How to search for a job as a mid-career professional
Take control of your career trajectory by using these 5 steps to start your job search today.
How to job search as a mid-career professional
As a mid-career professional, you’ve climbed the ranks to mid-management and are now considering what’s next. Will your current company be where you break into the C-suite in a role like CTO, CMO or CFO? Or are you missing out on skill growth and promotions by continuing to stay?
If you’ve been with your current company for three years or longer, it’s natural to wonder what’s next, especially if you feel like you’re stagnating in your current role. The decision to leave, however, is not an easy one. Technology advancements have changed the job search and hiring process, and you’ll need to get up to speed quickly on new best practices for today’s competitive market, including online resume submission via applicant tracking systems (ATS). Jumping ship for another firm can also feel risky and could backfire if the economy dips or your new company falls on hard times. However, if you are no longer learning new skills or advancing through promotions, continuing to stay in your current position could be just as damaging for your career.
While moving to a new company may not be as extreme as a total career overhaul, it can still be a difficult and confusing process. Before heading back into the job market, you’ll need to take practical steps like updating your resume and LinkedIn, as well as engaging in a careful evaluation of your professional goals. Preparation and reflection are key: the more time you put into laying the groundwork, the easier your transition will be. From evaluating your options to starting the job search, this guide is designed to help you navigate the mid-career transition process.
For some professionals, the decision to leave their current company is crystal clear. A toxic workplace culture, company performance problems or a sinking industry are all compelling reasons to get out as quickly as possible. But for many others, the decision is more difficult. Loyalty, close co-worker relationships, and even a fear of job hunting can cause smart, talented professionals to stay put. If you are not sure if you should stay or go, carefully consider your professional trajectory.
Start by asking yourself these questions:
If the answer to one or more of these questions is “no”, it’s time to consider alternate pathways through a measured and intentional job search.
Start by reflecting on your current professional situation. Are you frustrated with your clients, your co-workers or your company’s leadership? Perhaps you’re seeking a company with greater work-life balance or maybe you need more meaningful work. Or, maybe you’re feeling disengaged and need a new challenge. These desires could be incompatible with other goals, like company prestige or compensation packages, so it’s important to candidly evaluate your reasons for making a change.
One of the most common reasons for mid-career professionals to change companies is because they’re feeling “stuck” at work. In fact, more than half of Gen Xers, who comprise the majority of mid-career professionals, report being disengaged at work, according to Gallup. A further 19 percent are “actively disengaged”. Jim Harter, Gallup’s chief scientist for workplace management and well-being, says these mid-career professionals feel “stuck in neutral” as their junior colleagues zip along. Although the mid-career slump cuts across industries and income levels, Harter notes that college-educated employees report greater professional unhappiness. Harter hypothesizes that “highly educated people have higher expectations, and may, therefore, find career disappointments more bitter.”
The desire for more meaningful work is also a driving force for many mid-career transitions. “When people get to their mid-career phase, they want to give back and do something meaningful,” says Philip A. Pizzo, the director of Stanford’s program, the Distinguished Careers Institute, tells The Atlantic. The process of finding more meaningful work is not always smooth, however. Pizzo cautions “People become anxious and just start doing things that are not connected… just to feel like they are contributing.”
If you’re disengaged at your current job or seeking more meaningful work, switching companies may provide new opportunities for professional growth, advancement and fulfillment. However, you may find yourself just as frustrated if your expectations do not align with your new reality. Taking time for candid reflection before starting the job search is critical. You do not want to go through the process of switching companies only to be just as dissatisfied with your new job.
Finally, it’s important to consider the timing of your change. Market dynamics may be outside your control, but they can have a major impact on your transition mobility. Failure to fully understand the market could lead to unrealistic expectations or even cause you to overlook new opportunities. As you evaluate potential companies, consider how these companies fit within the current marketplace. Are these companies in growth mode or reacting to market pressures? Are they highly specialized or do they offer a broad range of general services? Take time to understand your personal preferences and current market direction, and adjust your search trajectory accordingly.
Jumping back into the job market can be a challenge. Even if it’s only been a few years since you landed your last job, the rapid pace of technological advancements and recruitment processes are impacting job search strategy– and you’ll need to get up to speed quickly if you want to remain competitive. Many companies now use Artificial Intelligence (AI) rather than people to recruit and sort job applicants.
Many large companies also now pre-screen candidates via applicant tracking systems (ATS). In some cases, these systems will auto-populate information directly from your LinkedIn profile. Other systems require you to upload a resume. This resume submission technology doesn’t always work as smoothly as it should, however, so it’s important to be up-to-speed on best practices so your resume doesn’t get overlooked.
Even as companies use technology like AI and ATS to streamline their candidate search process, job seekers in some industries, like Accounting and Finance, are finding that the search process is actually getting longer. While companies are still open to hiring, many are moving slowly due to economic and budgetary concerns. Marketplace strength varies regionally. Due to the high cost of a bad hire, companies are involving more decision makers in the candidate interview process, hoping to minimize their risk of making a mistake. A full understanding of regional market trends, opportunities and risks will help you best position your skills and experience and set appropriate expectations for the search.
Finally, as you prepare to re-enter the job market, don’t overlook the challenges of searching for a new position while you are currently employed. Even telling colleagues that you’re considering a transition – and asking them to keep an eye out for new opportunities – could backfire. You’ll need to be discreet in your search process and avoid raising any red flags with upper management.
Here’s how to start a strategic job search that reflects the realities of today’s job market and the latest job search technology.
LinkedIn is still ground zero for networking and candidate searching. In all likelihood, recruiters and hiring managers are looking for someone with your specific expertise and skill set right now– can you be found? Build a strong brand and take control of your professional story:
Many large organizations now rely on applicant tracking systems (ATS) to pre-filter resumes, outright rejecting any that don’t include the right keywords or are formatted improperly. Unless you have an inside referral, your resume may never get read by a human. Here’s how to get past the screeners:
From LinkedIn optimization to AI recruiting, technology may have upended the traditional search process, but the value of real, offline connections has never been more important. An internal referral can help you bypass the online submission process and ensure the right person reviews your resume.
An experienced industry recruiter can help you bypass online job submission forms and get your resume in front of receptive hiring managers. Recruiters can also help prepare you to navigate the new interview process and even minimize the need for online tests and video interviews.
If it’s been a few years since you last interviewed for a job, you may be surprised by just how much the interview process has changed. Previously, companies had their hiring manager conduct a short, qualifying phone interview and then set up several rounds of in-person interviews with the team. Now, candidates may face multiple virtual interviews and tests before ever receiving an in-person interview invitation. Some companies are also using AI to analyze everything from word choice to micro-gestures in these candidate tests and video interviews. As more companies turn to predictive algorithms and machine learning to identify the best job candidates, this technology is fundamentally altering the interview process– and you need to be prepared.
In some cases, you may find that you’re ready to leave your current job but external factors outside your control, like a down market, are making this departure difficult. In other cases, you may be open to a new position, but demands from working 50+ hours a week at your current job leave you with little time to actively search. Don’t fallback on complacency; you can still proactively position yourself for success. Here’s how:
Landing your dream job today requires a different approach than what worked just a few years ago. Rapid technology advancements, evolving professional demands and recent market volatility are profoundly impacting professional trajectories and rewriting the rules for a successful job search.
While every career path will look slightly different, successful mid-career professionals have several things in common. They develop sought-after leadership skills, build strong networks, and optimize their LinkedIn profile for maximum impact. They stay ahead of the technology curve and understand how to use online resume submissions and virtual interviews to their advantage. They strategically leverage the benefits of recruiter relationships, working with recruiters to find the best opportunities on their behalf and using recruiters’ market place intelligence to inform their next move.
Most importantly, successful professionals resist complacency and create opportunity by proactively taking control of their professional trajectory.
To learn more, contact us today.