Advice for a mid-career transition
Today’s fast-changing job market and tough economy have made changing careers commonplace. While transitioning from one career path to another is a challenge under any circumstances, high unemployment and a general lack of job security have made it a necessity for many Americans. If you’re considering a career change — whether of your own volition or due to a layoff — here are some tips to help make that potentially bumpy ride a little smoother.
Candice Shehorn, MBA, is a certified professional coach with more than 20 years of experience in executive, career and leadership coaching. Shehorn runs her own independent coaching business, and also teaches courses in Business Management and Critical Thinking for University of Phoenix. Many of Shehorn’s coaching clients contact her seeking guidance as they consider mid-career changes.
“The first thing I tell my clients is that changing careers is just that — change — and change can be scary,” says Shehorn. “Many of my clients have been laid off after having been with the same company for 20-plus years, and they haven’t kept up with changes in technology, work styles or social media. Other clients are trying to look forward by considering their career options before they get the dreaded pink slip.”
Shehorn always tells her clients that mid-career changes present a golden opportunity. “I ask my clients, ‘What’s your passion, what was the thing that you always wanted to do, but didn’t?’ Many people put their personal passions on hold early in their careers because they need to make a salary that will pay the bills. But once that steady job is jeopardy, there is the opportunity to finally pursue what you’ve always wanted to do.”
According to Shehorn, many of her clients find themselves starting their own businesses. “A lot of work these days is project-based, not job-based,” she says. “Companies are often more willing to hire people to work on specific projects rather than offer them the traditional full-time job. It’s possible to support yourself doing project work for multiple clients. Or it can be a way to explore a potential employer and learn new skills.”
Shehorn also encourages all her clients to familiarize themselves with social media sites like LinkedIn® and Facebook®, which can be important networking tools. “I have one client who basically posted right on LinkedIn that he was available for work, and posted some information about his skills and experience. People responded to his frankness and he ended up with a number of inquiries right away.” Shehorn emphasizes that project-based self-employment is a real employment trend that people should be willing to consider even if they don’t see themselves as entrepreneurs. “There’s a shortage of jobs right now, but not a shortage of work,” she says.
Shehorn also tells her clients to manage their expectations. “Time was, people expected to get a pay increase any time they switched employers,” she says. “That’s not the case anymore. The landscape has changed and you may be offered less than you previously received. People need to be very flexible and inventive about the kind of work they’re willing to do and the pay they’re willing to accept. If you can’t negotiate on salary, you can often negotiate on other things like vacation time or the ability to telecommute, which can lead to better work/life balance. People would rather be working and productive even if it is at a lower pay. They are interested in paying the bills and being a productive individual.”
While today’s job market presents a challenge for anyone switching careers, it also provides a unique opportunity for many to pursue their dreams and be creative thinkers. “The Great Depression brought about some of the most creative and successful inventions and businesses in our history,” Shehorn says. “Things like the game Monopoly, 'Gone With the Wind,' the chocolate-chip cookie, the list goes on and on. Dream big. There really are no limits, other than the ones you place on yourself.”
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