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Successful Career Transitions for Experienced Workers

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Wed Dec 07 2016

Successful Career Transitions for Experienced Workers
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On October 20, we held a webcast on Find Your Fit. Participants submitted questions during the webcast, but we were unable to get to all of them during the time allotted. So we’re addressing some of those queries in a series of blog posts. These questions related to career transition or change for experienced or older workers.

1. Can you speak a little bit about career transitions for experienced people and how to transition without losing status and salary? Apart from getting training and certifications to prove your commitment, how can you convince an employer to take a chance on you without experience in that specific area?

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Life is full of trade-offs. You should start by thinking about what is most important to you. If you highly value status and salary, then staying in your current domain may be your best avenue.

If you crave a move, from marketing to HR for example, then there are some good ways to mitigate the potential downside. You have probably built up credibility within your current company. Hopefully you've also built up a good network with senior people. It's helpful to cultivate a sponsor to share your aspirations with. That person will advocate for you and find a way to put you in a new role, banking on your overall competence and familiarity with the company and the business.

Another way to protect some of your value in the marketplace is to change your function but stay within your industry. Industry knowledge is often crucial, so changing functions and industries at the same time reduces your value to potential employers in both areas. For example, if you are in a marketing position in the healthcare industry but wish to transition to an HR role, targeting companies in the healthcare industry will improve your chances.

Another way to gain visibility is to find opportunities to contribute in ways that showcase your skills to others. For example, if you want to move into HR, you might proactively offer to work with your existing HR partner on a project, like updating the performance review process. Building skills through volunteer work can also be an excellent way to transition to a new type of career.

Finally, recognize that this is a process. Talking to more people about it, building a solid network, finding a sponsor, joining organizations that will support the new path, and gaining skills and training will all take you in the right direction. So, have patience and think strategically about the steps you will need to get there. 

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2. Is using Twitter important for an older worker? I use Facebook and LinkedIn but have not used Twitter. I am tech-savvy, but I just didn't choose to go there. Should I take the plunge?

It depends on what your goals are. If you want to build your brand and signal to others that you are fairly tech-savvy, then Twitter probably makes sense for you—although in that case, Snapchat or Instagram might make even more sense.

Twitter is also a great way to connect with experts in your field and build a following, so if those are important goals, consider using it. However, if you decide to create a Twitter account, make sure that you use a good photo and stay active on the account. It’s almost worse to have a Twitter account with no photo (the dreaded egg icon) and few tweets than to not have one at all.

If you are finding Facebook and LinkedIn sufficient in getting what you want, then increase your activity there by sharing content, blogging, and answering questions posted in relevant groups, and leave Twitter to the big corporate brands trying to be cool.

Chapter 6 in Find Your Fit talks about building your brand and digital presence, so it’s a great resource for more information on this topic.

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3. I've been with my company for 15 years. I enjoy my job, but I haven't had adequate pay increases over the years, so I want to see what else is out there. I'm concerned because I have had just one employer for such a long time. I'm in my early 50s, and I worry that if I wait too long to move on, I'll face more age discrimination later. 

As always, the determine your primary goal. If you want to get a raise, the most important thing for you to do is to pull together relevant data: what your market rate should be, the accomplishments you've achieved over the years, and other things that will help you make your case. You should also figure out what it takes to get a raise at your company. Some informal chats with others on that topic will be helpful.

If you want to test your market value, start a networking process. Talk to others at companies you might be interested in. Find out if they might have a good fit for you in terms of role, environment, and, yes, pay. Chapter 11 in Find Your Fit provides great information on identifying your market value on sites such as www.onetonline.org and www.salary.com.

If you want to make a move, this is certainly a good time to consider it. But it's always a good time to make sure your network is in good shape. That will help inoculate you against many problems with finding a job, including your concern about ageism.

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