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The Two-Step Career Change

Changing careers in midlife can be daunting, but the gap between Career A and Career B might not be as wide as it first seems

Dear Liz,

I am at the point where I deeply regret not having done more career planning earlier in my life, because I am 47 and in a career I hate. I don't see how to change careers at this late point. Any advice?



Dear Rob,

The degree of difficulty that you'll face changing careers is going to depend tremendously on how specific and niche-y your current path is, and on the distance between where you and where you'd like to be.

If you're a metallurgist now and have your sights set on becoming a corporate marketing vice-president, then I would agree with you that the shortest path between two points may be a very long one. But in many less extreme career-change situations, the gap is not as large as it first appears.

What works very well for many career-changers is to make a two-step leap from Career A to Career B. For instance, if you're working as a software engineer but desperately want to be a human resources manager (don't laugh, it happens), I'd advise you not to pursue an HR job out of the chute but to look for a job where the two functions overlap. That might make you a technical recruiter or the person with HR responsibilities in a computer consulting company. From there, you'll be in a much better position to move into a "pure" HR role. That kind of two-step progression can take a couple of years or longer. But as you know Rob, 47 is the new 35, so you're in great shape to start the journey now.

Do that by deciding where you want to be—what industry—and then what you'd like to do in it. Figure out what skills you currently have that could be transferable to the new field: where you'd get the kind of overlap I talked about above. Best of luck to you!



Liz Ryan is an expert on the new-millennium workplace, a former Fortune 500 HR executive, and the author of Happy About Online Networking: the Virtual-ly Simple Way to Build Professional Relationships. Liz speaks to audiences around the world about work, life and networking, and works with employers on attracting and retaining world-class talent.

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