I recently went to dinner with a friend whose decades-long career, judging from all outside appearances, has been a resounding success. This is why I found myself scratching my head when she asked the question, "Am I crazy for wanting to make a switch at my age?"
My initial thought was, "Yes! Why would you want to switch industries during what can only be described as the peak of a triumphant career?" However, this isn't the first time I've heard this question asked by professionals in their 50s and 60s—and I've learned that the answer isn't always so simple.
A successful career is often associated with firm commitment to an industry or a certain track, however there are many reasons why you may want to start anew with what has been dubbed as an encore career. Maybe a hobby or volunteerism has pointed the spotlight on an area where you can give back. It could be as simple as that single piece of satisfaction that's escaped your otherwise successful career. You may have already retired, but realize that you have more to give.
Whatever the reason, it's never too late to alter your script, or even switch plays entirely. If you have the desire and passion to embark on a new career venture, here are some tips to help ensure your encore earns you as much applause as the preceding acts.
Start by reflecting on the skills and strengths that have propelled you throughout your current career. Write these down, and don't be shy! Look at the list in relation to the area you're interested in pursuing. The shift you'd like to make may seem monumental, but you're likely to see correlations in the skills you have and those you'll need in your new endeavor. For example, a seasoned manager may be the perfect fit to lead up a volunteer organization, using their understanding of organizing teams and accomplishing specific goals.
Sure, your current network already overruns the cup, but you'll need new connections and resources in order to break into that new career. Once an organization or concept has been identified, it's important to research and make connections. A great place to begin is by joining associated professional groups and dive into the happenings within the industry. As you know by now, you can never know too much!
The quickest way to gain industry-specific experience is through volunteering your time. If possible, use your current free time to get your feet wet. Not only will this beef up your resume, it will also show your enthusiasm and passion for your new chosen field. This creates a much more seamless transition and is easy to showcase why you're perfectly suited to begin making a difference from day one.
Even as adults, whether we want to admit it or not, we have something in common with our younger selves—we want it now. The Heinz folks hit it on the head with their slogan, "Good things come to those who wait." Transitioning takes time—6-18 months is the range that most “encore-ees” should expect. When we want something so badly, this can be frustrating, but keep your sights set upon your goal.
One of my father's favorite quotes is, "The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time." This, of course, came from the man who gave us the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph and over a thousand patents: Mr. Thomas Edison. His words spoken early in the last century still hold true to this day. If life is a stage, and your career is the show, then there is no reason that you can’t emerge from behind the curtains—maybe even more than once—and define your next success.
With more than 10 years of experience in the recruitment field, Michelle Kruse knows what works and what doesn't when it comes to resumes. As the Editor and Content Manager at ResumeEdge, she helps job seekers position themselves for success. She regularly shares advice on resume writing and interviewing not only because it's her job, but because it's her passion.
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