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Advice / Career Paths / Exploring Careers

Ask a Recruiter: Is it Too Late to Change Careers at 33?

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Dear Recruiter,

My career path took on a life of its own, one I definitely wouldn’t have chosen. When the economy took a dive in 2009, I felt like I fell into a “beggars can’t be choosers” position. Creative jobs were hard to come by or they weren’t paying much, and so I had to open myself up to positions that were in demand. That’s how I find myself doing production and product development for a small company that’s been “safe,” but by no means stimulating or satisfying.

I made the decision to stop complaining about my current situation and get moving on putting myself back into the line of work I’m excited about: PR/media.

My only problem is that most of my experience is in apparel development. The company is so small that I do wear many hats and have handled media and PR, but I’m not sure how to spin that on my resume.

My questions are, do I have a chance at 33 to break into a line of work I haven’t done in almost seven years? How can I alter my resume to make myself appealing to companies hiring for these positions?

I’m scared to jump back into the job search, so any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Job-Search Shy

Hi Job-Search Shy,

Gosh, I sure hope 33 isn’t too late. You’ve got a lot of career years ahead of you (approximately 35). Imagine if we were all trapped for that long because of some decision we made in our twenties. I’d still be using Comic Sans on my resume. Frightening!

Certainly, refocusing or changing your career in your 30s takes grit and courage. But it’s not impossible. You’ve already cleared the first, and, frequently, the hardest, hurdle by identifying what you truly want to be doing.

I mention grit because job hunting can be tough, especially when making a career or industry change. I encourage you to build a support network of people you can lean on. While I hope you never experience rejection, you likely will, and you’ll need someone to grab a coffee with who can build your confidence back up.

Before you make a career change, you’ll want to assess your savings situation. If you find yourself leaving your current job before a new one is lined up, money in the bank will give you leeway during your search, which will stop you from jumping on the first available thing—avoiding 2009 Déjà vu.

As for your specific question about tailoring your resume to show you’re the right person for the job, you’re in good shape with relevant experience, even if it’s in a “jack of all trades” capacity. Because your current title may not correlate to the roles you’re applying for, you’ll need to make sure your job descriptions are as strong as possible. Below are a few suggestions.

  • Talk the Talk: Look at job postings in the industry you’re transitioning into and use their language and keywords. A recruiter can tell when a resume was written for a different industry, and it makes it harder for us to see the fit for our needs.

  • Own It: Frame your duties as accomplishments. This article breaks down how to do that effectively. For most roles, we have a pretty good sense of what your job duties would have been, so we want to see what you’ve achieved. For example, “planned events” would be considered a job duty, whereas “raised $100,000 by selling out tickets to a 200-person charity event” is a notable stat.

  • Show Me the Numbers: Nearly any description can benefit from adding numbers. The key is to quantify your accomplishments, not just list them outright. This article offers several before and afters that’ll help you as you shape this part of your own resume.

  • Grab a Thesaurus: Showcase the specific job duties that are relevant to the job you’re applying for, and use powerful language to really hook the hiring manager. Here are 185 verbs to get you started.

  • Seek a Second Set of Eyes: Have someone in the industry look over your resume before you start sending it out. This’ll give you an insider’s perspective.

I’m confident that with a well-tailored resume, and a pocketful of determination, you’re going to land that dream job. Go get ’em tiger!

This article is part of our Ask an Expert series—a column dedicated to helping you tackle your biggest career concerns. Our experts are excited to answer all of your burning questions, and you can submit one by emailing us at editor(at)themuse(dot)com and using Ask a Real Recruiter in the subject line.

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