Making a Career Change: Switching Industries

By Julia Harris Wexler '83TC, '14BUS, Columbia University Certified Executive Career Coach

Mid-career shifting is perhaps one of the most common, yet least researched challenges faced by our generation. Let's look at the dynamics:

1) Most professionals begin their careers after graduating college or graduate school in their mid to late 20s. Their work life will last until their early 60s to late 70s on average.

2) This 40+ year span will most likely NOT be spent dedicated to only one field/industry or career.

Since it's logical that most professionals will need to reinvent themselves in order to leverage their prior skills in preparation for taking their places in their next careers, why is this topic still such a mystery?

That's why I specialize my coaching on this exact challenge: Mid-Career Shifts.

Mid-career shifting is perhaps one of the most common, yet least researched challenges faced by our generation.

Here is the method I use when coaching clients in tackling this issue:

1) Professional Identity

The first step in figuring out the best "next" step is to fully understand your skills/assets and your underlying values. This is what will differentiate you in the market, and what you will take with you into the next stage. The package of skills/experience/assets and strengths you offer are why another organization will be interested in hiring you, regardless of whether you have current experience in this new area. You will be hired for your experience. How you communicate that piece is key. Understanding it fully is crucial. Incorporating it into your resume and LinkedIn profiles is the first step.

2) Professional Marketing Plan

Now that you know what you have to offer to the market, you must figure out where in the market the needs are the greatest. Whose problems are you going to be solving? Maximizing your options means creating an organized framework for identifying all potential options, as well as a framework for approaching the appropriate decision makers.

3) Launch!

This is the final stage: you are interviewing for positions you are excited about, and negotiating for what you need and deserve. Interview skills must be strong, and negotiating strategies must be intelligent. Your communications must be clear, professional, and authentic. The objective is professional fulfillment.


Julia Harris Wexler is a part of the Columbia Career Coaches Network—a group of over 20 accredited professional alumni career coaches who provide fee-based consulting and volunteer for the Columbia Alumni Association's free professional development programs throughout the year.

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