Mid-Life Career Change

Strategies for Making a Career Change Later in Life

Older man in an interview
Blend Images - Dave and Les Jacobs

The challenging economy has prompted more workers to make a mid-life career change. It’s not easy to switch careers or transition to a new industry later in life. If you’re an older student or are considering a mid-life career change, finding work can be even more difficult than it is for younger students.​

A mid-life career change can pose unique hurdles to employment and you will need to stand out from the crowd of younger candidates.

Below are seven strategies for making a mid-life career change and finding employment in your new career field.

For more information on making a career change, review these tips to making a career change and this career change advice from workplace experts across the country.

Mid-Life Career Change

  • Academics. One way to stand out as a job candidate is through exceptional academics. Earning top grades and a high-class rank can help put you in the running for some of the most desirable jobs, despite your age. If you are in law school, law review participation can open doors to interviews that you might not otherwise win. In any educational program, participation in extracurricular activities such as student government, the school newspaper, or other activities can help you develop new skills and gain useful experience.
  • Leverage Your Skills. Your previous work experience has provided you with a diverse range of skills that will likely transfer to (or from) a legal position. Leverage the skills from previous jobs to land a new role in your current field or to switch fields altogether. Emphasize those skills and any relevant experience in your resume, networking discussions, and job interviews. For example, if you are an attorney seeking to transition to a writing career, you might emphasize your law review experience, legal writing awards, and writing-intensive clerkships.
  • Target the Right Employers. If your mid-life career change involves switching industries, be sure to target the right employers. For example, small firms and public interest venues tend to be more open to second career lawyers than large law firms.
  • Network. Whether you are still in law school or have graduated, networking with classmates, peers, teacher, and colleagues can help you learn about opportunities. Depending on the magnitude of your career change, you do not need to start from scratch in your networking endeavors; be sure to use the networking contacts you have cultivated in your decades-long previous career(s). Job shadowing – in which you follow in the footsteps of an employee in your target job for a day – can help you make new contacts and learn about your desired position. Be sure to leverage online social networking tools as well.
  • Craft Your Resume Properly. Craft your resume in a way that leverages the skills and experiences gained in your previous job to land a new role. For example, if you’re making the leap from sales to law, you might emphasize your ability to cultivate new business, your extroverted personality, and your marketing skills.
  • Gain Relevant Experience. Nothing can propel your job search forward faster than experience in your new field. Employers want workers who can hit the ground running and these days, they are reluctant to spend training dollars. Internships, externships, and clerkships are valuable ways to gain experience while in school. If you are changing careers but not returning to school, consider volunteering for an organization or cause related to your career goals. Temporary and contract work are also options.
  • Remain positive. Mid-life career changes often focus on the negatives (“I’m too old,” “There are no jobs,” “I can’t compete with younger workers.”) A positive attitude will reflect well on you and help you shine in interviews. Rather than focusing on the downfalls of age, highlight to potential employers the competitive advantages you offer over younger workers such as maturity, stability, commitment, and reliability. If you believe in yourself, employers will too.

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