A second career used to mainly be the challenge of those that retired early and still wanted to work. But nowadays, with a changing economy, jobs fleeing areas to other countries and downsizing, it has become a much more common thing to do.
Yet, even though those in the 30s and 40s may have to face it, they can learn some lessons from those that are older, that had to do it long before it was seen only as a way to survive.
"It was more than just having to change; I wanted a change," said Brock Sinoway of Carbonville, who at age 43 changed what he wanted to do with his professional life in 1994. "I found that I was tired of what I was doing even though I was good at it. I wanted something more."
Sinoway is a now a consultant that helps government agencies through changes like budget cuts, downsizing and culture shifts. He worked for years in a business that sold materials to the government agencies, during which time he saw some agencies operate better than others.
"Mine was an education of experience," he explained. "I found that some local government agencies ran better than state agencies and the same was true of federal departments. I started to ask questions and along with my sales started aiding my customers in how to run their operations. Eventually I found myself actually doing more consulting than actual sales. I asked a number of my customers if they would pay for what I had learned and they said yes. I quit the company I had been working for 15 years and started my own consulting agency. I am not getting rich, but I am having a lot more fun doing this."
Though the United States Department of Labor notes it's difficult to pinpoint how many career changes the average worker undergoes during his or her lifetime, career coaches typically say men and women will undergo between three and seven career changes during their lifetime. Of course, such estimates no doubt include career changes at the onset of a one's professional life, when many people are not precisely sure what they want to do for a living.
The gateways to those changes come in many forms. For some it involves education, for others it is dissatisfaction with what they are doing for work, others see opportunity and for others it is a necessity. Necessity is the one that is the hardest to deal with. The loss of one's job due to downsizing or a business failure is always tougher than making plans to move into a bright new future.
But wait; if you have a choice, ask yourself if changing what you do for a living is really what you want to do. Here's why.
People who sometimes hate their jobs and are considering changing to another field of endeavor may not really be looking at their present career with clear vision. You can dislike your job for many reasons; the work is boring, no one says thanks, the pay is poor, your boss is a jerk, etc. But does that mean after all the years you have put in and learned the skills in your job that all jobs doing the same thing are like your present one? Maybe not.
That future can take two tracks. One is making it on their own by starting a business. The other is to find a new career working for someone else. In both there are advantages and pitfalls.
For older workers, the uncertainty lies less in what they want to do and more in if they can pull it off. For those who have already decided what they want to do, consider the following tips to help ensure that dream becomes a reality.
Patience is always a virtue. Aside from being qualified, the most important thing a person changing careers can be is patient. A successful career change seldom happens overnight. Some career changes might require returning to school. Others might not require a new degree but might require an established professional start from the bottom up. Whatever the situation, it's best to remain patient. If your new career is worth pursuing, be patient enough to see it through.
Network to find what is out there. Networking is often seen as an opportunity to advance within your own industry. However, networking can be just as valuable when changing careers. People within your network might be able to introduce you to new contacts outside of your industry. These contacts, even if they don't have a job to offer, can often provide valuable insight into the industry you're attempting to enter. The fact is you should never, ever switch careers without having a network in the new area you plan to labor in.
Volunteer to break into a career or to gain knowledge. If your second career is going to be a complete 180 from your current field, it might help to volunteer and gain some experience before beginning a job search. Volunteering can prove beneficial in many ways. First and foremost, it provides potentially valuable experience you likely don't have, and that experience may help down the road when you begin looking for a full-time position.
Another benefit to volunteering is it can provide a genuine look into the industry you are thinking of joining. This will either strengthen your desire to enter this new field or might encourage you to think more deeply about your pending career change if the field isn't quite what you thought it was going to be.
Finally, volunteering can be a great way to get your foot in the door. Should a position open up, a company is much more likely to consider the man or woman who has been volunteering at the firm than someone they don't know.
And if possible, volunteer while you are keeping your day job. That way you can be sure to make the jump while you are still financially stable.
Be flexible concerning any career switch. In today's job market, the flexible candidates are more likely to be successful. When changing careers, be as flexible as possible. Determine to if relocation is a viable option, and assess your financial situation to determine how much financial flexibility you have. Career changes often come at the expense of a smaller salary. If your financial situation does not allow for a reduction in salary, now might not be the right time to change careers.