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Am I too Old to Start a Job Search?

Posted by Elaine Varelas  August 8, 2012 10:00 AM

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Q. I am 35 years old and have been in sales since college. I don't feel any satisfaction from my current role and am considering a change to the creative side of marketing. People say I'm too old to make such a big change. Your thoughts?

A. You have 15 years invested in a career that is no longer fulfilling, and you have at least 30 more years to work. Working 30 more years in a field that doesn’t bring you enjoyment will be much harder than a job search you start today.

You are absolutely not too old to make a career change, and changing roles, functions or industries is just another type of career plan. Most people understand a career plan for career progression, or lateral moves to gather more experience before a next step. Your career plan needs to chart a course toward a new role. People make all sorts of big and small career changes at a variety of ages. People go to law school, get MBA’s or MSW’s regardless of what their previous careers are. They decide to teach or to quit teaching. They transfer to a new role within their current employer. They change industries. What they know is that they will get older regardless of whether they pursue a new career or not.

So develop your plan. Don't assume this will be a one-step career move. It may be, but it may take 2 or 3 career moves to help you make the transition you are hoping for. Below are some of the steps you should take before embarking on your search.

Be specific with your target. What does the creative side of marketing mean? Identify titles which cover the types of jobs you want, and the kinds of organizations where these roles exist, and may even be plentiful.

Identify the skills needed to be a success in these jobs. With any career change, you need to be clear on which skills you have. Find job postings and see what organizational expectations are for the kind of roles you want, so you can focus on your strengths. How close are you to being able to make a successful transition? You may be closer than you think.

Identify the development you need, and get it. Which skills are you missing or can be strengthened? Do you need experiences, courses, or a certificate program? See if you have the opportunity to develop new skills within your current organization. Ask for a cross functional project with the staff in your areas of interest. Return to people you used to work with and see if these opportunities exist in these organizations. People who know your positive work habits and dedication will be more apt to take a risk on you than others.

Develop a network including people with the roles you want. See how people got these roles - ask what they would recommend for you. Use LinkedIn to identify people you know in the field and people who are connected to other. They may be able to refer you to jobs they get calls for which aren’t right for them, or they may be able to refer you to search professionals looking for candidates.

All of these activities will get you started on the career change you want. So 5 years from now you could be happily situated in a successful new career, or you could be saying, “I am 40 years old and should have started to change careers 5 years ago. Am I too old now?”

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Meet the Jobs Docs

Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.

Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.

Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.

Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.

Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.

Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.