5 Questions Baby Boomers Should Ask Themselves When Switching Careers
Chances are, either voluntarily or involuntarily, you'll make a major change in your career at some point. Despite popular belief and according to statistics reported in the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Baby Boomers voluntarily job-hopped in their twenties just as frequently as millennials do now. In addition, a Career Builder survey recently reported that 45% of employees plan to stay with their employer for less than two years. Although the conversation about career change and seeking new challenges and learning opportunities is often centered around Millennials, the truth is, Baby Boomers are making changes, too. The difference is that Baby Boomers often have more financial flexibility and a greater sense of what they hope to achieve through a shift in careers.
So why are Baby Boomers choosing to make career changes at the end of their work tenures? In some cases, they switch jobs out of necessity. Involuntary layoffs and downsizing can play a role in prompting an employee to search for a new job. In some cases, Boomers might crave trying something completely new, and finally have the liberty and financial freedom to make the switch to explore their passions. Like any other person seeking a job change, Boomers may have a desire to live in a different climate, or move closer to family.
Whatever the reason for making the change, Boomers – or anyone going through a job transition -- will want to take an inventory of their skills, experience, and goals before embarking on the journey to their new beginning.
If you’re thinking about following your passion, or simply making a career change to be closer to the ones you love, start by asking yourself these 5 questions:
#1: What am I passionate about?
If you have any number of years of experience under your belt, you might know what you like about your past positions, and what you didn’t like. Is there something that interests you that you’ve never had the chance to explore? Is there a role you’ve never had the chance to play, such as a manager, that you’d like to try? Define what makes you tick.
#2: What am I good at?
Don’t assume you have to stay in the same industry, or even in the same role where you have the most experience. Look at sister industries – places that you know and understand based on your work experience, where you can use your existing skillset in a different way, or for a different purpose. Start drawing connections between the way you used skills in the past, and how you might be able to use them in the future.
#3: What have I learned from my experiences?
Whether you stayed in the same career for 40 years, or you left the workforce at some point along the way, your life experiences are valuable to organizations, regardless of some of the negative stereotypes about the “non-digital native” population of workers.
Forbes contributor Kevin Murnane reported on the results of a HMA survey that found Boomers actually spend more time on the Internet than younger generations. Because Boomers have personally witnessed the growth and adoption of technology, they have a unique ability to understand the long-lasting ramifications technology has had on the way we work and live. Bring that knowledge and perspective to your conversations with future employers.
#4: What are my value messages?
No matter where you stand in the career transition process, carefully develop and communicate your value messages. Developing a Professional Value Proposition isn’t just about reporting your job skills and experiences, but expressing your unique qualities and stating how your expertise will positively impact the company you’re interviewing with. You’ll want to convey how the value you bring to the organization is different from what others competing for the same role can provide.
#5: How do I make it happen?
In other words, once you’ve done the soul-searching and you’ve taken inventory of your skills and experiences, and you know where you want to live and the type of job you want to do, you’ll want to turn that dream into a reality. Your first step is to make a plan, a roadmap of your career transition journey.
Put your plan down on paper and make sure to answer these questions:
- How will you source jobs?
- Who will write your resume?
- How will you network?
- What points will you communicate in your Professional Value Proposition?
- How will you prep for interviews?
- What are your goals for your new role?
One thing to consider -- If you were laid off, and your company offers career transition or outplacement services, take advantage of the opportunity to get support throughout the process. Too often, employees are given the gift of career counseling, professional resume writing, and job search assistance; and they decline these valuable services in favor of going it alone. Whether you think you can soldier on alone, or not, at least give your outplacement provider the chance to help you plan and execute your career transition. You never know, your career coach may help you find a path that you hadn’t considered before.
It’s never too late to pursue your passions
Often, Boomers hit a point in their life where they have the capacity and freedom to make big changes to align with their changing priorities. For example, making a certain amount of money might have been their biggest priority in the past, but now the need for a financially lucrative career is lower on the list. In other situations, Baby Boomers want or need to spend more time with loved ones, or want to travel, so they would prefer to prioritize having a flexible schedule.
Baby Boomers going through career transition often come to the table with a wide variety of career experiences. They have a better understanding of what their passions are, and they know how they want to contribute. A change in careers allows time for discovery, exploration, and growth -- even when skillsets are fine-tuned. A career change offers ample time to explore a new industry, location or job function.
While making a change to your career can be intimidating, especially for the Baby Boomer generation, never let fear hold you back. You bring a wealth of knowledge and years of deep experience to the table. Be sure to let employers know how qualified you truly are and the value your years of experience can bring to their organization.