Dear Sam: I enjoy reading your advice column. Your column made me want to write to you because I feel I’m in a slight bind. I’m feeling bored and unmotivated at work, the job pays well, but most of my time is spent looking at computer monitors all day. When I was younger, I obtained a graphic design certificate but never pursued it as a career. I love art and design, it motivates me, and I would love to be a full-time artist. I think I need a career change, but I’m not sure what to do. Any advice? – Anonymous
Dear Anonymous: I understand your situation. It can be very challenging when you have carved out a niche for your career but deep down really feel compelled to be doing something different. Given your day-to-day work’s analytical nature, compared to the creative drive you possess, I can see the struggle you must be facing.
Have you thought about building your graphic design or art portfolio through freelance work or volunteer engagements? That’s a great way to build a portfolio and update your skills. I work with many clients who want to do something “different” in their career, and “different” doesn’t always have to be the complete opposite of what you are doing now. Perhaps just changing companies or industries, yet still engaging in similar analytical work, but freelancing on the side, would fulfill both your need to earn a paycheck and your desire to be more artistically engaged. You will want to evaluate what type of position you feel you would like to transition into and review those opportunities to gain a sense of how qualified you are for those roles, given the lack of recent experience in the design arena. It may make the most sense to transition into an organization with opportunities for you to diversify your contributions beyond what you are doing now, hopefully with a path to getting into the more creative arena you seek. Also, start networking in that community by joining online forums or attending local association meetings to gain a sense of the design industry in 2021. I hope you find what you are looking for.
Dear Sam: I am a 54-year-old Administrative Assistant who was laid off last August. I have had several phone and in-person interviews during this time; however, I have not received a job offer. Even though the employers won’t tell you, I feel my age has been a factor in my unemployment. Do you know of any organizations or employment agencies that specifically help people over 50? I really need to find a job soon. – Marge
Dear Marge: I am so sorry to hear you have struggled in securing employment. Here in my area of the country, an organization called Employment for Seniors works exclusively with candidates 50 years of age and older. I am sure there would be similar nonprofit organizations in your area, but you really would not need to connect with one that only specialized in supporting more seasoned candidates given you are on the younger end of the “senior” spectrum, and as you possess very strong career experiences with limited other potential disqualifiers.
Rather than point to your age as the key factor for your unemployment, I would argue that—as you are only presenting 20 years of experience on your resume—your resume is not dating you unnecessarily and therefore is not giving away your age. Now I know you mentioned not receiving job offers after an in-person interview, but I have to say that there is so much room for improvement on your resume that perhaps potential employers could not “see” the value your years of experience were going to yield.
Focus on reshaping your candidacy on paper, utilizing best practices in presenting both responsibilities and accomplishments—check out my website for content and design ideas—and create a more value-added presentation of your background. You might not realize that by presenting outdated technologies, a high school diploma, and multiple fragmented three-to-five-word bullet points, you are not painting the picture of you being a technically savvy, up-to-date, and skilled administrative specialist. Work on this—and brush up your interviewing skills—and I am confident you will receive more interest, interviews, and offers.