Career Transition For Middle-Aged Professionals

Career transition for middle-aged professionals poses particular challenges and hazards we’ve become all too familiar with. “I’m too old,” “they’ll want someone younger,” “I’ve become too expensive,” and “They might see me as past my prime or otherwise burned out” are all common and fairly logical assumptions that 50-somethings have made since the Great Recession of 2008 reared its ugly head and produced a jobless recovery. Yet we all know more experienced contributors and leaders offer a great deal more insight and wisdom than many of their younger peers. There’s certainly no perception that mature adults suffer from an entitlement mentality or lack of appreciation for work and career, which might otherwise vex their earlier-career counterparts. So, how do you reinvent a paradigm that may be real or imagined (probably both) and stands in the way of helping you land your next role? While this isn’t necessarily simple or easy, remember to think opposite of the herd. Informed candidacy is the key to standing out among your peers. There’s no reason you can’t become your own headhunter; branding this “candidate” you’re representing and developing a strategic marketing campaign that focuses on exploiting opportunities within the hidden job market. It all starts with research because, as they say, “knowledge is power,” and because you’ll have a tremendous added benefit that other headhunter-represented candidates won’t have: there’ll be no fee attached to your scalp! Think in terms of answering the magic question, “What criteria are you using in selecting your next role or ideal employer?” Structure your response in terms of industries, companies, and role titles that make most sense for you, even if they entail a twist or transition from what you’ve been doing. Start with the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, which you’ll find at What are the highest paying and fastest growing industries out there right now? From 2010 – 2020, U.S. job growth will average 14%, or roughly 1.4% per year. However, travel agents will only grow 1% within this ten-year time period, while pharmacists will grow 30%+ in that same window. If you’re in a professional field that’s not linked to a particular industry (e.g., human resources, IT, finance, legal, and the like), then the Handbook will show you very clearly what industries have the greatest demand for your profession in terms of an attached spreadsheet on the “Job Outlook” tab, labeled “Employment by Industry.xls.” For example, if you look up the role “Human Resources Managers,” you’ll find that HR job growth by industry over the next ten years stacks up as follows:

  • 72% Home healthcare services
  • 41% Social assistance
  • -9% Motion picture industry
  • -27% Postal service
Now, those are some interesting insights! So, now you can answer the question, “What industries hold the most interest for you?” Even if you don’t have prior exact industry experience, your research and knowledge will certainly give you a leg up on the competition. Oh, and don’t forget to offer to share your findings with the interviewer! Next, prepare to answer the question, “What companies hold the most interest for you?” Once again, the library and Internet can be your best friends when it comes to giving yourself a leg up on the competition in the job search process. Every month, Forbes, Fortune, Inc. Magazine, and Business Week publish listings of the fastest growing and most successful companies by various criteria – publicly vs. privately held, large vs. small, global vs. domestic, manufacturing vs. service, and the list goes on. These are the very resources that retained search executives use to identify the dominant and growth-oriented companies that will likely pay a middleman (AKA headhunter) a fee to source scarce talent. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be fishing in those same waters! You could quickly develop target company listings either by industry (e.g., medical device, bio-pharmaceutical, and/or biotech) or geography (e.g., top companies in the Dallas-Metroplex area) that focus as a laser in marketing yourself. The following resources are a good place to start: Fortune: America’s Most Admired Companies You could customize this list to identify the companies that you most admire according to your own criteria, including social responsibility, financial soundness, and quality of management. Forbes: America’s Best 200 Small Companies The list is then broken down even further in terms of “Best of the Best,” “Fastest Growing,” “Best Newcomers,” and “Safe Bets.” Inc. Magazine’s Inc. 500: The Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America You’ll also find the Inc. 5000, American’s fastest growing organizations that span all states, industries, and sizes (by revenue as well as by number of employees). You can then target-select your search by querying on industry, metro area, diversity, and size criteria. There are plenty of other corporate scoreboards, Global 500 listings, best-places-to-work entries, and the like. Before you know it, you’ll have 50 – 100 companies in your research portfolio that you can pursue as an “informed candidate.” There you have it—a refined and targeted job search strategy that bespeaks a mature, aware, and business-savvy candidate who stands out as a rarity among her peers. Enjoy this article? You've got time for another! Check out these related articles:Photo Credit: Shutterstock
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Engaged students raise their hands in class

I have had moments in my schooling that shine brightly—playing a card game in Mr. Ritter's 8th grade social studies class with the true purpose being to show just how difficult it was to survive the Holocaust as well as having an opportunity to create our own country using the same economic, social, and political characteristics that define authentic nation states. I also remember Ms. Ziemba's 9th grade English class where she would routinely pause our reading of fiction to allow us to predict what would happen next as well as my foreign language classes with Mrs. Kane—"Madame"—and Mr. Tellis where we would act out every day conversational scenarios using tone, props, and facial expressions.

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