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Strategies for mid-career changes

Career Exploration Job Training Ask the Employer

"I am a mid-career professional recently laid off by my employer due to downsizing. I'd like to enter a new career field, one that is projected to grow in the future. What can I do if I don't have the specific training or experience required by this field?"

From Amanda Haddaway, Director, Human Resources and Marketing, Folcomer Equipment Group:

I'd suggest learning as much as you can about the job prospects in this new field. Take a look at sample job descriptions for jobs that are currently open and do an analysis of the knowledge, skills and abilities required for these positions. Then, take a look at your own resume and determine which KSAs you already have and any areas that could use some enrichment. If you're lacking any critical skills for the positions, try to identify training or other learning opportunities that you can participate in to make you more competitive.

You should also consider tailoring your resume to highlight the skills that you already have that are required for the new position. A cover letter is a great place to explain why you're interested in changing career fields and how your past employment is applicable to the new field.

From Rob Collings, Manpower, Inc.:

Let me start by saying I’m sorry that you have been laid off. I have experienced that firsthand and know the range of emotions that one may experience during that difficult time.

I would be very hesitant to base or limit your career search solely to a new field that is “projected” to grow in the future. Once upon a time in the not so distant past, the phone booth design and installation field was rocking and business was booming, and these days?....... not so much. Projections are projections and nothing more. The world of work is ever changing.

The first question you should ask yourself is, “What do I like to do and what do I do best?” That should be immediately followed up with, “Is this realistic? Is this an obtainable goal?” If the answer is a 100% honest YES, then it’s time to make a plan.

As an employer, I can tell you that it can be very difficult to drastically change career paths mid-career. It can be done, but not without dedication and hard work. Some careers require certification and/or licensing, i.e. medical billing/coding, Tractor-trailer drivers, Pharmacy Technicians, Attorneys, etc. Some careers require specialized skills or industry specific expertise, i.e. Heavy Machinery Mechanic, Desktop Support, Accountant, HR Manager, etc.

Frederick County Workforce Services offers training scholarships to qualified job seekers, so it may be worthwhile to find out if this is an option for you.

I can’t stress “being realistic” enough. If you change career paths, you will be starting a new job. You may start at the bottom. You will have to work hard on your way up to get to that level you desire. Often times what we are really seeking is that opportunity to be part of a team or organization where you feel your skills, talent and experience are valued and appreciated. Studies show it’s not just about the money.

At the end of the day, every employer has specific requirements and goals that need to be met to achieve the growth and success of that organization. Success happens for organizations when teams are formed with people who think daily of how they can most effectively help that organization achieve those specific goals, and then they work diligently to make that happen.

From Vaughn Thurman, Founder and CEO, The Swift Solutions Group:

So you’ve been laid off and the field you’re in doesn’t seem to have a lot of openings, or at least not many you are excited about. What if the field doesn’t seem to be growing either? Do you take a pay cut or try to reinvent yourself from scratch, mid-career? Neither option sounds very exciting if you’ve just spent the last 20 years getting really good at your “one thing” and you have a lifestyle you’d like to maintain.

Trying to completely reinvent yourself from the ground up mid-career can be tough. However, it is by no means impossible. I know because I have done it myself twice, first going from the construction industry to aerospace, and later from aerospace to information technology, each time largely leaving most of the past progress fully behind. With all that “wonderful“ experience I can tell you with some degree of certainty that full on reinvention was and still is a tough road. So, let’s look at a potentially shorter and less difficult path: A leveraged reinvention. In other words, let’s just put a new headline on this life story.

A leveraged reinvention should be easier to do and more fruitful, especially in the short term. What you need to do is to look for a new application for your existing skills and experience. To make this work we will need to look for the one or two things that we may have previously done as secondary tasks but that with a new credential (or, in some cases, just a proper headline) may allow us to make a major career value shift. In other words, we need to find a new way to repackage our same old skills and experience under some carefully targeted new keywords or headline skills.

If you live near me then you have Frederick County’s Workforce Services on your side, and you’ll be ready for this challenge. The staff at FCWS can guide you through the process, from rewriting your resume and preparing for interviews, to exploring training options that will enable you to upgrade your skills and/or earn new certifications.

Don’t forget to seek out people who work in the industry or company you want to get into. Find out what positions they are having trouble filling, find out what those positions are worth and whether or not they move in the direction you want to go. Ask them to consider what you have done in the past and how and if those skills might be effectively repackaged to fit some of those needs. Then, if you determine that your skills could be applied with some leveraged reinvention, you have a target and one you can hit. Happy hunting!