Giving Your Work Life a Makeover: 8 Tips


written by Ellen Freudenheim, MPH

It’s not exactly an identity crisis. But when at age 45 or 55 you decide it’s time to shift to a new line of work, it can be hard to figure out what, where, and how to get it.

TIP #1: Recycle Yourself

A common strategy of course, is to stay in your field but find less demanding work at a gentler pace. For instance, an accountant at a high powered, competitive consulting firm might use his or her professional expertise under less stressful circumstances, or on a part-time basis, at a small business or non-profit organization.

TIP #2: Re-Position Your Skills

Take the time to evaluate your skills with the goal of maximizing your opportunities. For instance, an individual who has worked for years in public relations—a field that requires multiple skills—-could possibly tease out multiple resumes representing himself, respectively, as a freelance writer, an adjunct professor of marketing communications, or a communications consultant.

TIP #3: Restructure Your Current Job

As the French say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Whether you work for a large company or a mom and pop, you might be able to retool your work life without making a major move. Another way to restructure your current job is to scale back your working hours. (Note that small-and medium-sized companies might be more flexible in this regard than large corporations; see “[ Nice Work If You Can Get It: Finding Part-time Jobs]”)

TIP #4: Re-train for A New Kind of Work

Getting a degree or certificate can be a portal to a new career. For instance, to become a real estate broker or teach English as a second language, you’ll need to obtain specific credentials. It’s also true that retraining is essential if you want to segue way into careers that depend on fast-changing computer technology.

You can earn a surprising array of certificates and degrees without ever setting foot in a classroom. The Web site lists over 1,000 distance learning courses offering degrees. In addition, community and local four-year colleges, universities and special professional training programs offer job-specific training programs. (See “[ Beefing Up Your Job Credentials]”.

TIP #5: Exploit Your Hobbies

Some people figure out a way to upgrade a hobby or personal passion into a paying position. For example, in mid-career Brooklynite Irving Shapiro transformed his weekend passion, sailing, into a business. He opened a small sailing school, which offered him the chance to earn some income, take a few new tax deductions on his boat—and do the thing he loved best. (See articles on “[ Starting Your Own Business]”.

TIP #6: Return to Your Own Roots

Many Boomers started careers in one field and over time moved onto other jobs, whether for a better offer, to attend graduate school, or because they hitchhiked to California and never moved back home again. If you started your work life in a field—say, teaching, academia, sports, publishing, editing, music, or other modestly paid endeavors— you loved but left for one reason or another, consider returning to your early career roots.

TIP #7: Be Realistic

If you’re re-orienting your work life in your mature years, then it’s essential to consider more than just the nature of the work, pay and benefits. Consider, too, how long into the future you plan to work, how many hours a week you want to work, and, if you have any kind of medical or physical limitations, what kind of work you can physically undertake.

TIP #8: Research the Market

A lot of career advice emphasizes introspection: what do I want to do, what can I do? But it’s crucially important to take a fresh look at the world around you. Research the market. What’s hot? And how can you make that work for you?

For instance, fields experiencing labor shortages include nursing, customer service, management, teaching and accounting, according the Department of Labor’s Web site. (This site also has a state-by-state listing of “hottest occupations with the fastest growth rates and the most job openings.” ) And while you may not personally aspire to working as a nurse or customer service rep, study the trends: They might suggest new business ideas to you, such as starting a company that manages freelance accountants who service non-profits, or a business involving high tech at home medical treatments.