Are You Contemplating a Mid-Career Change?

IMG_6990Most of my mid-career clients have a good career, good writing skills, a decent resume that just has to be updated, and are confident about their ability to write cover letters. But they feel overwhelmed by THE JOB SEARCH after so many years in the same position–it feels somehow contradictory or uncomfortable to many who are decidedly in the middle of their careers.

My job as career coach in this situation is to provide organization and structure to the process.  Here’s what that might look like:

Resumes. Here’s the current conventional wisdom on what you have to do to update your resume:  

  • No objective statement,
  • No home address,
  • Short & sweet entries that are as specific as possible (no vague verbs or descriptions),
  • Quantifiable information everywhere you can provide it.

Finding job openings. Start by searching online job boards; familiarize yourself with what’s being posted, the qualifications & experience they seek, and the kind of language they use to talk about the work you’d do.

What Google searches will turn up highly-targeted openings in professional areas of interest to you? Perhaps it’s…

  • …searching for a specific position in a specific company.
  • …finding a conversation thread on an online forum about the status of an industry in a certain city of interest.
  • … a query for a list of companies within a certain industry in your preferred geographic region.  

Networking. Responding to job ads is not the best way to secure employment.  Most new hires are either internal hires or come as a referral.  This means you have to start networking within and outside of your current company:

  • Who are your personal contacts that might be interested to know you’re looking for opportunities?  
  • Who are your professional contacts who used to work at your current company, but now are elsewhere?
  • Brainstorm specific ways you can start conversations–genuine two-way conversations in which you build a mutual relationship and exchange useful information.

Timeline and task management. Once the above tasks are broken down into manageable, tangible chunks, it’s just a matter of making a list and working your way through it.  I will provide something like this for my clients:

  • by next week–update your resume  
  • the week after: a three-column list of sample job ads in areas of interest
  • week three: a two-column networking list
  • week four: one sample cover letter
  • week five: first application submitted–even if it’s just a “sample” cold application to a position from an online job board.  

My involvement can be as little as holding you to deadlines or as much as digging in on the resume content and formatting–depending on what you need to move through the process.

The last step–submitting a “sample” application–is a nice way to “warm up” as you get ready for a mid-career transition: you get the sense of accomplishment from completing all your application materials, the satisfaction of clicking “submit,” and the feeling that you have the ball rolling on your job search. This is a low stakes way to practice, get the jitters out, and thicken your skin to silence (which often feels like rejection)–because you’re not even serious about these “sample” jobs and you know that even if you want the job, it will probably go to an inside hire or a referral.  

Then once you feel comfortable in your ability to confidently submit applications, you start to work your own network to quickly become that inside hire or referral.


2009 Head ShotDarcy Lear is a career coach specializing in academic writing, job search documents, professional school applications, and interview preparation. To schedule a campus workshop or for help navigating your career transition, contact Darcy: darcylear@gmail.com
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