Friday, April 13, 2007

Switching Careers Again at 46

My situation concerns several areas. The first is that as a 46 year old male I am aware of and concerned about age discrimination. I have been employed in the human services field for the last five years and our site has recently lost its funding. This was anticipated; during the end of the last quarter of 2006 we were informed about the eventual closing of our site but not offered any transitional positions or assistance.

That’s ok; I’ve learned to look forward. I would like to remain in the human services field because I really enjoy the work. It’s very satisfying although, unfortunately, the salary is not.

I have thirteen years experience in the medical claims processing field prior to this at various health insurers (three). In between I decided to make a change of career and left the insurance field in 1999 and studied pastry. I quickly learned that 12 hour shifts in a small pastry station did not go well with a forty year old back.

The most experience I was able to get was from my externship which went well but I wound up taking a job as a career sales agent for a major life insurer after obtaining the required state license. This wound up being the hardest job of my life and lasted only 8-9 months. During this period 9/11 occurred and I could not re-enter the medical insurance field no matter what I tried. I was hurt because I always left my previous jobs in insurance (health/medical) on good terms. I then spent another 5 months selling food service equipment.

Throughout all this I never finished my college education. My course study was public administration which I have honestly lost interest in (80 credits) and I am now studying on-line in the IT field. I do know that I am paying the cost for years of poor study habits but am concerned that my resume will look like I am unable to finish what I start. I am also trained as a paralegal.

How can I effectively reintroduce myself to the health insurance field? My experience ranges from: subscriber relations, correspondence assistant, quality assurance analyst, claims examiner.
Thank you,

by Bridget Oakes, Senior Search Consultant

Joseph, thanks for the question. I think this is something that many people have struggled with recently, when they’ve transitioned out of a troubled industry, taken “what’s available” and are now finding it difficult to make their way back into their field of choice.

From your email, it appears as though you left the health insurance field about 8 years ago and since then have worked as a pastry chef, a food equipment sales person, life insurance sales person and most recently in human services. I’m guessing you have about 5 years experience in human services.

If I were evaluating you for an opportunity with my organization, it’s likely I could come away with the impression that either you don’t finish what you start or you can’t decide what you want to be when you “grow up,” neither of which are good things for a hiring manager, HR representative, or recruiter to think about you.

So, how do you address this? First we need to clarify and cement your objective.

From your email, I’m confused as to your career objective. Either you would like to remain in the human services field because you really enjoy the work or you are trying to find out how to effectively reintroduce yourself to the health insurance field.

If we assume that you’re looking to get back into the health insurance field, you’re going to have an uphill battle.

But here are the basics (which actually apply to any job search):

Structure your Resume for Greatest Impact:
I would suggest that you write your resume in a functional format. This format groups experience and accomplishments by functional area, and allows you to bring relevant information of past positions to the top of your resume.

An exceptionally strong summary statement will be necessary as well. This should state your objective, clarify your career goals, and provide an overview of what you can bring to an organization or company.

I suggest this because, to be absolutely honest, if, as a recruiter, I don’t see what I’m looking for in the first page of a resume, I usually don’t bother to turn the page.

I’m sure that the professional resume writers that contribute to the Job Lounge would have better advice on this topic.

Don’t Rely on Your Resume:
You need to market yourself aggressively. This is my best piece of advice for anyone looking to make a career change. Make a list of target companies and call them, find out who manages the group you’d be interested in joining and call that person. Introduce yourself, explain that you are exploring a return to the industry and “pitch” your experience and qualifications. (This is “recruiting in reverse” and can be a great way to get your foot in the door.) The goal here is to get your name and information to the decision maker. If that decision maker likes you, the objections that Human Resources will likely have regarding your background will be minimized.

Bridget Oakes is a Senior Search Consultant with Partners in Technology. With nearly 10 years experience in executive search and recruiting, she is well equipped to provide advice and guidance to candidates searching for new careers, and welcomes the opportunity to do so through Job Lounge.

Susan Ireland’s Two Cents
I love this post: I’m a Damn Happy Jack by Lisa, who had a 15-year stint in the healthcare industry before changing “jobs” again to become an entrepreneur. Her entire post is worth reading but here are a few excerpts:
I don't know who it was that said that "the average person will change careers at least seven times," but they were wrong. I think the number is more like twenty. How many jobs does it take us to really get that it's not the job that defines the man? Our jobs may change and so might the title on our business card. People might respond to us differently depending on the profession we claim ourselves to be a part of. All of this doesn't matter. What matters is whether or not we enjoy the work we do.

Lisa goes on to talk about why she thinks most job seekers change jobs and careers so often:
Many of us have had so many jobs or have held several jobs at the same time because we're passionate about a lot of things.

She then lists the 18 (count them!) jobs she’s held in her 25-year worklife.

Job Lounger, do you have a question? Email ( it to me and I’ll post your question and an expert’s answer here in The Job Lounge.

No comments: