Retooling Your Mid-Life Career

There are some jobs in the current economy that were eliminated—and will never come back. If you were in one of those positions, the best strategy is to figure out a new way to use your skills.

Retooling yourselfcan be a daunting task. You might have the feeling that you’restarting over from scratch. But that’s not true. You do have experiencethat will be valuable in your new job; things like knowing how businesseswork, getting along with co-workers, work habits, etc. They’llgive you an advantage over workers with no experience.

Transforming Yourself

So, how do you transformyourself? The most obvious is to go back to school or get more training.Before you spend the time and money, however, do a self-assessment tobe sure you need it. Start by yourself, but you might want to work witha career counselor if you get stuck. They have tools that can help identifyyour skill strengths. Here’s a suggestion to get started.

Start with What You Do and Enjoy

Make a list of allthe things you know how to do well. Don’t limit yourself to work-relatedskills. Think of the things you do as hobbies, as a volunteer, etc.Your new job may be in a totally new field for you and use some of theseskills.

Make a list of whatyou know. This could include specialized programming languages, designingan organic herb garden or how to apply theatrical make-up. This listmight be hard to make since we rarely think about what we know whenwe’re working on a task—whether at home or on the job.

Brainstorm aboutwhat jobs use the skills you’ve put on your two lists. It mighthelp to do this with someone (friend, spouse, fellow job seeker) sincemore ideas are better. Be wild and crazy when you’re making thislist. You can always go back later and get rid of the totally “offthe wall” ideas.

Organize your listof brainstormed ideas. See if there are jobs that fall into categories—eitherby task or type of organization that would use them—and groupthem together.

Edit your groups,putting them in order of preference—the one you like best first,etc.

Do any of your topthree categories require more training? If so, then find a program thatgives you the skills you need (check out their job placement statisticsas well as their courses).

Potential Employers?

Start looking for companiesthat would use those skills categories. They might not be companiesposting jobs just now, but they are companies you should investigateand try to get an information interview with.

The more companiesyou can put on your list, the more likely you are to find a job. Usethe want ads (online and off) to identify companies. Look in the YellowPages. Check business directories at the library. Visit one-stop careercenters to check out their resources.

Your next job maybe totally unrelated to your last. Or it may be a variation on it. Justbe willing to change focus. Keep a positive attitude. And get help ifyou need it. Just like Steve Buscemi (former NYC fireman, present Hollywoodactor), you can reinvent yourself to get a new career focus.

About the author…

Dr. Jan Cannon, Job-Hunt’s Mid-Life Career Expert, is author of Now What Do I Do? The Woman’s Guide to a New Career, Find a Job: 7 Steps to Success, Finding a Job in a Slow Economy, co-author of Exceptional Accomplishment, and a career professional for 20 years. Visit her website, for more career advice and help.

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