How to Leverage Your Connections to Make a Career Change in Later Life

How to Leverage Your Connections to Make a Career Change in Later Life

Jane Miller

A study performed by AIER (American Institute for Economic Research) showed that 82 percent of US workers who made career changes in later life ended up feeling more fulfilled in their careers — and many made more money, too. It’s not unusual for HR professionals to change lanes in later life. For example, they might move from HR jobs in the private sector to HR jobs in the non-profit sector. Others might move into new lines of work, such as career counseling, where they are able to draw on certain aspects of their HR expertise. No matter your current profession, the easiest way to change lanes in your career in later life is to leverage your connections. 

Use connections to edge out the competition

While exact figures for the amount of later-life workers who change lanes are hard to come by, because the data is difficult to quantify, people have, on average, 12 jobs during the course of their lives, according to 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistic information. In all phases of life, career changes are commonplace, for a host of reasons, including feeling unappreciated by management, being unable to move up through the ranks, and wanting to earn more money.  

Whether you want to stay in the HR niche or not, you’ll be entering a competitive marketplace, where the typical corporate job posting receives at least 250 resumes, according to Since you’re already in HR, you know the drill. As you’re older, you’ll need to get creative in order to stand out and get an interview. Leveraging your existing connections is the best way to succeed. Sometimes, getting a strong lead on a plum job is as simple as meeting up with a business connection and picking that person’s brain. Plan a coffee meeting to kickstart your mid-life success and ask for useful advice.

To make the most of each connection, come prepared to every meeting, with questions about their company and information about what you are looking for. The relationships that you’ve built while working in the HR industry in New York (and perhaps beyond) are valuable. Use them to get ahead.

Start volunteering in a new niche

If you’re interested in working in a new niche, and you want to build experience in that niche, you’ll benefit from volunteering at a company or organization in your preferred field. While volunteering doesn’t pay in terms of cash, it does pay in terms of giving a resume more relevant experience that will impress prospective employers.

For example, if you want to move into HR in the non-profit sector, and you’ve already worked in the private sector, consider volunteering at a larger non-profit organization. Let that organization see what you bring to the table. That organization may have job positions available in the HR niche, or another appealing niche. Even if it doesn’t, you’ll gain experience that helps you to get hired at another, similar organization.

Volunteering is a great way to make new connections, especially if you’re not getting results by leveraging existing connections. A lot of people do volunteer in order to meet new people, whether they’re job hunting or not. You will come across new people who share your passion for non-profit causes, and some of these people may have the power to hire you.

Don’t be afraid to ask connections for help

You may feel like you’re cutting the line or taking the easy way out when you contact connections while job hunting in later life. Don’t feel guilty about it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Reaching out to connections, with an updated resume at the ready, will show your persistence and determination. You worked hard for a long time to build and nurture these relationships. The odds are that your strongest connections will come through for you when you need them the most. 

If it’s time to change lanes, even though you’re a little older, you’ll find that mulling over your connections and contacting those who are most able to help you achieve your new career goals is the quickest way to get interviews that lead to a new job. Yes, you may get results without utilizing your connections, but it’ll probably be a much longer process. Streamline your job hunt by letting your connections know what you want.

Jane Miller is a freelance writer.

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