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Many American workers find themselves in careers they had not planned, or in jobs they simply do not like. A 2017 Gallup study, “State of the American Workplace” revealed that 51 percent of American workers were actively searching for new jobs, and 47 percent were keeping themselves aware of job openings. The study also showed that only one-third of America workers felt fully engaged in their jobs. It might be a stretch to conclude that Americans hate their jobs, but it is clear that many would prefer to be doing something else.

The good news is that it is often possible to make a full career change, even after working in the same field for many years. An effective career change requires three elements: Good planning, commitment and decisiveness. Here are some tips on affecting your own career change, even in mid-life:

Planning: If you would like to enter a new field, one in which you have no experience, it will take some strategic planning, and time. First, research the field in which you would like to work. A good start is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This is a free online document that provides information on a wide range of occupations. For each profession, it describes what workers do on the job, working conditions, required training and education, earnings, and expected job prospects. To make this change happen you must have as much information as possible. You can do most of your research on the internet, but you will also need some inside information from those already in the field.

One way to get first-hand information is to schedule some informational interviews. Contact an appropriate person (or people) already working in the field and ask to meet with them to gather information. Try to keep the requested meeting to 30 minutes and have your questions ready. Your questions should focus on job types that may interest you, necessary training, certifications or licensing needed for the position, and possible job possibilities within the company where the person works.

Soft entrances: An effective way to enter a new field is to start slowly. That may mean taking a part time job in the new field, while you are still employed full time. The advantages here include learning the new discipline, making contacts in the field and using the part time position to determine if the field is definitely one that you wish to commit to full time. For example, if you work in an office where you have little or no contact with the public, and you have thought of working in the hotel industry, you may be able to find a front-desk position in which you will be trained on the job. This would offer you an opportunity to work directly with customers and guests, and further develop your communication and service skills. A “soft entrance” like this will require some sacrifices on your part, as you will have to give up a significant amount of your free time. But the experience may prove invaluable in making your career change.

Income: About sacrifices: Entering a new field after having worked in your field for a long time may require you to take a temporary pay cut. If you have worked your way up to a comfortable salary in your field, it is because of your diligence, commitment and experience. You may have to begin much further down the ladder in your desired new field. Before you affect a full career change you must examine your finances and figure out how much of a decrease in salary you can withstand and still maintain your lifestyle and meet expenses. If you have a partner, spouse and/or children, it is important to include them in your decision-making process. They may be asked to make some sacrifices, as well, and it will be important to have their support in order to take this giant career leap.

Age issues: Ageism is a real issue in the workplace, but making a career change as an older worker is entirely possible in many instances. First, be prepared to be asked questions about why you are making this change. Interviewers, who will likely be younger than you, may be skeptical. Legally, interviewers cannot ask specific age-related questions, but they may ask questions such as, “You resume shows you have worked in your field for 30 years; are you prepared  to take on the challenges of a new job type at this time in your life?” You might interpret that as an innuendo about your age, but it is best to steer the conversation in a direction that focuses on the job type and your specific goals, rather than your age. Also, be prepared to work for someone much younger than you and keep yourself open to the possibility of learning new skills from someone who may only have been in the field for a few years.

If you are feeling a passion to move your career in a new direction right in the middle of your life, it can be done. It will take patience and consistent dedication to your career goals. Keep your eye on the prize, and never give up.

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