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Kay: Tips on returning to an old career

By the time you’ve been out of work six months or more, your mind starts playing tricks on you.

The past starts looking pretty darn good and you forget how much you hated the first 15 years of your career and conclude with almighty certainty that you really did like purchasing. Or that being in information technology wasn’t so bad after all. Before you know it, you’ve convinced yourself that you should go back to your previous, lackluster career.

That might be. Or you could be falling for the when-all-else-fails-go-back-to-the-past strategy.

I keep meeting more and more people banking on former careers they left years ago as a new and improved place to hang their hat for the next decade or so. Many reason that, “I just need something secure for the next 10 or so years.”

If that is what’s making you nostalgic for the past, better rethink your plan.

First, you don’t want to end up miserable again. Second, it’s not necessarily an easy sell. Obviously you will have to answer sticky questions from potential employers about your change of heart. They will also compare you to newly minted graduates eager to jump in. How can you beat that? If a return to the past is truly what you want, you need a three-pronged approach to be a serious contender:

-Anticipate employers’ objections.

It’s only natural for an employer to probe. So expect to hear questions like, why after ten or more years, do you want to go back to what you did before? Why did you leave the field in the first place? And, if you’ve held management or leadership positions, why do you want to give it up?

You can bring up their concerns before they do: “You might be wondering why I want to get back into accounting…” Then give your well-thought-out response that explains your new career objective.

One of my clients who had been in information technology ten years before becoming a teacher explained how, even as a teacher his focus had been on helping students understand and use technology — a subject he loved. Now he wanted to apply his teaching skills to help adults understand technology by working in a customer support role. It’s a logical step, and he also had a story to tell.

- Explain how you’re up to speed and will keep up to date.

If you’ve been out of the field for years, you need to be up on the latest and greatest processes, issues the industry faces, as well as required skills. So be ready to explain how you’ve done that. What training have you taken? What do you read to stay abreast? Be prepared to talk about how you’ll stay ahead of the curve.

- Explain what has reignited your interest and why you’re excited about the work.

Employers can smell it if your heart’s not in it. How will you explain your renewed interest in a field you haven’t worked in for years? What is it about the work that you can’t wait to do again? What has happened in the last ten years that might add to your value in this new direction? How do you see yourself developing in this field?

If you can’t seem to come up with a story that you believe with all your heart, how can you convince someone else? In that case, perhaps heading back to your past is not the best plan for moving forward.

Andrea Kay is the author of “Life’s a Bitch and Then You Change Careers: 9 Steps to Get Out of Your Funk and On To Your Future.” Send questions to her at 2692 Madison Road, No. 133, Cincinnati, Ohio 45208; www.andreakay.com. E-mail: andrea@andreakay.com

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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