Changing careers can be overwhelming at the best of times but it can be particularly daunting after 40. Here are my top eight tips for overcoming the main obstacles:
1. Overcome your fears
For many people stuck in jobs they dislike, it is fear that prevents them from taking action. There are many fears associated with career change—of the unknown, of rejection, of a financial hit, the fear of loss of status, of making a mistake, of what other people will think. These are real fears, and you need to overcome them before you can take the necessary steps to make a career change. Speaking to a career coach, mentor or experienced career changer can help you both acknowledge and address these fears so you can start moving in the right direction.
2. Take a skills assessment
Before you go out to market you need to be able to identify, understand and articulate your key transferable skills and how you can apply them to your ideal role or industry. This is a really important exercise to complete before you start talking to people in your new industry and most definitely before you attend any formal interviews.
Just because you are starting out with a new career doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch. We often have skills gained in our previous jobs and from life that will stand us in good stead in a new career. Brainstorm with a career coach or friend to get a list of your transferable skills as well as a list of skills you may need to develop further before you start applying for a different role.
3. Complete a values assessment
Another crucial step is to get clear on what is most important to you at this particular time. Our values often change as we get older and particularly after we have a family. What was so important in your 20s may be vastly different from what is important in your 40s. By completing a values assessment, you can then map out what factors are critical to your next role—money, status, work life harmony, creativity, flexibility or managing people.
4. Map out the key criteria for your ideal role
Prior to commencing your job search it is really beneficial to map out what you want from your next role including all of the following:
- Skills you want to use
- Strengths you want to use
- Culture of the organisation
- Type of people you want to work with
- Salary range
- Ideal industries or interest areas
If you map these out before you start job searching then you will know what you might be compromising on if you do get a job offer. Too many people accept a job for the money or the location without really thinking through whether their other needs are met.
5. Prepare an impressive resume
Recruiters spend an average of eight seconds reviewing each resume when shortlisting. Your resume needs to be formatted in a current style and highlight your key transferable skills, experience and achievements. It should be tailored for each role and should include keywords that would match the selection criteria in case the first screening is completed by an e-recruitment system.
6. Create a complete keyword-optimised LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn is one of the most powerful professional online networks and is used by 90 per cent of recruiters and employers to identify suitable talent. In my opinion, LinkedIn is an absolute must-have if you are planning on re-launching or changing career. Having a complete LinkedIn profile that is keyword-optimised for your ideal role and a healthy number of connections will increase your likelihood of being found on LinkedIn as part of any keyword search by a potential employer.
LinkedIn is also a fabulous research tool and a great way of re-connecting with ex-colleagues, old friends and anyone else who may be a likely advocate.
7. Master your interview skills
Interviews these days are typically a competitive process and there is no room for “just winging it”. You need to master your interview skills by understanding the key competencies of the role and being able to provide examples of how you have demonstrated those competencies and how effective you have been.
You need to research the organisation thoroughly, understand the position descriptions and key competencies required, know how to answer general and behavioural interview questions, anticipate likely questions, prepare detailed responses—practice, practice, practice!
Interviewing can be a daunting process, especially if you haven’t interviewed for a long time. If you take the time to prepare well then you will be far more confident on the day.
Research suggests that over 80 per cent of jobs are filled through relationships and referrals rather than being advertised. This rate is even higher for those who are returning to work on a part-time basis or after an extended career break.
You need to brainstorm your networks and tap into them long before you start preparing to return to work. Make a list of your contacts and use LinkedIn or the phone to reach out to them for a coffee.
Get out of the house and talk to people about what you would like to do next. This will build your networks and your confidence as you get into the habit of talking about yourself again in a business sense.
If you work through these steps, then you will be doing all the right things to navigate a successful career change that is aligned to your values, skills and interests.
Written by Leah Lambart, founder of Relaunch Me
Leah Lambart is an experienced career coach offering specialised return to work coaching programs through her business, Relaunch Me. These programs are tailored for the individual but may include career counselling, interview coaching, LinkedIn coaching and job search coaching.