How Do I Change Industries In Midlife?

After spending 20+ years in one profession, you may feel like it’s time for a change. But how on earth do you make it happen?

By Heather Millar

First, Figure Out What’s Wrong

Take a vacation to make sure it’s not daily burnout that’s troubling you. If it’s not, consider the services of a career consultant (most charge $75 to $175 an hour) — or borrow these exercises, which many coaches use.

    * List the things you like about your work and the things you don’t. Try to separate your feelings about the people in your workplace from the work itself.
    * Create an "energy chart." When during the day do you feel most engaged? When do you feel dragged down? These are clues to the parts of your routine that inspire you the most.
    * To help you visualize your priorities, draw a bull’s-eye chart: Inside the circle, write the things you want. Outside, list the things you don’t.

Research Your Options

Begin by looking within your current company; many large corporations will pay for training or will help you switch departments. If that’s not feasible, investigate what else is out there.

    * Start with the Career Guide to Industries, a searchable database of jobs, including required training, earnings and job prospects. Or browse the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Career Guide to Industries›

Occupational Outlook Handbook›

    * Use online networks. You may not know anyone in the job niche that interests you, but joining a database like LinkedIn can help you figure out if you know someone who does know someone.


    * Recruit a personal "board of directors." Ask a handful of close friends if they’d let you take them all out to dinner together to brainstorm possible career changes.

Take Stock of Your Finances

Consider these questions up front: Will you need more education to achieve the change you want? How much will that cost? Do you want to start your own business? How much capital will that require?

    * Many mutual fund companies post risk tolerance questionnaires. Take a few until you get a sense of your financial personality. Make sure you consider how this relates to the change you’re contemplating.
    * If you’re starting a business, make sure you have a nest egg to get you through the first six months.

Make It Happen

    * Create a plan to market yourself. "Some people take marketing plans off the Internet and substitute themselves for the product," says Michelle DeAngelis, a Los Angeles career coach. "Just Google ‘marketing plan.’ It works."
    * Revamp your resume, emphasizing the experience and skills that most support the new career role you’re seeking. Some executives are now giving up the traditional chronology in favor of a narrative that’s several paragraphs long, followed by a list of achievements. Job coaches say this can give you more flexibility.
    * Go forth and interview. Don’t dwell on past frustrations, but focus on your excitement about the future.
    * As the process proceeds, make a priority/trade-off grid to check how the possibilities compare with the priorities you identified at the beginning. On the left side of a sheet of paper, list the 10 or 15 things that are must-haves, in descending order of priority. On the right, list the opportunities and their likelihood of happening. Then check your gut. Imagine introducing yourself as the [fill in the blank] from the [fill in the blank] company. How does it feel?

First Published Thu, 2009-04-23 10:16

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