Planning a career change at any age can be a daunting prospect. However, it can be especially intimidating when you are considering shifting careers later in life. Nevertheless, there may be a host of reasons as to why this might be desirable or even necessary. These can range from health considerations to a change in family circumstances, to a simple desire for new adventures and challenges.
This article explores the issue of later-life career change, including strategies that can be used to make the process as seamless and successful as possible.
Consider What You Want
When you’re getting ready to launch your second act, one of the most difficult steps may simply be figuring out what that act should be. As scary and impractical as it may seem, this is the time to dream big.
Ask yourself what you would be or do if there were no limitations, if the sky really was the limit. Think about the things you find yourself doing when no one is looking, when no one is asking anything of you.
Above all, consider the things that provide you with a sense of purpose and satisfaction. Our needs, desires, and goals evolve as we age, and the things that gave you joy or met your needs when you were younger may simply feel ungratifying at this stage in your life.
Taking the time to reflect on what you want your life to look and feel like right now is the essential first step in making that life a reality. More than anything else, your second act is about discovering what inspires and fulfills you and pursuing that to the utmost.
A Life That Works
The desire to begin a new phase of your professional life, to explore something different in your career, of course, isn’t the only reason you might be considering a late-life career change. You may still love your job and find fulfillment in it, but perhaps your needs and priorities have changed. Perhaps your job no longer fits your life.
It may, for instance, be that you’re looking for greater flexibility in your working life. Or you may be hoping to expand your skillset and take advantage of opportunities in a new career path. You may even be looking to relocate, perhaps moving closer to your children and grandchildren or buying that beach house you’ve always dreamed of.
The goal is to evaluate your needs, values, goals, and priorities. Once you have done this, and you are truly clear on what you’re looking for and you will be better positioned to make a specific, tangible plan to (re)construct a professional life that aligns with your vision.
When you’re making a career change, you not only need to have clear goals in mind, but you also have to have a roadmap for getting there.
Focus, for example, on identifying any gaps or obstacles that may be blocking your path to that end goal.
Are there any skills that you need to acquire or refresh? You may be able to find free or low-cost online courses from some of the world’s most prestigious universities, many of which offer certifications or certificates of completion to bring your resume to the next level.
Understanding Digital Recruiting
If it has been a while since you were last on the job hunt, you might be surprised by the impact that technology has had on the application process. Digital recruiting is the order of the day for most companies.
For example, most online job applications are now filtered through an applicant tracking system (ATS) before they’re even put before a recruiter’s eyes. If they don’t pass the ATS, they’re unlikely to be seen by a recruiter at all.
Making sure that your resume doesn’t become another casualty of the ATS takes strategy. You’re going to need to make sure that your text includes all the standard sections, such as education and work experience because that’s what the ATS will be scanning for.
At the same time, however, you need to include relevant keywords in context. What does that mean? Well, it’s pretty simple: it means using the recruiting ads to identify those essential skills that recruiters are looking for in a candidate.
Echo the terminology used in the ads because, again, this is likely what the ATS will be programmed to scan for. Most important, though, don’t just “stuff” your resume with keywords. Contextualize them with brief narrative descriptions of exactly what you accomplished through the use of those skills (i.e. 20% cost savings or X number of clients won).
It’s also important to avoid the one-size-fits-all approach to your resume. Make sure that you modify your resume (and, yes, your cover letter) to the particular job, or at least the particular industry, you’re targeting.
Prepping the Interview
Once you’ve done the preliminary work and you’ve finally started landing interviews, you might think your prep is finished. Far from it. Your research and rehearsing may have just begun because crushing the interview takes time and strategy.
For instance, due to the high demand for healthcare providers today, you might be transitioning into a career in nursing or home health. Your interview prep needs to go beyond the generic, as you think about and prepare for the questions a nursing recruiter, specifically, might ask. So do your homework. Talk with others in the field. Determine what the interview process is like for those in your target position, and prep accordingly.
Making a career change later in life may be one of the scariest, but also one of the most exciting, transitions a person can make. It’s not easy, but it can be incredibly rewarding. Because the goal, in the end, is to ensure that your second act is even better than the first.