How to Prepare Yourself for a Mid-Career Transition

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Posted by The Editors on June 15, 2011
How to Prepare Yourself for a Mid-Career Transition

Navigating a Sea of Open-Ended Questions

Work is just one expression of life. When your once-satisfying job no longer gives you the same enjoyment, it may be time to consider preparing yourself for another, more meaningful pursuit. Being "finished" with your current role is the first step toward opening yourself up to the possibilities of a career transition. But how do you break out?

Seven Perspectives to Define Your Direction

1. Go back to school. Retraining can help you build the credibility necessary to switch careers after an injury, epiphany, or geographic change. Going back to school gives you a chance to learn a new role, how to break into it, and what a new industry is all about. It'll also give you a chance to learn the lingo you'll need to talk shop with prospective employers.

2. Think of your interchangeable skills. Begin viewing your daily tasks as items in a skill set that can be applied across different industries. For example, legal-support and executive-secretarial workers possess, by virtue of job description, basic management skills. Complex organization, scheduling, computer, and human resources skills build good managers, and successful administrative support-staff members have those skills in place.

3. Package your skill set for maximum effectiveness. Do all of the stuff the resume guides suggest. Think of your contributions to an organization and the positive results. Unashamedly list them. Go into some detail when you draft your resume, then pare back. Get feedback on your resume; adapt it as you learn, through networking conversations, what employers want.

4. Make a values-driven life change. If once-satisfying work has lost its meaning because you've grown beyond your current position (and just now noticed), examine your values toward family, productivity, leisure, personal growth, health, and community to make sure you choose a field that complements those values. Meaningful work can involve many things.

5. Talk to friends, mentors, coworkers, and your boss. Get others involved in helping you find what you want to do. Talk to your coworkers and boss-it may be that you can find a role in another part of the organization where you can excel. You can also cushion the shock of leaving by letting them in on what you're thinking, even as you use your employer-sponsored tuition reimbursement benefit (provided you have one). Though, of course, in today's especially tight job market and down economy, there may be no room for movement at your company. And, in that case, voicing your dissatisfaction may be the wrong thing to do.

In that case, focus your efforts on your friends and mentors, who can also give you insights into what you might do; it's likely they'll have contacts among people with whom you can start networking.

6. Investigate local resources for career transitions. Don't expect employment agencies to help. They like the sure thing and the quick commission. However, other avenues to different industries exist in community colleges, non-profit organizations that specialize in mid-career transitions, and university extension programs. See what's out there.

7. Use visualization to try on different jobs. A common psychotherapeutic technique, visualization can be used not only to see situations differently, but to see different situations. Relax and envision yourself as an artist, a real estate agent, a mathematician, a cop, or a rock star. How do you look in that role, going about the day? What part of the job do you like the best? What holds your interest? The information you gain from this exercise might help you find a path to a new career.

The Cost

You'll pay a price to break away from a stable, respectable career track. But you pay a price to stay on that track, too. When the price to stay exceeds the price of changing, you're ready to make good on your intentions and trade in your old work life for a new, more satisfying one.

After all, we spend a lot of time at work. We might as well enjoy it.

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