The challenge that any career-changer has is landing that first job
When I was in yeshivah, my parents insisted I get an accounting degree, even though my plan was to start off in kollel. After I got married, I continued to learn while my wife completed her schooling and became a full-time pharmacist. It’s been over ten years now, and it always just made more sense for me to be on call for the kids as our family grew. At this point, I’m 36, and we need a second income, but with no accounting experience, I’m having a hard time even getting interviews. Any advice?
Have you ever paid for an all-you-can-eat buffet and eaten way more than you should have, because you wanted to get your money’s worth?
Or seen someone pouring more money into a failing business? These are examples of what economists call the “sunk-cost fallacy.” In your case, I wonder if your degree is blurring your current needs. Just because something was an excellent decision in the past doesn’t mean it’s still right for the present.
Let’s try putting aside the past and focusing on the present. Perhaps we would rephrase your question to something more like this:
“I’m in my mid-thirties and have zero work experience. My wife has built a successful full-time career, which has led me to carry a lot more of the child care and household roles in our home. Right now, I’m ready to embark on a career. Where do I get started?”
That’s an excellent question!
Maybe your original plan, accounting, is the right choice. If so, then you’re in the same boat as anyone else who decides to transition careers in their mid-thirties. You’ve had what sounds like a successful career as a parent and kollel student and are now ready to embark on a new profession (although I hope you maintain your first career successfully as well!).
The challenge that any career-changer has is landing that first job. The trick is putting the timeline aside and presenting like any entry-level candidate in a new profession would — both mentally and on your résumé. If you’re willing and able to accept an entry-level salary, there are many businesses open to hiring someone with life experience.
It’s also quite likely that a career as an accountant isn’t the right answer — and maybe it never was, based on what you shared about how you made that career choice. Luckily, as your parents may have told you then, your education in accounting will be beneficial in almost any career and is certainly a résumé booster in almost every case.
The factors in your career choice now are very different than they were in the past. It seems like you now need to consider variables like car pool, child care, and family life. Your earning needs may also be different than anticipated, as you’re starting off as a secondary breadwinner. Best of all, the options for virtual education and learning have also expanded incredibly since your initial career decision.
If you will maintain the role of being the on-call parent, flexibility is probably the first factor you need in a job. Next, consider your personality type, as well as areas of interest and natural talent. Then, the fun part is narrowing it down until you’re left with the most realistic options.
You’re right that it’s challenging to land interviews without work experience in your thirties. Once you’ve chosen a career direction, I strongly recommend freelancing in your field as a way of creating your own experience.
Remember, the last decade’s lesson to you just may be: You can plan all you want, but G-d has a plan for you. Follow it one step at a time, and you’ll end up exactly where you’re supposed to be.
Shaina Keren is a career consultant who helps people discover and create careers that fit their best talents, interests, and life goals. She also advises businesses on hiring and keeping “the right people in the right seat,” in a win-win approach to growing businesses and careers.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 930)
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