Career Change at Midlife


Martin Yate By Martin Yate March 7, 2017
Career Change at Midlife

​Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column.  

I'm turning 50! This milestone birthday holds many promises, but I am also facing a not-so-unheard-of challenge: the midlife career change.

I am a veteran career technical education instructor with over a decade of experience in my vocation. I hold a master's degree in education, a Massachusetts vocational teacher license and a bachelor's degree in marketing. I logged nine years in one very large, urban school district, then accepted a position teaching at my alma mater, a regional school also serving primarily urban students. Two years later (this past June), I found myself without tenure and caught up in a schoolwide reorganization that resulted in the merger of my program—marketing—with a similar program—business technology. As union rules dictate, last in is first out, and I lost my job.

My job search has made it clear that overall, there are few teaching opportunities in my field of expertise (unlike in the core academic subjects; however, there are very few spots in my field as schools shave their budgets). So, it looks like after one decade as a stay-at-home mom and the next decade as a secondary teacher, I will be re-entering the private sector.

One area of business that has always held my interest is human resource management. I recently joined SHRM and completed the HR Essentials course. I understand that with my credentials, once I attain one year of professional employment in HR, I can sit for the SHRM-CP exam.

My question is, how do I get my foot in the door? I believe my skills are best suited for a position in recruiting. I have been reluctant to make too many changes to my LinkedIn profile, however, and right now it basically screams out "teacher."

I could really use some advice. I set a mental benchmark to assertively change paths at the beginning of the year.


Now if there is one place within HR that offers the easiest entry, it is probably recruitment. A first step would be to research recruitment tactics. I started my professional life as a Silicon Valley headhunter, and when I became a writer, I reworked those tactics for individuals to use in a job search. For example, everything you read in Knock 'Em Dead: The Ultimate Job Search Guide 2017 (Adams Media, 2016) is based on common sense recruitment practices. In your situation it will help in two ways: getting your job search up to speed and educating yourself on how to talk intelligently about effective recruitment practices.

You should next research how companies define the responsibilities of an HR recruiter by examining job ads. It is also helpful to have an understanding of what the companies that you want to work for do and the industry sector to which they belong. Then cross-reference people who work or have worked at those companies through LinkedIn searches, and get a feeling for the skills and background of the recruiters who work in similar jobs.

Look at those recruitment job postings, then look at your background for ways to translate your skills to match their requirements. Additionally, you can argue that your years of experience are a bonus because your maturity can indicate that you are more sophisticated and are comfortable dealing with higher-level professionals.

As a recruiter, you will be involved in prescreening, so you should also check out Hiring the Best: Proven Tactics for Successful Employee Selection, Seventh Edition (Adams Media, 2014), which will bring you up to speed on employment selection practices and tactics. With these angles of attack, you should be well-primed for any interview for a recruitment job.

I want to make one last suggestion. There is also the option of working for an employment agency or headhunting company, which, while performance-based, potentially has a far greater financial upside. If I were in your shoes, I would give this some careful consideration.

In any case, look for stable industry sectors and make good contacts so that five years down the road you have the option of opening your own business, because that is where the only true financial security in life lies—in making money for yourself.

Have a question for Martin? E-mail your queries to We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know. We look forward to hearing from you!

Was this article useful? SHRM offers thousands of tools, templates and other exclusive member benefits, including compliance updates, sample policies, HR expert advice, education discounts, a growing online member community and much more. Join/Renew Now and let SHRM help you work smarter. 


Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You
Search Jobs


Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies

Search & Connect

HR Daily Newsletter

News, trends and analysis, as well as breaking news alerts, to help HR professionals do their jobs better each business day.