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Career Choices for Older Displaced Workers

Joel Garfinkle Career Job Coach


I recently spent a morning with an older displaced worker named Rick who was considering his career choices. He had valuable executive experience, but it was in an industry that has all but disappeared in the United States. Here's what he had to say:

I put 25 years in at Inland Steel. I watched them offshore solid, middle class jobs to India. Then I watched the Indians swoop in and buy the company itself. Most of my subordinates were in other countries, and suddenly most of my superiors were, too. They assured me I still had a job, but then woke up one morning, and it was gone. So was the entire steel industry. All gone.

Many skilled workers with 20 or 30 years in the job market feel overwhelmed when faced with embarking on what amounts to a new career. Significant change always takes courage and effort—and sometimes even a little help—but career change options definitely exist. Here's a list of possible career change choices, specifically focused on older displaced workers with professional and/or executive experience:

Seven Career Choices for Displaced Workers:

  1. Nonprofit Organizations: The charities that champion important causes need skilled executives just like any other company. Unfortunately, while the work is rewarding, it doesn't usually compare to top corporate compensation. Still, displaced workers may find new meaning in their career by working with underprivileged populations or promoting important causes. Nonprofit organizations are also likely to value the experience and wisdom that experienced professionals bring to the table.
  2. Store Managers: While many large retail companies hire internally for general manager positions, most are willing to look outside the company for assistant managers. Store manager positions require a skill set similar to that of anyone who has led a team of professionals or managed an extensive project. Store manager positions at large retail locations can also pay surprisingly well and almost always come with decent benefits packages.
  3. Management Consulting: Most experienced professionals—and executives in particular—have much to offer in the way of management experience. Management consulting is also a growing niche. Economists at the US Bureau of Labor Statistics project that the field will experience 24% job growth over the next 10 years. Even better, there are already a number of established management consulting firms, meaning you don't have to start a practice from scratch.
  4. Government Analysts: The federal government hires thousands of professionals from virtually every field in existence to work as industry analysts and experts. The jobs rarely pay as well as executive positions in big cities, but they still offer a secure income, generous benefit packages, and often rewarding work. Such positions can also be great networking opportunities and may introduce you to some of your field's leading minds.
  5. Adjunct Professors: As universities and community colleges around the country move away from hiring tenured academic staff, the opportunities are growing for skilled professionals to break into academia. The number of American undergraduate and graduate students is on the rise, and many of them are taking business courses. Thousands of jobs are available for professionals with graduate degrees (doctorates rarely necessary) to usher in the next generation of America's leaders.
  6. Systems Analysts: Corporations and governments value professionals who can bring a computer programmer's algorithmic thinking to bear on complex business practices. Any executive who has managed supply chains or large-scale projects understands how to break a business process down into its component parts and develop strategies for improvement. Systems analysts should expect reasonable pay and healthy job growth (20%) over the next 10 years.
  7. Business Development: If you've ever run a successful business division or substantially grown sales, then you have what it takes to be a business development director. A business development director's job is all about designing processes and campaigns to bring in new clients, keep customers happy, improve the sales process, and increase market share. Even better, business development directors often cross industry boundaries.       

Displaced workers should remember that even though their particular industry may be on the way out, the business and professional skills they've developed are valuable to a wide range of businesses and other institutions. What's most important is that these workers rebrand themselves, maintain hope, recognize that career change options do exist, and express confidence as they tailor their resumes to potential employers.

Looking for more tips for a career change? Contact Joel today to check out his employee outplacement services.