5 Tips for Launching a Second Career

Millions of workers are still quitting their jobs. If you’re considering a new career, here are some steps.

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Lemise Dajani

Associate Principal, Leadership Development

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David Power

Principal, Global Fintech, Payments, and Crypto

The pandemic has left many people recalibrating their career choices. Americans quit 4.5 million jobs in March—a record. Some are burned out; others want more purposeful work. Whatever their reasons may be, many employees are looking at transitioning into a second career, experts say. There might be some initial hiccups but finding a new line of work isn’t impossible. “If you’re leveraging the skill sets that you have into something different, it can work really well,” says Brendan Gallagher, a managing consultant in Korn Ferry’s Nonprofit and Higher Education practice.

Here are some expert tips to get started:

Go soul searching.

Before jumping into a second career, you should spend some time on self-reflection. Being intentional and developing clarity about what motivates and energizes you, as well as the area in which you want to work, should be the first step you take, says Lemise Dajani, associate principal for leadership development at Korn Ferry. It’s a crucial thing that often gets overlooked, she says. “Create that north star, that vision of what you’re looking for,” she says, “and use that as an anchor for anything else that you do.”

Network with everyone.

Like all career-related matters, networking is key. Talk to your current peers, senior leaders, coaches, and recruiters, experts say. “Have conversations with your colleagues, both internally and externally, to get the wheels turning on what you want to do,” says Gallagher. If you’re switching to a new field or industry, conduct informational interviews to learn more about the required skill sets and the types of roles and challenges you might face, says Dajani. If you’re making a big transition, it’s important to know what you’re stepping into and be prepared for the challenges.

Research and upskill.

Research companies and jobs online to better understand what you’re looking for, says Dajani. If it’s a different industry, you might not be familiar with the market leaders or the best companies in the space; it’s essential to gain knowledge about those things, she says. Experts also suggest upskilling by taking courses or certifications that might make you a more desirable candidate. “Upskilling yourself in the technicalities of the market you’re trying to get into is definitely one way of showing your interest in the field,” says David Power, a principal at Korn Ferry’s Global FinTech, Blockchain and Crypto practice. Upskilling is also a great way to network, as you’ll meet people from the industry in your courses, Power says.

Revamp your resume.

You can revise your resume to align it with your intended new position or industry. Create two to three versions of your resume based on the broader areas you might be interested in, says Gallagher. “You always want to curate your resume based on the position or industry you’re going to,” he says. Highlight existing skills that may be applicable in the new industry and job. Additionally, leverage your cover letter to elaborate on any projects or experiences that can transfer to your new field of work, says Gallagher.

Position your brand.

Think about how you can sell yourself. You need to rebrand yourself and tell a story that promotes areas relevant to your switch, says Dajani. “Talk about yourself differently and connect the dots for people, because it may not be obvious,” she says. Identify transferable skills, be adaptable, and position yourself as someone who can fill an existing gap, says Power. If you’re a senior executive, he adds, you can get involved in boards and find companies in emerging industries that are scaling: “Typically, they’ll need people who’ve had long careers with bigger, more established companies to advise them.”