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March 4, 2011
5 Steps to Amp Up Your Midlife Job Search
What do you want to be when you grow up? I remember my dad asking me that question when I was 14 years old in 1965. I'm sure he wasn't taken aback when I replied, “I don't have a clue.” In my youth, my career goals centered around prestige, money, and upward mobility. Retirement was a long way off, and besides, I was going to be a millionaire by the time I was 30.

Fast-forward 30 years.

It happened on a Friday. My boss walked into my office, closed the door, and solemnly told me he was letting me go. After a rewarding career in the recreational vehicle industry, I now found myself unemployed and asking myself, "So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” In midlife, my career goals now centered around job satisfaction, truly making a difference, and the freedom to enjoy a healthy work/life balance. Of course, I still needed money...since my thirties came and went without my first million... but money was way down the list of my job priorities.

Sounds great. But where do you find a job like that ... especially in this youth-obsessed job market?

Here are five effective steps anyone can take to accelerate their midlife career transition:

Consider working for a small company. A small company is defined as one having fewer than 500 employees, or less than $150 million in annual sales. Two out of three job openings are with small companies. Many small companies want to grow, have a warmer work environment, and need the stability and wisdom of someone mid-to-late career. Remember, even Microsoft at one time was operating out of Bill Gates’ garage.

Do something risky every once in a while. Go ahead and color outside the lines. Your years of experience in all types of business climates have taught you to trust your instincts when logic isn't delivering results. Visit a local company or temp/staffing agency without an appointment to try and generate interest. Recently, a friend of mine (with a quality manager background) walked in unannounced to a local manufacturer with his resume in hand and asked if they were hiring. The general manager interviewed him on the spot and hired him two weeks later. He didn't have a clue they were hiring.

Get fit. The late, great NFL football coach, Vince Lombardi, once said, "Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Physical exercise is a perpetual fountain of youth. In addition to the physical benefits, it provides us with energy, endurance, and abounding self-confidence. Make this your first private victory during your midlife career transition.

Network, network, network. Have you ever heard someone say, "It's not what you know, but who you know"? There is a great deal of truth in this saying. A recent survey of corporations revealed that 27% of their hires came through referrals. Another study uncovered that 70% of the most effective job search strategies involve networking. Did you know that referrals as deep as three levels are almost as potent as first-level referrals? This information is too powerful to ignore.

Get outside of yourself. Oftentimes when we set aside our troubles for a brief time and focus on others, opportunities find us. Most of our blessings in life come by way of other people. Volunteer for a service project through your church or local community.  I know a struggling job seeker who attended a church service project expecting nothing in return. One of the participants at this event was a hiring manager of a successful local company. After a brief conversation, this hiring manager invited him to have lunch with him at the company. Three weeks later, my friend is working there and loves his new job.

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Mike Petras is an author, professional career advisor, and executive recruiter. His popular website, Job-Interview-Wisdom.com, provides job seekers with cutting-edge interviewing tactics to win job offers.

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