Don’t be afraid of a midlife career change

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Pictured: Ronald Kers of Valeo Foods Group (Photo by Dave Warren/Picture Team)

Launching a new career is a daunting prospect at any stage of life but one that can also be very rewarding, especially during a downturn, writes Barry Whelan



18 October 2011

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BarryYou may have seen the recent statistics for employment in Ireland which point to an over abundance of candidates for certain job categories and a complete lack of candidates for other job categories.

Moving from one career to another can be a winning solution in a recession, but how is it done, what does it involve and where do you start? What should a person do or think about when contemplating a midlife career change?

The starting point for considering a career change is to consider the motivation behind such a move. Is it necessity because your market has tanked? Is it because your current career path does not allow you to achieve your personal or financial goals or perhaps your previous career endeavors left you feeling unsatisfied? The motivation dictates the level of desire. Knowing you want to make a career change is the first step in the process, but it is important not to get stuck there. The next step is to identify clearly what you want from your next career, what type of work, the environment, lifestyle and intensity level of the position you have in mind.

Hatch a plan

Having decided on your career change and the direction you want to go, from here begin to categorize that vision into an actionable plan. The big question is can someone change career without going back to education or starting at the beginning?
Yes and no. Firstly that depends on your transferable skills. You need to make a list of all your transferable, marketable skills along with a list of skills you may have also obtained through life experience or a hobby and any non-traditional skills. Most roles do require a specific education and in a tough market, experience is important. It is never a problem starting at the bottom providing the progression route is clearly in front of you.

Although using your experience is ideal when changing careers, supplemental education and experience may have to be gained.

Test the waters

Don’t underestimate the power of volunteer training and internships. Nonprofit organisations and corporations often provide on the job training opportunities that would otherwise be too pricey for you to afford when you are testing the waters in a new field. Additionally, these opportunities allow you to access decision-makers within the organisation who get to see you in action and may consider you for future opportunities ahead of an unknown applicant.

Don’t give up too soon

Don’t give up too soon on a great idea. New endeavours take time to blossom. Give yourself permission to have a few failures, learn from them and come out of the experience stronger, smarter and more confident. Don’t forget to keep the big picture in mind. This is an easy mistake that many newcomers to career change make, and it can spell disaster for some people. To keep your new career path clearly in focus, create a written list, outline or plan that you can refer back to on a regular basis to be sure you’re still on track. Getting caught up in the day-to-day activities of your new career is necessary, but don’t forget to remind yourself along the way about why you made this career change.

Be ambitious

Remember, career change, especially in midlife, goes against the traditional framework with which we are all so familiar. As a result, some people may try to persuade you to just “ride out” your current career path despite the circumstances rather than to reinvent yourself. However, midlife is the perfect time to take the skills and accomplishments you have learned up to this point in your career and charge boldly in the direction of your ambitions for your future.

By Barry Whelan, MD of Excel Recruitment,



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