In early 2015, Australian newspapers reported endlessly on “the 50-year-old rookie,” a woman in Australia who left a career in human resources at 50 to enter real estate, and was so good at it, she won an award. Everyone loves a good career change story, possibly because it helps them see for a moment that they could pull something off one day, too.
It’s important to remember that the opportunity to take a new direction is open to anyone who tries, and not just a few special people.
Some transitions can be harder than others, but short of wanting to be an astronaut or a professional dancer over the age of 50, just about everything is within reach. If you are able to research the new industry that you wish to move into, plan out a strategy and work hard at making progress while you still manage to take care of your responsibilities, usually, you’ll make it. It does take a tremendous amount of confidence, willpower and perseverance, though.
You should be prepared to start at the bottom
Transitioning to a new career is usually as hard as it appears for a simple reason — most people look for a position at about the pay level that they are used to. Understandably, expecting a new career to pay as much as one that you have spent years at is unrealistic. If you’re willing to start at the bottom and work your way to the top, though, most problems associated with career transitions quickly disappear.
Hiring managers won’t be as sceptical, your supervisors at the job won’t be as annoyed with you when you aren’t able to hit the ground running, and you won’t be as anxious. When you prove to everyone that you can be humble, and as absent of ego issues as any fresh-faced graduate, you’ll quickly be accepted.
Before you plan to make a career switch like this, though, you do need to find a way to save up enough to make up for the shortfall in income during the transition. Cutting back on expenses, moving to a more affordable home and changing a few lifestyle habits can help you get through the period. It could take a couple of years to work your way up to the level that you held.
Find mentors to learn from
One of the nicest parts to entering a new field is that all of a sudden you see that you have so much to learn. If you start at the bottom, you won’t have to worry about perceptions of your competence — you will be able to ask questions and make mistakes. You will also do well to find a mentor who is willing to take you under his wing.
You mustn’t be too humble, though
As an older worker with a lifetime of experience to draw upon, you can usually see connections and shortcuts that others can’t. You mustn’t be afraid to take advantage of these insights
As an example, while most hiring managers refuse to be directly contacted by job applicants, you may see a way around the problem. You may only need to write in using a human-voice resume. A resume that that sounds like a personal letter rather than standard corporate boilerplate, will usually inspire a response.
When you are able to directly contact the hiring manager, you can make your case much more effectively.
You can speak about your most transferable skills
Moving to new industry can be all about finding ways to demonstrate how the skills that you’ve acquired so far work perfectly well in the new industry that you’re looking at. People in the past have moved from music, choreography and other artistic work to fields such as sales, simply by trying to point out the skill overlap that they see.
For instance, if you’ve been a secretary, and want to move to a job where you will be an account representative, you should look at the communications and interpersonal skills that you’ve honed in your current profession, and build yourself up in your resume as someone who is all about these skills.
If you were simply to write a standard resume, you would probably list all of your secretarial responsibilities under Experience, stating skills in scheduling meetings and appointments, and so on. The same skill set could be spun differently for an account representative’s job. You could say that you have interacted with a wide range of high net worth individuals in your position trying to schedule meetings for them. It’s important to be creative. Knowing how to present transferable skills is a huge part of making a successful career change.
Jennifer Pollard has worked as a career adviser and also in HR. She understands that switching careers can be challenging and likes to share her insights online regarding all aspects of career guidance. She writes for a number of business and consumer websites.