YOUR OF­FICE COACH Tips for mak­ing a mid-life ca­reer change

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - JOBS -

Q: I am feel­ing some­what un­easy about my up­com­ing ca­reer tran­si­tion. In about six months, I plan to take early re­tire­ment and en­ter a com­pletely new pro­fes­sion. After 30 years as a civil­ian engi­neer with the mil­i­tary, I re­cently be­came cer­ti­fied as a phar­macy tech­ni­cian and hope to find em­ploy­ment in that field.

Dur­ing my ca­reer, I have man­aged mil­lion-dol­lar bud­gets, over­seen award-win­ning pro­grams and su­per­vised up to 15 em­ploy­ees. But since none of this re­lates to be­ing a phar­macy tech, I’m not sure how to demon­strate my worth to prospec­tive em­ploy­ers.

To get my foot in the door, I have con­sid­ered of­fer­ing to fill in for ab­sent em­ploy­ees dur­ing week­ends, hol­i­days and va­ca­tions. What are your thoughts about mak­ing this tran­si­tion suc­cess­ful?

A: While your two ca­reer choices are in­deed quite dif­fer­ent, they re­quire many of the same at­tributes, such as or­ga­ni­za­tional abil­ity, at­ten­tion to de­tail and mas­tery of tech­ni­cal knowl­edge. So you should be ready with ex­am­ples that il­lus­trate your trans­fer­able skills. With many em­ploy­ers, your ex­pe­ri­ence with the mil­i­tary will also be a plus.

On the other hand, in­ter­view­ers will be un­der­stand­ably wor­ried about your abil­ity to ad­just to a lower-level role. To ease their minds, be pre­pared to ex­plain ex­actly what led you to choose this field and why you are ex­cited about the change. For­tu­nately, your re­tire­ment in­come should al­le­vi­ate any con­cerns about the in­evitable pay cut.

If find­ing a full-time po­si­tion proves dif­fi­cult, tak­ing tem­po­rary as­sign­ments is an ex­cel­lent strat­egy. In ad­di­tion to adding “real world” ex­pe­ri­ence to your re­sume, you will also be able to de­velop valu­able re­la­tion­ships. These pro­fes­sional con­tacts can pro­vide help­ful ref­er­ences, sug­gest net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and pos­si­bly even hire you.

As you be­gin this jour­ney, re­mem­ber that start­ing over in mid-life can be a tough emo­tional tran­si­tion. After years of be­ing val­ued for your knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence, be­com­ing a new­bie may seem both un­fa­mil­iar and un­pleas­ant. But once you get through the ini­tial learn­ing curve, you should be­gin to feel much more com­fort­able.

Q: I’m try­ing to de­cide whether to give my for­mer col­league a rec­om­men­da­tion. “Heather” and I were co-work­ers for six months be­fore she left to sell real es­tate. Be­cause I think Heather is a ter­rific per­son, I had planned to write an on­line en­dorse­ment for her.

After think­ing it over, how­ever, I’m afraid that rec­om­mend­ing a for­mer em­ployee might get me in trou­ble at work. Although I would like to help Heather suc­ceed, I don’t want to jeop­ar­dize my own ca­reer. What do you think I should do?

A: Un­less Heather left on bad terms or works for a com­peti­tor, it’s hard to see how prais­ing her would get you in trou­ble. But if there ac­tu­ally could be se­ri­ous con­se­quences, you should err on the side of cau­tion. After all, if Heather is good at her job, she will un­doubt­edly re­ceive other en­dorse­ments.

Should you con­tinue to be con­flicted, the sim­ple so­lu­tion is to ask your boss whether a per­sonal rec­om­men­da­tion, with no men­tion of your com­pany, is per­mis­si­ble. If the thought of ask­ing makes you ner­vous, how­ever, then you have an­swered your own ques­tion.

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