Searching for a new job mid-career is different than when you first entered the workplace. Many aspects of the process are easier: as a mid-career applicant, you can point to your body of work or track record to help support your candidacy for a position. Plus, you’re flush with examples when it comes to answering questions about past triumphs and how you’ve tackled difficult colleagues or situations. You have substantial work experience on your resume and strong credentials you can bring to your next employer.
Successful Strategies for Mid-Career Job Searches
The flip side to this mid-career advantage: being in the middle isn’t always easy (just ask any middle child you know!). A mid-career candidate is too advanced for an entry-level job but often lacks the required qualifications for a senior level role. This can make finding a position harder, since you have to target your job search so precisely. Here you’ll find recommendations to help make your mid-career job search a success, so you can land the right job for this stage of your career.
Know What You Want and Target Good Matches
Early in your career, flexibility may have been a guiding force; you may have applied to jobs in several cities and been open to working all sorts of hours. While it’s not always the case, many mid-career employees have more parameters when it comes to work needs. If you’re a homeowner, for instance, geography may play a role in where you perform your job search. Parents may feel that long hours or frequent travel aren’t ideal. (Parents, here's how to know if a job posting is family-friendly.)
Be realistic about what aspects of a job are a deal breaker for you, as well as where you can be flexible.
Unlike entry-level candidates, mid-career candidates who have been in the workforce for several years know more about what works best for them, from company size to culture. Use this information to create a list of companies and positions that are a good match for you. Spend some time at the job you have now positioning yourself to move successfully to your next role.
If you’re considering a career change, start by creating a transition plan. It will be much easier to get started if you know what you’re looking for and what you want to do next in your career.
Identify and Use Your Network
Your network is one of your biggest advantages. Even if you’ve worked exclusively in one job, you’ve likely encountered lots of people who have moved on to other companies. Use your network to power your job search.
Reconnect with former colleagues. This can be as simple as a quick email to say hello or an invite to a coffee date. Check on LinkedIn to make sure you’re connected with everyone you’ve worked with. Before you apply for a job, see if you have a connection there who can personally refer you to the hiring manager. A recommendation from a valued employee at the organization you’re interested in can help you secure an interview.
Overhaul Your Resume and Online Presence
Has it been a while since you updated your resume? Review these tips for mid-career resumes and give yours an overhaul. There are simple but powerful, ways you can update your resume to increase your marketability.
In addition to updating your resume, you may also want to refresh or create an online presence. This could be as simple as updating your LinkedIn profile or requesting recommendations on LinkedIn, but you may want to go bigger: Consider if it makes sense for you to have a personal website or an online portfolio to broadcast your qualifications and show off your work.
Update Your Interview Persona
As a mid-career candidate, confidence, experience, results, and leadership are some of your strongest assets. It’s no longer enough to say you’re a hard worker — employers are looking for more. Think about how you carry yourself in interviews, from your outfit to what’s on your resume to your responses to interview questions.
Show the Right Qualifications and Make Sure Your Skills Are Up to Date
Where early-career candidates may struggle to have any experience, mid-career candidates can run into trouble if they have out-of-date experience. This can be particularly true in tech-driven fields.
Make sure any certifications are up to date, and review industry websites, newsletters, and social media to ensure that you’re using the right lingo.
In addition to making sure your skills are current, it’s important for mid-career applicants to show off the right level of qualifications.
While you don’t want to seem underqualified and downplay your experience, you may find that for some jobs you get dismissed as being overqualified. Here are tips for writing your resume and cover letter if you are overqualified for a position.
Consider a Recruiter
As candidates with proven experience, mid-career job applicants are attractive to recruiters, who act as matchmakers between companies filling open positions and candidates. In addition to arranging interviews and making introductions, recruiters can help you tailor your resume and provide tips on how to answer questions and what to skills and qualities to emphasize. If this sounds like it could be helpful, here’s more information on how to find a recruiter.
As you look at job postings as a mid-career candidate, don’t be afraid to aim high. Stretch yourself! Look to make a vertical move rather than a horizontal one. It’s all too easy to undercut yourself or talk yourself out of applying for a job, but know that even if you don’t have every single skill or requirement listed on a job posting, you can learn on the job.
If you’re feeling intimidated, try this exercise: make a list of each of your on-the-job accomplishments. Once that's complete, you're sure to feel confident when sending cover letters and interviewing for jobs.