The Mid-Career Job Search: 3 Strategies that Work
We’ve shared strategies on how to get a job after college and if you are over 50, but what should you do if you are searching for work mid-career?
On the surface, searching for a job in the middle of your working life should be easy: If you are like most of your peers, you have years of work experience. You have skills that are useful to employers. You’ve made mistakes and learned from them. You could likely coach your next boss on how to get the most work out of you: Are you most productive in predictable, consistent environments — or in fast-paced, “every day is a new day” work cultures?
It should be easy to find work in your 30′s and 40′s, but the mid-career job search comes with a unique set of challenges: How do you market yourself if you’ve worked in more than one industry or job role? What do you do when your level of experience falls between entry-level and “highly experienced”? What do you do if you’ve needed to take time off to take care of children, aging parents, or you’ve switched course more than once in your career?
Here are three strategies you can use to build credibility and forge a strong path to your next opportunity.
1. Identify your optimal role before you apply — and get advice on how to make the jump.
While it may seem that your chances of getting hired increase if you are not picky about the type of job you will work in, in reality you have a better chance of landing — and keeping a job — when you know the type of role you work best in, how other people have marketed themselves for similar opportunities, and focus your efforts. It’s just like Olympic competitions: When the contestants know what they will be judged on, they focus their efforts on excelling in those areas. If the goal is to reach the pool wall fast enough, you don’t need to change the funny looking kick that speeds up your time.
How to do this: Seek out friends and networking contacts who’ve made transitions into roles that you want — and ask them for advice on how to market yourself for the opportunity. If you don’t know anyone, use LinkedIn’s Advanced Search features to find other people who have made transitions similar to the one that you want to make. Identify people to reach out to — and ask for an informational interview — on how to market yourself. (Note: This works best if you talk to people who used to work in companies or the position that you want to work in now. It doesn’t look good if you ask how you can be a great candidate, follow the advice and apply for the same opportunity next week! Make sure you always follow-up with a thank you and an offer to help your new friend if you can.)
2. Keep the focus on the job — not on your years of experience or the reasons why you are “only applying now.”
A common mistake made by mid-career job seekers is to over-emphasize the years of experience you have, or the reason that you are applying for this particular job now…Employers don’t need to know that you’re looking for a less stressful job because your mother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or that you have an 8-year-old with Autism. If employers are looking for candidates with three years of experience, they don’t typically disregard all candidates with less than your level of experience even if you have ten years of experience.
When you apply for positions and jobs, emphasize that you understand the purpose of the job — and highlight your relevant experience and why you are excited to apply for the opportunity. Focus on the nature of the work — not what you’d get out of the job (i.e. better health insurance and better pay).
3. Seek out positions, jobs, and work opportunities that desire a mash-up of skills.
One of the biggest benefits that mid-career professionals offer employers is diverse work and life experience.
Often experience from two separate parts of your life converges into an actual job: Maybe you started your career as a technical writer, then worked as a corporate trainer, and became a parent to a child with Down’s Syndrome. You’re now uniquely qualified to work in marketing and training for a company that develops educational products for individuals with Down’s.
If you can’t find this type of optimal situation that combines your skills and experience, create it.
Former New York Times’s career columnist Marci Alboher says you don’t have to do one thing in your career. In fact, she’s a lawyer/journalist/writer and she says you can have what she calls a slash career – and be two things at once. Like an artist/accountant or an engineer/teacher or a physician/dancer. Her book, One Person/Multiple Careers tells you how you can do this.
We hope these three strategies will help you navigate your next transition. Have you found an alternate mid-career strategy that works like a charm? If yes, share.
Photo courtesy of Andreas Krappweiss.