Lessons from a Mid-Career Job Search

By Janine Sheehan on

Looking for a new job in the middle of your career is a special kind of ego-testing endeavor. I’m quite familiar. I just went through it.

If you have 15-20 years’ experience and are in the throes of a job search, I don’t have to tell you that it’s tough. Why do companies not get back to you? Why do you meet with so many people so many times? Where do these online applications go? It seems pretty clear that it’s into the ether.

I’m now in a new role that I love at a creative and marketing recruiting firm where, fortuitously, we provide insights and tips to jobseekers.

So, here are a few things I learned during my mid-career job search in the not-so-distant past.

Use the internet for research, not job applications.

I spent a fair amount of time looking for jobs on the internet and submitting my resume into a black hole of online job portals. If I could go back and do it again, I would reserve my time on the internet for researching companies and positions only.

Network on LinkedIn.

When we hear about networking to find a job, we sometimes still think of industry breakfasts and after-hours mixers. For me, networking was most successful when I connected with people who worked where I wanted to work. I would either reach out directly to someone I knew at the company or I would ask for an introduction. LinkedIn is a great tool for both.

Take a class.

I knew that I wanted to make a career change, so I took a course in digital and social media marketing. But even if you’re not changing industries, take a class if you know there are skills that would bolster what you bring to the table. For instance, if speaking to a room full of people is not your favorite thing, a presentation class might be worthwhile. 

Find the right recruiter.

There are a lot of recruiters. And they won’t all be the right fit for you. But a great recruiter can be a real sounding board and guide in your search. They can mentor you, help you stay focused and even be a listening ear during frustrating times. It’s worth the effort to seek out a good one.

Perfect your prep.

A few months into my job search, I started really studying job descriptions—noting how many times certain requirements were mentioned and the prioritization of skills. I then took the time, on my resume and interviews, to align my attributes and skills with a role’s must-haves.

Learn from mistakes.

I interviewed a lot. And as we all know, interviewing is a skill that gets rusty. So, practice. Practice at home, practice with a friend, practice aloud by yourself if need be. And if you don’t have a particularly great day on the interview circuit, learn from it, apply any mistakes to your next interview, and keep it moving.

Know what you want and what you can do.

When we embark on a job search, it typically means that we’re ready to go. We just don’t always know where. Take the time at the start of your search to identify what you want and what you can do. It will narrow your focus, expedite your process, and increase the likelihood of landing a job where you’ll thrive.