Your career was going swimmingly… until it wasn't. A mid-career layoff isn't the end of the world, although it can feel like it in the moment. Whether you find yourself in a dying industry or you simply feel you've lost track of your true calling, the midway point in your journey is a great time to reconsider your direction.
"Everybody has setbacks," Sherri Thomas, author of The Bounce Back, says. "Nobody has a free pass to a perfect career. The perception is the line on the graph of our career path needs to go straight up… and it doesn't. It's all swirly."
Karen Morgan worked as a title insurer in mortgage closings for 30 years when, in 2008, she was let go following the housing market crash. "It was a total devastating shock," Morgan says. "I cried for two days."
Frozen by the financial crisis, it seemed like no one was hiring. She briefly considered looking for work as an office temp, the job that helped her get through college.
Thanks to her tenacity, however, she found a position within her field in months, only to be laid off again in 2010.
She was laid off for a third time in November 2018, but bounced back in January 2019. "My experience helped me move forward," Morgan says.
With each layoff, she says, she got more philosophical about her career. The first one was a blow to the ego. By the third, she entered unemployment with faith that everything would turn out fine.
What truly defines success, Sherri Thomas says, is simple. "Those who are successful have the ability to pick themselves up after they hit a setback or a hiccup or a bump in their career."
Here's how to bounce back from that mid-career setback
Are you in a dying industry?
First, you should take a moment to consider whether your job, whatever it may be, is vanishing. It can happen for a variety of reasons, including automation and changes to technology. In 2004, Blockbuster Video was at its peak. Less than 10 years later, the business was dead.
Tiffany J. Franklin, the founder of TFJ Career Coaching, says keeping an eye on the business sections of publications like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times is one way to stay up to date on your industry. Ultimately, though, the most important thing is staying in touch with colleagues and going to professional conferences, where you'll get a sense of what's happening to your line of work.
"Be realistic," Franklin says. "Maybe it's dying, but maybe it's just being disrupted. Consider what the pioneers in your industry are doing and ask yourself how you can you start positioning yourself in that direction."
Staying in your current profession
If you like the direction you're heading in, there are a few ways to quickly bounce back from a layoff. A great place to start is with networking.
According to a survey of more than 3,000 workers, up to 85 percent of all jobs are found through networking. The good news for those who are laid off midcareer, unlike people who lose their jobs early in their career, you probably have a network that spans a substantial time frame. Use it to find your next role.
"Go back to some of those long-standing relationships," Franklin says. "Sometimes people from your first job even 20 years later, if you've kept in touch, they may hear about an opportunity."
You should also find ways to update your technical skills, ideally before your laid off, so you don't have to try to catch up with your peers amid a layoff. Of course, that's easier said than done.
Whether you're walking the same path or heading in a new direction, you'll need a new-and-improved resume and cover letter. The LiveCareer Resume and Cover Letter Builders are great free tools for giving each document a makeover. The Resume Builder is the fastest, most efficient way of creating a resume that will get you noticed by hiring managers, while the Cover Letter Builder helps you craft an attention-grabbing letter in minutes.
Making a career shift
Career coach Stephanie Licata decided to make a shift in mid-career. She was a teacher before becoming a coach and an organizational development professional.
If you're making a shift in industry, Licata says, you have to do one of two things:
- Get some necessary advanced training. Do you research to find out if there are skills you need to develop, or educational requirements that you should consider pursuing. Licata herself got a master's degree in organizational psychology.
- Start dabbling in project work. This will not only allow you to network with people in your new industry, which could help you get a job, but it will also provide great material for your resume. Licata did that, as well. In 2007, when she was still an educator, she started coaching on the side.
The project work was a positive experience, she says. "I was building up my knowledge bank. I was building the foundation," she says. "If you make that type of shift, it's best to dip your toe in the water."
In the end, it's about building credibility. "If you're trying to establish that credibility you want to be doing the work," Licata says. "Again, that may mean extra work hours, extra effort and the need for additional training."
Many universities offer professional certificate programs, which could help you catch the eye of a recruiter. Licata took a professional certificate program for coaching at New York University, for example. "There's a lot of non-matriculated programs a mid-level career changer can take to get content knowledge," she says.
It also means continuing to foster healthy relationships with your colleagues. "You've got to be building relationships your entire career," she says. "Networking is not about going to an event. It's not about just building up your LinkedIn profile. It's literally about building relationships everywhere you go, even if you don't need a job."
Additionally, if you reflect back on your previous jobs, you may find that you possess many of the skills required for a career shift, especially if it's only a slight change of course. Experts recommend identifying transferable skills. Start by reading job descriptions for your ideal roles. Take the words they use in the requirements section, particularly the soft skills, and tie them back to a few career accomplishments. Use the text in the skills section of your resume, as well as in the copy of your cover letter.
Again, the LiveCareer Resume Builder is a great way to identify your transferable skills while using precise phrasing to catch the eye of a discerning human resources department.