7 Steps for Designing a Career You’ll Love
7 Steps for Designing a Career You’ll Love

Have you been dreaming about changing your career? This is your year! All it takes is a little planning and preparation, and you can get closer to your ideal job. The best part? There’s no age limit to changing careers.

As a career coach for more than 20 years, I’ve had many clients reinvent themselves at age 50, 65 and older. It’s all about going where the spark is. Plus, you have experience on your side. Here are seven steps to help move you along, clarify what you want for 2024 and design the career you’ll love.

1. Clarify

Consider why you want to make a change. Is it for more responsibility or advancement? Do you want more income? Are you bored and ready to learn new skills or reshuffle existing ones? Many people in mid-life shift to a job that better matches their values, life calling or passions. Defining your ultimate goals at the outset of your planning will make it easier to make changes.

2. Research

When considering a new path, start with your job history. Examine what you’re best at, the tasks you most love doing, the type of organizational culture that helps you thrive, and the individual assignments that have you singing rather than moping.

Next, look for job listings in the industries or fields that match your career ideals. Note the experience required, salary, the responsibility levels and any necessary education or degree minimums. What job skills do you already possess, and which ones do you need to look into?

Focus on your goals; forget about your age. In the research phase, get rid of any doubts about whether you can pursue a particular career at your age. How you think about and market yourself during your career move will be vital in helping remove any ageist stereotypes in other people’s minds.

3. Connect

Meet with people working in the jobs or fields that interest you. You can find these folks by reaching out to everyone in your current network, looking at LinkedIn or reading the “about us” section of any organization’s site to find out who the leaders are in your dream job or field.

Assure the folks you meet with you’re not asking for a job now but only for information. Ask them the questions that came to mind when you were completing your initial research. Note how they moved into their careers — what path did they take? Are there are jobs like theirs in your area or would you need to relocate?

Mention some of the research you completed in step two and see if it matches their experience. If possible, ask them to refer you to others in the field so you have even more people to network with.

4. Assess

Evaluate the skills you have. It might be time to take or even re-take skills assessments. Assessments taken in college or on a first job may need to be updated by mid-life. You’ve gained new skills and even your work “personality” may have developed and changed.

5. Reflect

Now you’ve done some research, networking and personal assessment, reflect on your next move. What skills do you already have? Did any of your contacts pique your interest or change your opinion on an industry or field? How can you reshuffle your skills?

For example, you may be detail-oriented and have assumed that working in accounting is the natural fit for you. Yet, if you’ve been dreaming of sailing the seven seas, consider being a passenger booking agent or shore excursion manager. These roles also require attention to detail, and you could receive terrific travel benefits.

What about additional education? Do you need to return to school to complete a degree program? Certificate programs and accreditations might move you to the next level. You can also explore options like online courses and podcasts, YouTube tutorials, books or videos. Your current employer might even offer training or other ways of supporting you to learn something new.

Assemble everything you have learned in the four steps above to develop your plan and move forward. Hopefully, your research will excite you. Pay attention to the findings that have you saying “yes!” as you discover them.

6. Plan

Considering your ultimate dream career, how long are you willing to take to make your shift? Is the timeframe reasonable for your current situation (housing, finances and family responsibilities)?

Some people spend six transformative months to get where they want to be; others can only take one class per quarter to complete a four-year degree. It’s your dream to pursue. Plot the steps below on a calendar by month or quarter.

a. If a new degree or certification is required, research options in your area. Explore the costs, when the program starts and how long it takes to complete.

b. If there are online courses, short classes or projects you can complete in your current job that will showcase your new skills, how soon can you jump into those activities? Check with your employer — they may pay for courses or a degree program, even if it’s not in your current line of work.

c. Are you closer to moving into your new career than you initially thought or does it look like it will take a bit longer? Either way, keep plotting goals and dates on your calendar.

d. Consider the potential financial investment of reskilling. This could include tuition costs, stopping work or working part-time so you can attend courses, study independently or take on an internship.

e. Is there an interim step or job you can take to build skills before you move into your dream career? Research whether you can change careers without changing companies — large employers often offer opportunities that tiny ones cannot.

f. Work with a mentor or advisor in the field or industry you are interested in. Look for this person during your research and connecting phases. Attend networking events and meetups to make new contacts.

g. Rework your resume, focusing on what transferrable skills you can bring to a new field or job. Perhaps there were projects or accomplishments in your earlier career directly related to what you’re looking for now. Showcase them by listing the skills and tasks you excelled at in a separate section on your resume, leaving off the dates to avoid aging yourself.

h. If you have the capacity to take on extra tasks, try freelance or part-time work. Why not get paid while you’re learning new skills?

7. Implement

Get your plan in motion and mark your progress. Change course if needed but keep your eye on the prize. If you can add to your skills and knowledge to get into a new career you’ll love, it’s worth the time and effort.

Consider the years (decades?) you’ve already been working and all the skills, experiences and knowledge you’ve gained. It wasn’t always easy, but you have a solid base on which to build your new career. Now jump in and begin!

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Author Dori Gillam

Dori Gillam

Guest writer Dori Gillam has been a career coach for over twenty years. As a writer and speaker, she focuses on ageism, creative aging, resilience and finding soul-filling work. She has worked for Right Management and her clients have included Nike, Chase Bank and Weyerhaeuser. She is a frequent contributor to 3rd Act Magazine. 

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