Rachelle J. Canter, Ph.D.
Suddenly it seems as though every baby boomer is talking about mid-life
career change and looking for their dream job. In the past few weeks
alone, I have heard about many career changes planned or underway by baby
boomers, such as:
A colleague's husband quit his job and career as an insurance adjuster to
enroll in a doctoral program in mathematics, his life-long love.
A close friend took early retirement from a major high tech company at age
47 and is pursuing his interests in energy conservation and in performing
A president and CEO relinquished the president title as part of her
company's succession plan and is wondering whether teaching, running a
major nonprofit, or something else is next on her career agenda when she
steps down completely next year.
The friend of a dinner party acquaintance is enrolling in a landscape
architecture program with an eye toward her next career.
An old friend sees the demise of his not-for-profit housing agency ahead
and is eager to find new and more rewarding work but isn't sure where it
lies or how to get it.
This is just a sampling from my friends and colleagues, not the clients I
see as a career coach! What is going on with the boomer job boom? The
oldest boomers are hitting 60, but instead of thinking of retirement, they
are thinking of following their passions into new, more personally
rewarding work. The questions on everyone's mind are, what do I want to do
and how can I get it?
Here are some six important tips from 20+ years helping people in
virtually every industry and function land their dream jobs. These tips
are offered to help you answer these questions and launch you on the path
to your next exciting career:
Tip #1: Forget revelations.
Where you want to go depends on your personal definition of career
satisfaction. Too many people get stopped in their quest for rewarding new
work because they are waiting for a blinding revelation about their life's
true purpose. For the majority of people who haven't had a lifelong dream
job that they are now ready to pursue, awaiting this kind of revelation is
likely to be unproductive.
The best way to determine your dream job is by a simple step-by-step
process. Use the information you gather from your answers to these
questions to construct a picture of your ideal job. Your answers are
building blocks, so consider the questions carefully and give your most
thoughtful answers. Specifically, as you look back over your career and
extracurricular activities, ask yourself the following questions:
Think back over the times you worked on something that lit you up and
energized you. What specific projects, activities, or tasks did I find
most rewarding? What about these activities was so rewarding?
What are my greatest and most enjoyable skills? What do I do best and
enjoy doing most? Be specific.
What specific roles did I enjoy most? Leader? Follower? Coach?
What kind of rewards meant the most to me? Turning around or fixing
something? Creating something tangible? Making money?
What kind(s) of people have I enjoyed working with most?
Is there anything else that has been part of my most enjoyable activities
Are there other considerations that affect your satisfaction, such as
location, commute, compensation? If so, specify them, such as how much
money do I need to make? How big a commute am I willing to do?
Tip #2: Ignore your stories.
All of us have stories we tell ourselves and others about why we ended up
where we are in our careers. The problem is that these stories, which are
only our interpretations of reality, not reality itself, become our
reality and shape and limit what we think is possible in our careers.
Recognize that these are just stories, untested by evidence, and let them
go so you can pursue greater career possibilities rather than limiting
yourself to what you've done before.
Tip #3: Define your accomplishments.
Scared of writing a resume? Worried because you haven't written one in
years? Fear of writing a resume has stopped many aspiring job-seekers from
pursuing their dreams. Don't let this happen to you. A resume is essential
to realize your career dreams and with the inside information that
follows, you can make it your secret weapon, not an obstacle or a chore.
Look for specific contributions or achievements that led to measurable
results. Did you save money or time? Did you do something for the first
time that became standard operating practice?
Tip #4: Think outside the box.
When you are contemplating a change in direction to a dream job, it's
important to remember that most prospective employers and recruiters are
looking to put people in slots or boxes just like the ones they came from
or fled. It's up to you to think outside of the box. Don't focus on job
titles which limit you to work just like you've done. Identify the
portable skills and accomplishments you can leverage to define and land
your dream job. Don't forget this important step.
Tip #5: Define your brand.
Whatever you have been doing all these years, nobody does it the same way
you do. No one is the same builder or teacher or COO that you are. What is
your particular "brand?" One way to define your brand is from the array of
specific accomplishments that appear in your resume. Perhaps you are a CFO
whose brand is as a financing wiz - the person who has done all kinds of
financings repeatedly and successfully and in little time. Or perhaps you
are the shy idea person with the great creative ideas. Your
accomplishments should showcase your brand so your resume conveys your
particular personality, style, and brand rather than a generic
compensation manager resume, for example.
Tip #6: Talk more, surf less.
Looking to make a change? You are most likely to get your new job through
your network - 70-80% of jobs come through contacts according to most
industry estimates. Don't have a network? Everyone does, but like many
people, you may have been too busy to talk to your network in a long time.
It doesn't mean your network is gone and it doesn't mean you can't revive
it. You can use online networks like LinkedIn and Ryze to update your
networks quickly and efficiently or use phone calls and emails to reach
Remember to include people in different locations and different
occupations than your target - they know people in different locations and
jobs, too. Make a specific request (for example, an introduction to a
decision-maker or information on a target position or company) and make
sure that most of your job search time is devoted to your network, not
Acting on these six tips will provide you with tested strategies and a
road map to define and land your dream job. It's never too late to find
work you love. Stop dreaming and start finding your dream job!