college education to consider. If you prefer a safety net of some sort, try taking baby steps in the right direction before you quit your day job. This could involve an evening class, a volunteer position on weekends, or simply attending a few networking events or conferences in your intended field. Apprenticeships and internships can help give you hands-on experience and start making connections with professionals, before you take the final plunge.
Making a career change when you already have some experience under your belt can be complex, to say the least. By following these steps and taking the time to think carefully about your motivations, you can ensure that the second half of your career is even more fulfilling than the first.