Plan B: Starting a Second Career
In todayís workforce, individuals embarking on second careers have become a much more common occurrence. Whether todayís job market is forcing you to pursue another path, or you are making this change by your own decision, you are not alone. And with some planning and patience, you may soon be on your way to an exciting new adventure. Here are some guidelines for getting things off the ground:
Dare to dream, but keep it real. Maybe you already know exactly what you want to do. If so, youíve won half the battle. If not, think about what you really want. Some people look for their second career to be wildly different than their current one. Others realize that many of their skills and experience are transferrable to a related field. Whichever way you go, always be realistic about the salary you will need to live.
A common theme for individuals starting over is to open a business. The entrepreneurial spirit can be very alluring, but starting a business comes with a whole new list of considerations and precautions. If thatís the path you choose, itís even more important to be prepared. Hereís a good resource for getting started on opening a business.
Assess. Assess. Assess. Itís worth doing the exercise of writing out all of your skills. And donít self-edit. This isnít a resume, but more of a tool for you to zero in on what job youíd be good at, and what will make you happy. The two often go hand in hand. Take self-assessment quizzes on career sites. While they might not point you exactly where you want to go, they may jog your memory about work experience you forgot you had. Most people usually have more skills than they realize.
Start researching. While some industries, such as real estate and construction are flat or in decline in our current market, others like health care and education are growing. The U.S. Department of Labor publishes a helpful resource, called the Occupational Outlook Handbook. It offers an up-to-date assessment of jobs, skills required, and salary ranges, as well as the projected industry growth for these positions.
School yourself. You may find that pursuing the career path of your choice requires some additional training, or even an advanced degree. While that may sound time-consuming and expensive, donít rule it out. It might pay for itself in the long haul. Remember, financial aid and student tax breaks are not just for college kids.
Be patient, flexible and prepared. It sounds daunting, but if youíve given thought to the path youíre pursuing and done some assessment and research, then youíll be just fine. Here are some things to consider:
- If youíre a boomer, expect a bit of subtle age discrimination. Though true age discrimination is illegal, employers may see older candidates as out of touch, less adaptable, or just looking for a short-term solution to bridge the gap to retirement. Prove them wrong.
- Flexibility is key, both in attitude and action. If youíve done the same job for a while, adjusting to your new tasks and accepting a lower level of seniority and salary in a new industry will take effort and a good attitude. Still, flexibility should never mean shortchanging yourself on fair pay, or compromising your integrity.
- A new career takes time, so be patient. You likely will not find the perfect second career right out of the gate. Accept some false starts as part of the process.
Try temping. Temporary agencies are always looking for experienced candidates to fill their jobs. And there is no better way to get a feel for a new industry than to try a short-term assignment in the trenches. Itís also a great way to make connections within the company. Youíd be surprised how many top-level executives actually did start out in the mailroom.
Remember, your first job in a new field will not likely be headline-grabbing or glamorous, but it should be one that appeals to you, provides growth opportunity, and more importantly, offers stability. In other words, it should fit well into your long term plans.
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