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:

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