Changing careers is hard enough. Changing careers in the latter stages of life is even tougher. The longer you've been in one profession, the harder it is for people to see you doing anything else. Yet, in my last fifteen years as a career coach, I've seen time and again that people can change careers late in life. What's the secret to success? Creating a clear and compelling message that employers trust and respect. Otherwise known as your personal brand.
Want A Different Career? Tell A Different Story
Personal branding is how you market your business-of-one to the world. It's the story of how you got to where you are today. Thus, in order to change careers, you need to re-write the story so employers can see how your experience, strengths, and passions will be just as effective (if not more so!), in your new desired career path. In my experience, many people in their fifties think their track record should speak for itself. That's where they fail. If you want to change careers, you need to connect the dots for employers. It's up to you to help them get as excited as you are about your potential to have a huge, positive impact on their organization.
Employers Need To Know How You'll Alleviate Their Pain
The most successful career changes over the age of fifty know an employer hires the person they feel can best solve their problems. You are at an automatic disadvantage for the job when you don't come from the industry or have extensive experience doing the job. However, these things can be bypassed when you prove you deeply understand the pain these problems are causing the employer, and how you'll solve them. When your personal brand justifies the cost of hiring you, you earn the respect and trust of the employer. A great way to know if your personal brand is sending the right message is to answer the following two questions:
- Do I clearly articulate how my skills will be of value in the new career I am pursuing?
- Do I have quantifiable examples of my success to back up what I'm saying?
If you can't say "yes" to both of these, then your personal brand needs some work.
P.S. - Don't Bother Applying Online, Go Around the ATS
Besides having a well-defined personal brand, the other thing you can do to improve the chances of changing careers over the age of fifty is to skip applying online. Most online applicant tracking systems, (ATS) are going to toss you because your past experience doesn't match the criteria set by the recruiters in the program. You need to leverage your network and go around the online platform in order to connect with a human being so you can share your personal brand. Using tools like a disruptive cover letter to get their attention, once you get them talking to you, it's much easier to show how your personality and aptitude make up for your lack of direct experience. Not to mention, if you can have a colleague refer you directly to the hiring manager, that added credibility can help you rise to the top of the applicant pool.