Managing Career Development in Midlife

Managing Career Development in Midlife

Now’s the time to illustrate flexibility and creativity by focusing on the possibilities of a career trajectory.  Writing goals, making a plan, and taking action are all part of the process. When outlining a plan, another career piece to consider is how different industries are changing, both in terms of the immediate COVID-19 crisis and in the long term. Doing this will help carve out a solid career path. Identifying industries that are poised for future growth or transformation is one way to discern what positions and skills will be needed during and post-pandemic.  

Here are some ideas to get started on your own career development path.

Goal Setting:  In order to set realistic and achievable goals, it helps to follow the SMART acronym. A SMART goal is: S (specific) M (measurable) A (attainable) R (realistic) and T (time-framed):

  1. Be specific: When writing down goals, it’s best not to be vague. If it’s a new exercise commitment, for example, write the days and time you’ll commit to it. The more you can define and refine, the more specific you are, the easier it is to stay focused. Don’t forget to ask for help from your coach. Your coach can send you email reminders and hold you accountable. Don’t have a coach? Find one. They don’t have to be a professional career coach, just someone you trust to keep you on track.
  2. Measure: Tracking goals is important to make sure you’re on the right path. Write down whatever WAS accomplished so that a bit of celebrating can occur. 
  3. Attainable & Realistic:  Make sure it’s a realistic goal.  Give yourself a timeline to achieve and work backward.
  4. Time Framed: Having the number of hours committed to a certain task helps but make sure you also look at the overall picture and time frame. What month or year will you achieve your goal?  That way, being reminded of steps to get there is easier.

A Balance: “No pain, no gain” is true in many areas of goal setting. However, if there is too much pain, the goal probably won’t be achieved. Make sure you are willing to pay the price of achieving your goal.

"Write down your short- and long-term goals four times a year. Two personal, two business and two health goals for the next one, five and ten years.”

-Chip Wilson, Founder, lululemon

New Skills on Resume & LinkedIn:

Whether you feel like diving into new topics or learning new digital tools, it is one way to illustrate a willingness to learn and be curious.  We wrote about MOOCS and certifications for ideas to get started and many of the ones we wrote about are free of charge during the pandemic.  Adding an area called “Production Tools” on your resume is one way to show your tech expertise beyond MS word and Outlook.  When listing them, consider which ones are popular by doing a search.  If you don’t know them, watch a tutorial.  Many have free versions so experimenting is easy.  If the company hiring doesn’t use them, they might be using something similar and have heard of them.  

Your Digital Footprint:

Leadership and becoming a thought leader:


Look at ways to leverage your expertise whether it’s writing on the “Medium” platform or posting an article in LinkedIn.  Make sure your education matches your desired skills and career goals - even if it’s a certification program to illustrate how serious you are in making a change.  Join LinkedIn groups that align with your interests or expertise.  When writing an article on LinkedIn, the group can be tagged so that others who have similar interests and backgrounds can see it. Another bonus? Someone who is in a position to hire might also see it and reach out.  

Check your name:


A long time ago, I posted a funny comment on my friend’s blog but that blog was not private so if anyone did a search on me, that comment popped up.  Although it was relatively harmless, I asked my friend to delete it because I thought it might hurt my chances of finding employment.  To find out if you’ve done something similar, use different search engines to search your name.  Type in your name using your full name, middle name, maiden name and see what results are pulled up.  Would anything that comes up impact your chances of getting hired?  Beyond Google search, I also use duckduckgo which pulls completely different information.

Consider Social:


Many professionals stick to LinkedIn and Twitter for their social media messaging.  Twitter is fast and a great way to interact with organizations and business people you admire.  If you think Twitter is a waste of time, think again. Many academics and authors are on Twitter which is why I love it.  And you’ll see people of ALL ages on it.

I follow loads of people in behavioral research and as a result, someone asked me to apply for their new speaker series at a research conference a few years ago.  The woman who reached out to me has her Phd and over 1 million followers.  Networking through social media channels provides the opportunity to create new contacts and relationships, share a new business idea, ask for support in your career search, or set up informational interviews, and virtual meetings.

Expanding an Existing Network:  


Focus on building sustainable relationships.  It’s been more of a challenge to find out where to meet others beyond our existing career groups but there are creative ways to learn about groups beyond LinkedIn.  Since many jobs are remote and will remain that way, it’s a great time to investigate age-friendly companies nationally.  Another idea is to seek private community platforms such as Cirkel or TealHQ in order to find a job.  They use a matching system to connect you with people who have similar interests.  Oftentimes it’s within a group setting with a cap on the number of people.  Pro tip:  If you put one of your interests as HR or Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, you may be paired with someone who is a recruiter.  Another way to expand one’s network is to comment or reach out to experts via social media.  You never know who will be willing to discuss a topic that interests both of you. 

Taking ownership of your career during uncertain economic times is a challenge but it’s also an opportunity to prepare yourself for your ideal career.  Taking small steps builds momentum and it will pay huge dividends in the future.

Reviewed & Recommended:

Future of work


Getting curious about the future of work can help identify where skills will be needed and being positioned to jump on those opportunities will be the key. In this article, there are five books listed that help understand where work is going and they are recommended by an economist from Oxford.

5 Books to Read If You Want to Understand the Future of Work

Articles on goal setting and digital footprint advice:


Setting Goals & Writing Them Down 

Your Digital Footprint Matters