Preparing for a Mid-Life Career Change

Whether it’s mid-career or after retirement, second careers and becoming more and more common. According to AARP, nearly 9 million baby boomers have found second careers, while some 30 million say they would like to make a change. And with a fluctuating job market, many younger workers are also exploring their career options, trying out two or three careers out before they settle down.

Moving from one job to the next – especially one career to the next – is a big step. It’s critical to plan for your second act and to get some insight into how it can be done effectively. I sat down with networking and communications expert Faith McKinney to get her first hand account of what it takes to start over. McKinney is the author of “Schmingling – The Art of Being Well Connected.”

Living in Indianapolis, she had been an employee of the United States Postal Service for 25 years when she decided to begin her second act. McKinney’s job at the post office  was “safe,” she says. It was stable, close to home and gave her the necessary income and benefits to support a family.

Nearly three decades in, however, she discovered she wanted more. “I can’t really say I had a career. What I had was a job,” says McKinney. She’d always had an interest in teaching, public speaking and media but McKinney says it wasn’t until her forties that she had the confidence to pursue a career that incorporated the three. After 25 years at the post office, she took stock of her skills, interests, goals and came up with a plan. “I knew I wanted to travel and that I’d have to do that with my family,” says McKinney. “I always loved teaching and sharing with others and I had a passion for connecting people and networking.  I had to figure out a career that would allow for my gifts but that also fed my needs.”

With that in mind, McKinney  set out to explore her options and discovered that her passion for networking could be captured and marketed. Within Indianapolis, she soon became known as  “The Great Connector” for her ability to bring people together to do business. Before long, she was serving as host and lead ambassador for the Successful Thinkers of Indianapolis, a professional networking organization with more than 800 members.

Today, Mckinney has parlayed her work with the Successful Thinkers into a career as an author and successful media personality, sharing her ideas about networking, branding and entrepreneurship. “It’s about creating the life that you want and working towards that,” McKinney says. “For me, the knowhow I needed came from my own studies – webinars and seminars that gave me exposure and knowledge to do the work. And along the way I gathered the skills I needed.” McKinney says the number one thing anyone pursuing a second act should do is reorient themselves to the work world and get brushed up on their chosen industry. She recommends online courses and continuing education programs. “They’re relatively inexpensive and typically very flexible,” says McKinney. “If you’re already an alumni of an institution, that helps and you can find just about anything on the internet.”

If you’re considering going back to school before starting your new career, consider this: Depending on your income, you might qualify for tax credits like the lifetime learning credit, which offers a break of about $2,000 each year for tuition, fees, books and supplies associated with career advancement.

McKinney’s one other tip? Get started as soon as possible. “Nobody gave me permission to get started,” says McKinney. “Sometimes we’re waiting to be in a good place or for life to slow down but don’t let too much time to pass without acting on your dreams. Finances can be the biggest hurdle but pace yourself. But unlike when you were in your twenties, you don’t have to jump right into anything. Make progress bit by bit. Take it slow and watch your career grow.” Photo Courtesy, miriampastor.

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