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