Identifying your career options when you’re in the middle of your career can be tricky. You probably can’t afford to start at the bottom rung of a new career ladder. So how do you explore but stay in the same salary and benefits ballpark so you can pay your mortgage?
Lattice, not Ladder
If you’re mid-career, you need to think in terms of career lattices. You’ve probably already come across this term, but if you haven’t, a lattice is a group of related jobs that make up a career. So, instead of a career ladder, in which you start at the bottom and climb the ranks to senior manager, you’ve got more of a jungle gym situation. For example, computer support specialist, data administrator, computer security specialist, and IT manager jobs are all related, but not necessarily stacked by seniority. Some moves are vertical, but some can be diagonal or horizontal.
Start exploring your current employer. Ask around discretely. Is there anyone doing work you’re curious about? See if you can introduce yourself and ask about what they do. Some companies, like this automotive company, actually market themselves as lattice organizations to potential employees.
Career Options on LinkedIn
Go to LinkedIn.com and under “My Network” go to “Find Alumni.” You’ll see a search box. Plug in your job title and then start peeking at the profiles of people who have done your job.
Or try using your dream job as a search term, and then read through the search results and see how people progressed in their career to that position. It can be so comforting. Many times you’ll see people leap from a lower position to a higher one. If they can do it, so can you.
Try Vault.com for More Options
Read through the Vault.com. This is a web site devoted to giving new graduates the lay of the land. I used it a lot when I worked at Georgetown University. But there’s another way midcareer professionals can use it.
You can remind yourself of the lay of the land in your industry and use it to give yourself a birds-eye view of what you can do. If you spring for a month-long subscription, you can explore career paths by industry. This is a great way to explore options.
Explore a New Tool
Mynextmove.org, run by the Department of Labor, is a user-friendly tool you can use to explore, and even has a category called, “I’ll know it when I see it.” You can browse by industry, your interests, and other criteria and read descriptions of jobs.
I recently had a client make a diagonal move at a nonprofit after doing some self exploration with me to pinpoint what she wanted in her next job. She’s moving on to a new job (a diagonal move in house) with a higher salary! It is possible. She had the backing of her boss, let her human resources department know exactly what she was looking for, and after a month or so, she was offered a job. It is possible, and worth exploring.