Workplace Experience

Midlife Career Change

We have coached many people from all walks of life through midlife career changes in different companies and in our personal career coaching practice. Eventually we came to a standard template that works for most people thinking of changing careers.

The key issue we found is that many people think they are their jobs. When asked them who they are and most people answered I am a “Doctor”, I am an “IT Professional”, or “I am a Teacher” they in some way link their person to their job or their last qualification.

The specific work you feel you can do the best or want to do the best defines who you are. For example, a project manager answered I am an accountant 20 years ago.

During a midlife career change, it is critical that you know what kind of work you want to do more of and what kind of work you want to do less of.

Exploring what you want to do less of and more of in your new career

If you are clear on exactly what you want, it becomes easy to communicate your “Career Change Message” to the right place and the right people. With a clear message, you can make smooth transition in a midlife career change. You have years of work experience and abilities and these skills are worth much to companies. Even though your current work experience might not overlap 100% with your new direction, your skills and workplace experience is still worth gold.

If you are planning a midlife career change, it is very important to get the exact job you want in the precise industry of your choice and in the geographical area, you want to work. The chances that you will make a major career change again later in your life are small, which makes the career change choices you make now incredibly important.

Remember you are the only steward of your work life, what you do and what you earn. No one else really cares.

Let us begin to get clarity on your mid life career change

First, let me ask you a very important question.

Do you believe you have a choice? It is extremely important you absolutely believe you have choices, be confident in yourself and your life experience. To make a midlife career change is a major move; you need to get your mind in the right place. Your confidence will shine though in everything you do from here on forward.

We truly live in the best time ever in access to knowledge, communication and travel resources.

Now let us follow a process to gain that critical clarity in your communication on the industry and the work you want. Clarity is vital in middle-life career changes.

  1. Which industry do you enjoy working in? Identify the products, services, development, people and the contribution you will make. Be sufficiently clear and be ready to adapt your message with input from others in friends, family and colleagues. Once you are clear on where you want to go, you must clearly communicate how the company, division, team, suppliers and clients you want to join and serve will benefit.
  2. Communicate your message to people you know and ask them to send it to people they know. Identify and engage key people in the company, team of division you want to join. Be clear how the company, division, suppliers and clients will benefit.
  3. Be visible and get involved, engage in the places and work you want to do.

About career change and resumes

Too many people hope their resumes will find work for them. Your resume is important, but it is much more important to be clear on what you want. Before you start writing your resume, get your story straight, know what kind of work you want and be 100% sure in which industry you want to work.

Notes for midlife career changers:

  • Be flexible on starting salary and expectations of compensation for work done.
  • Communicate the work you did before, during and after the tasks above.

Useful tools for career changes:

  • Do a sweep of what you know and who you know.
  • Do a sweep of what is in your diary that does not belong there and say no to the things that does not move you forward.
  • Search for what should be in your diary and schedule it.

Key questions

  • Why is a job-shadowing contract necessary?
  • What is in a job-shadowing contract?
  • How do you become useful in the workplace?
  • What is a Learnership?

2.1 Introduction

As career guide, you must show prospective job seekers how they can go to work with people who are successful in their area of interest. Now each one can get work experience on their CV.  The same goes for when the career seeker is already working and wants to gain more skills. They must do their own work quickly, come to an agreement with their supervisor and do work with the person they want to learn from.  You have already covered a bit on workplace experience in PCAR04Y, Unit 3.3, so you understand why workplace experience is so important.

The working person that the career seeker wants to learn from does not always know what is expected of them or they are not in the possession of mentoring skills.  You will be provided with some guidelines on writing a short letter that will help the working person in this regard.  Read about this in the next section.

Your goal is to tutor the career seeker on how to be useful in order to learn and gain experience. The career seeker will become useful by experiencing observing, reflecting and then practicing through doing, under tutelage of the working person.  If you are at all unsure what volunteering, reflecting and observing entails please use google.com and wikipedia.org for further information. There is a brief summary in Section 2.3.

Most people who go shadowing can be paid when they do a good job and the company decides to pay for work done. Remind the career seekers to inform their supervisors and ask advice from people around them. It will increase the learning experience and also increase the chances of them getting paid. Many should gain employment as part of Learnerships since the people at the company know the person and propose or support their application.  We will discuss Learnerships in Section 2.4.

PCAR053, Unit 2, Activity 1

  1. Look at the following concepts on the Internet:
  2. A total high school program as on Wikipedia
  3. Extern-ship (or a experiential learning activity) There are externships examples for most careers on the web. In an externship, you go to work with people, to gain work skills in an informal way.
  4. Search the web for suitable examples for your area or the specific career seeker.
  5. Give two examples on your Career library!
  6. Capture your personal experiences and discoveries on your Blog.
  7. Record your experiences while completing the above activities in your MiCareer Book as part of your assignments.

Feedback:

The web gives access to many of these examples. The originators of these programs may even communicate directly with you on your request. Expand your access to resources by joining these web sites where they allow you to do so.

Click on the following link to view a brief story of another career seeker.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iIsb67-j7s Listen to Linky, a Siwelane-Community Activist. She became involved in a skills development project that helped her and her daughter on their career paths.

2.2 The job-shadowing contract

We offer some sample clauses to get the career seekers and career growers going with regards to requesting work access.

  • I am in a career access and growth program. The jobs and the economy grow as more people get productive. I would like to join the productive people like you and help grow my family, community, and country.
  • I want to shadow you at work to gain work experience.
  • I commit to help where I can and do as I am told.
  • I understand that this is not employment or an interview in any way.
  • I am exchanging value with you and can do other tasks for you in exchange for observing and learning.
  • I commit to share with others directly and on the web where practical what and how I learned. It grows the online career library for the whole country.
  • Would you please help me to reflect what I observed to ensure that I grasp and understand what I learn?
  • I am a mentee who drives my learning processes. As mentor, you should benefit from the exchange since I learn from you. I compensate you by the value exchange method. We do it everyday at home.
  • Inform supervisors and Human resources that you are shadowing.

PCAR053, Unit 2, Activity 2

  1. Discuss the above clauses of a possible contract with career seekers and career growers. Ensure they can explain their objectives with confidence.
  2. Capture your personal experiences and discoveries on your Blog.
  3. Record your experiences while completing the above activities in your MiCareer Book as part of your assignments.

Feedback:

A short letter to the working person will help him/her and the career seeker or grower. Work these clauses into the letter.  This will serve as a possible contract.  Clear communications and setting out of rules will prevent the person being shadowed from feeling threatened or stolen from. Both parties know why they are there and both know their place. This decreases the room for misunderstanding and disappointment.

2.3 Observation, reflection and practice

Ask the career seeker to remember their exploration and observations from their own personality traits in PCAR01V Unit 2 and careers in PCAR01V Unit 6.  Ask them to apply the same process of exploration and observation during job shadowing.  Help the career seekers / growers to continue exploring and discovering their strengths and weaknesses.  The job shadowing is an ideal opportunity for that. See Tutorial letter PCAR01V/103/2008

Observe how people in the workplace do their work, and simply mimic them to practice the same skills.  This way you will learn new skills very fast.

2.4 Learnerships

Go to SAQA’s website for a definition of and information on Learnerships.

SAQA’s mission is to ensure the development and implementation of a National Qualifications Framework (NQF) which contributes to the full development of each learner and to the social and economic development of the nation at large. The learnership campaign is therefore one of the processes that will ensure that SAQA’s commitment is seen to be a vital component of learnerships now and in the future.

Learnerships are defined as the new professional and vocational education and training programmes. They combine theory and practice and culminate in a qualification that is registered on the NQF. A person who successfully completes a learnership will have a qualification that signals occupational competence and which is recognised throughout the country.

To read more on SAQA’s website go to the “focus area” drop down menu and click on learnerships.

Also, read all about learnerships on the skills portal.

Scroll down to the table called: Learnerships: The A to Z. The following topics are covered there:
What is a learnership?
What makes a learnership different?
What are the principles of learnerships?
How is a learnership program developed?
How are learnerships implemented?
How are learnerships financed?
How are learnerships delivered?
How are learnerships assessed?
A to Z courtesy of CPT Learnership Development

Find any learnership on The Skills Portal’s online learnerships database.

You will notice that a learnership can only be done through a specific SETA.  And all of the SETA’s has their way of doing a learnership.  That is why you must contact the specific SETA applicable to your career seeker, who is interested in a learnership.  For example, if your career seeker is interested in becoming a food technologist, they will find a suitable learnership with the Foodbev setaThe service seta also has a very good explanation on learnerships.

To find all the SETA’s, go back to http://www.saqa.org.za/ and click on the “Accredited Education & Training Quality Assurance bodies” button on the left of the screen.  You will now find all the names of the SETA’s and links to their websites.

PCAR053, Unit 2, Activity 3

  1. Study the above websites on learnerships.  Take one of your career seekers and see if you can find a learnership for that person.
  2. Capture your personal experiences and discoveries on your Blog.
  3. Record your experiences while completing the above activities in your MiCareer Book as part of your assignments.

Feedback:

Try staying up to date with news about skills development and the service seta’s on The Skills Portal home page.  The more you read about this topic the easier it will become to understand.  The day that you need to help a career seeker with learnerships, you can go and speak to the specific SETA.  They will give you good guidelines on what to do and where to go!  Remember, that is what they are there for, so feel free to make use of that service!

2.6 Conclusion

In this unit, you have learnt how the career seeker can benefit from doing some form of job shadowing.  By just observing experts in the workplace, mimicking them and practicing what you see, you can learn a lot.  Motivate your career seeker to keep on moving and speaking to experts.  This is the only way they will find their passion and find resources to live their passion.

We congratulate you on moving on to the next unit where you share your experiences with career seekers and interested community members, in the workshop.  Remember, as in the previous assignment (of Module 4), the workshop contact will start growing your career guidance network and future business.