How to Launch Your Second Career

The decision to re-enter the workforce, or switch industries, is not one that can be taken lightly. Maybe you're trying to make more money to support your family, or earn extra cash in retirement to fund vacations and create a better standard of living. Perhaps you've been a stay-at-home parent who now has the opportunity to get back into a career, or you simply want to learn something new, interact with people, and feel challenged.

Whatever your motivation, acting on that decision to launch a second career can be overwhelming. Can you go back into the job you once had, or has it significantly changed since you left it. Are you ready to start a new career? Do you even have the time and money to do so? Before you dive in, here's some advice to guide you through this tricky time.

Adjust Your Expectations

Technology has changed quickly, and the job skills you possessed before may be considered obsolete now. Picking up right where you left off may not be possible, so take a step back and carefully examine your skills, and the current state of the industry. If you were working in a field that has undergone little-to-no change over the years, such as tailoring or baking, you should have no problem adjusting. But if you were in advertising, medicine, IT, engineering, or finance, you could find the radical changes in the industry will severely hinder your usefulness to an employer. Retraining, and even working for free to gain experience, will be invaluable.

In the case of a second, new career, even though you have matured and you believe you have more to offer, that doesn't translate well to an employer. It's not enough to have "quick learner" on your resume. Expect and accept that in order to go forward, you will almost certainly have to retrain and acquire new skills before you can even think of submitting a resume.

While you're working on that, find a job — any job — that can get you back into the workforce. Not only is this incredibly helpful at re-acquainting you with a daily routine, and working with others, but it also puts something solid on your resume. Someone who is actively employed, and gaining experience, is more appealing to a future employer than someone who is "waiting for the ideal opportunity."

Realize It's Never Too Late to Change

Entering a new field might be scary because you feel you are competing with the younger crowd. Sure, you may have regrets about not switching gears sooner, but let that go. It's not too late. In fact, it's never too late. If you have the drive, the enthusiasm, and the fortitude, you can make a go of it regardless of your age.

And here's something else to ponder. If you had entered a new career years ago, it may not have been the right time for you. You may not have had the right level of maturity, or the industry could have been in turmoil (imagine switching to real estate just before the subprime mortgage collapse). The time you have spent between your last day on the job and re-entering the workforce has given you perspective, experience, and wisdom. Let it work in your favor.

Consider If Your Hobby Can Become a Business

It's a question many people ask themselves when they are considering a career change. That thing you love doing in your spare time — can it become your main source of income? Usually, hobbies require an investment of time and money, so turning that into a moneymaker could be a losing proposition. Even if your particular hobby creates something that is in great demand, do the costs of the materials and the time it takes to create it make financial sense? You will need to crunch the numbers and see if scaling the operation into a full-time venture is possible. And remember, most new businesses see little-to-no profit during the first few years, so even if it's in the cards, you'll need another source of income in the meantime.

Look for Something That Fulfills You

Many people leave high profile jobs with the hope of doing good and helping others. It may result in less pay and benefits, but the rewards far outweigh the financial setback. For example, a journalism professor in a local university in Colorado used to write for the NY Times, and Fortune magazine. He gave that up to teach others what he knows, trading the tight deadlines and stress for a career in education. And as his students will tell you, they have never met a more fantastic and enthusiastic teacher or mentor. If you already have a bachelor's degree, and something like this inspires you, remember that you can get a master's degree. You, too, could go into teaching. If not teaching, what else inspires you? Is it working with sick animals? Pursue a dream, if you can.

Take a Class or Two to Brush Up Your Skills

This scares a lot of people off, but it shouldn't. You don't have to enroll in college. Community centers, libraries, and other adult learning centers offer a wide variety of classes — many of them free — to brush up on skills, learn computer programs, or to start your own business. This also looks great on your resume, and demonstrates to potential employers that you're being active about getting back in the game.

Ask Yourself If a New Career Even Possible Right Now

This is a tough question to ask yourself, but it's a crucial one. After everything you have read, you must consider your options, and the reality of the marketplace. Is this the right time for you to switch careers, or re-enter the workforce? Do your research. Ask friends and colleagues who are out there making a living in those areas you're interested in. And while you take all that in, it's very possible you may have to remain in your current profession, or one closely related to it, for a little while longer. It's a good way to use contacts to open doors for other opportunities in the future.

See Your Break as a Blessing

Your potential new employer may appreciate the fact that you're coming into their business with a fresh perspective, instead of comparing the way they do business to the way your previous employer did. You're excited to learn everything you can because this is truly a fresh start that can change your life in many ways. You will meet new people and develop new skills. It's an exciting time that should be embraced, and how often do we get the chance to really start over?

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How to Launch Your Second Career

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