Editorâs note: This story was originally published in December 2018.
After 10 years in human resources at a nonprofit, Laura Niebauer Palmer figured she wouldnât have any problem finding a new HR job when she and her husband moved from Chicago to Austin, Texas.
Then she started reading the job postings â which asked for advanced training and experience with programs she didnât use â and realized her old skills werenât marketable for a new position.
âMy heart sank,â Palmer said. âI was like, âWhat am I going to do? How am I going to bridge this gap?ââ
So how is it that 10 years of experience could become a detriment rather than a strength for a job candidate?
Many longtime workers are falling behind on the skills required in rapidly changing industries, according to Alvin Nesbot, the New York City market manager for Manpower.
âPeople who are just joining the job market â maybe within the past three to five years or so â are making moves a lot faster than people who have been working for 10-plus years,â Nesbot said. âThere are those people who have worked a lot longer who have stayed in a lull and gotten stagnant.â
And itâs not just another co-worker whoâll offer the skills youâre lacking â at least, not a human one. Itâs estimated that half of the work activities companies pay people to do could be automated by 2055, according to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute.
Read on for strategies for making a change after years in the same role.
How to Make a Career Change
If youâre a bit unsure about whatâs happening outside your cubicle walls, here are five strategies for avoiding â or escaping â a dead-end job.
1. Network for a Job
Leaving your comfort zone to network may seem intimidating, but itâs a great way to find out what is going on in your industry. Itâs part of the reason itâs so important to maintain networking relationships even after you have found a job.
Being around your peers is not only helpful for finding contacts for the next job but also for discovering what credentials and terminology are becoming more prominent within your field.
If in-person networking isnât an option, consider setting up or attending Zoom events â just remember to keep your camera turned on and stay engaged in the conversation.
âYou have like-minded people to bounce ideas off,â Palmer said. âAlso, itâs very eye-opening when youâre around a bunch of people and theyâre having conversations about topics you donât really know about or are using acronyms that youâre like, âWait, what does that mean?ââ
And if the thought of a networking event makes you break out in hives, try one-on-one networking with former colleagues, Palmer suggested.
âWhat I would have done differently is definitely caught up with people who had left the company,â she said. She added that by asking about the transition to new roles, youâll get a better idea of what technology and skills are in demand outside your office.
2. Update Your Resume
If your resume touts WordPerfect expertise and includes your AOL address, itâs probably time for a resume makeover. (Also, stop wearing that sundress over a T-shirt.)
Reading your resume with a critical eye is essential for identifying skills or programs that are no longer relevant for your position, according to Nesbot.
âWhat you were doing seven to 10 years ago is not going to be relevant or as important as what is going on today,â Nesbot said. âAre there things making [your resume] look dated?â
If itâs been a couple of presidential administrations since you last updated your resume, you may want to start fresh for a new career. Hereâs a guide to writing a professional-looking resume.
Starting over doesnât mean you have to forget your past experiences. Instead, take some time to compile a comprehensive list of training and accomplishments, Nesbot suggested.
âSometimes we donât look at our resumes in a while, and we realize there are things weâve been doing that we havenât highlighted,â Nesbot said. âInclude any certifications or training that youâve done to help set you apart from any other candidate.â
Once you have your list, compare it to current job postings and craft your resume so it includes recent credentials and popular terms within your industry.
âMake sure you have buzz words that are going to stand out to whoever is reading your resume,â Nesbot said.
3. Find a Mentor
Once she got to Austin, Palmer ended up at a staffing agency looking for work. The agency placed her in a temporary three-month position to fill in for a woman on maternity leave.
Palmer used those months to take advantage of the in-house training department to connect with someone who could provide long-term career advice.
âThe biggest part that helped me develop was the mentorship that I had with my boss,â she said. âI learned so much from her; my confidence rose 100%.
âYou canât replicate that with a course.â
At the end of her temporary gig, the company offered Palmer a full-time position in the HR department.
4. Volunteer for Experience
Rather than repeating past mistakes, Palmer said, she took the opportunity at her new job to question what she really wanted in the next five or 10 years â and it turns out, it wasnât HR.
After spending some time figuring out what she really wanted to do, Palmer decidedÂ to work for free in exchange for the experience she was lacking rather than pour money into additional education.
Donât let the past dictate your future â check out this guide to rebooting your career in 2021.
âI volunteered at two organizations, and one of them specifically was something that I wouldnât have been able to land a job at because I had no experience,â Palmer said.
Because she was volunteering her time, Palmer said the organization was more willing to invest in training her for the position.
Thanks to that experience, Palmer was able to snag a part-time job at a small company. That allowed her to spend time with her young son and to write articles sharing her expertise â including some for The Penny Hoarder.
5. Apply for Jobs Before You Need One
Even if youâre happy in your job right now, it doesnât hurt to start investigating whatâs out there.
After all, the best way to discover if youâre growing or stagnating in your career is to find out if someone will hire you â and thereâs always a chance youâll find your dream job in the process, Palmer said.
You can pursue professional development on your own if youâre seeking a new career. Here are five online certifications that can help you sharpen those all-so-important soft skills.
âLook at the jobs right now and actually apply to them and go through interviewing,â Palmer said. âI donât think thereâs anything wrong with that to see where your skills are â if theyâre lining up with what is currently needed in the market.
âBut you also might land a job that you didnât even know you wanted.â
Why Youâre Not Job Hunting â But Should Be
Reevaluating your skills every few years takes some work, but the rewards are a more fulfilling career with greater chances for growth. Admittedly, that can be hard to do when youâre happy â or at least satisfied â with your current position.
Your salary and benefits might tempt you to stay put, but youâll suffer in the long run if youâre too scared to change, according to Palmer. Part of the reason she stayed at her first job for so long was the generous paid time off and health care coverage.
âItâs hard because youâre trying to balance furthering yourself but also realizing if you further yourself, youâre taking a risk,â Palmer said. â But if youâre looking to grow in your careerâ¦ you need to challenge yourself.â
Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer/editor with The Penny Hoarder. She likes all kinds of change, but pennies are her favorite.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.