I Lost My Job. I’m Middle Aged. What Now?
November 15, 2022 9:12 AM   Subscribe

I just lost my job after a decade with the company. I now have to figure out what’s next. Details inside

I was let go of my job of the last decade plus. It wasn’t something that I expected. I was making slightly less than six figures. I don’t have a college degree and am in the position of trying to figure out my next step. I have the luxury of taking a little bit of time to look for a job. I have savings and unemployment too.
I was working in sales and I’m not sure that I want to return to that. I’d like to find something where I can make a similar amount of money, but have a good work/life balance. Some questions / concerns:
I don’t know where to start. What resources/tests are there to figure out what fields may be a good fit?
Are they any fields that are looking for someone in their forties?
Which fields or trades are “future proof” and pay well that have don’t require years of schooling? Medical field? Computers? I’ve even open to something that will pay me while I’m learning or training?

I’ve been out of the job market for well over a decade and I’m not even sure what the current best sites are to search for unemployment. Are headhunters still a thing?

I’m not sure if marijuana is still an issue with most employers (I’m in a legal, liberal state). What job opportunities are there in that field?

Thank you in advance
posted by IWantAnswers to Work & Money (15 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
You're starting from an incredibly broad view, which may invite way too much uncertainty and lack of progress in any specific direction. I'd encourage you to start with a focus and then expand from there.

What are you good at? What do you enjoy? Ask a few friends or coworkers (get a variety, not from the same group) what they feel you are good at - you may be surprised. Don't discount their observations.

Places that are hiring are looking for a specific problem/task to be solved/handled by this new hire. They aren't looking for a generic someone in their forties who used to be in sales. You will need to first identify what types of problems/tasks are out there that you could do, then sculpt your professional story to demonstrate how you'd be a great person to solve/handle these things. Once you're in, doing the job, you can have some breathing room to explore adjacent skills/roles in that same field, and then move around as you learn and demonstrate.

You likely will not find a headhunter that will work on your behalf to find you a job, unless you are an executive. Most of the recruiters are working for or on commission by the company that's doing the hiring. I'd recommend identifying a few fields of interest, finding recruiting agencies that work in that space, then reach out and have a conversation about what they're looking for and how you might be a fit. If you get a decent recruiter they will point you and your resume in some good directions.

Otherwise, there are many career coaches out there. Some are good, some are not, it can be hard to tell which is which. Don't go throwing lots of money at them, without due diligence and ideally some free consultations.

Shoot me a message if you'd like more specific advice!
posted by Diddly at 9:46 AM on November 15, 2022 [6 favorites]

I’m not even sure what the current best sites are to search for unemployment.

LinkedIn or Indeed.
posted by AndrewInDC at 9:48 AM on November 15, 2022 [7 favorites]

Everyone is searching for candidates on LinkedIn. If you don't have a profile, go make one. Request connections from anyone you've ever worked with, present or past. But don't go overboard and connect to strangers (or even recruiters). Make sure it's people you actually know on a first name basis.

Once you're connected, go look at their profiles and mimic what they have. Put everything and anything you've ever done into your profile. Make it longer than your resume. Set your permissions wide open and turn on the "looking for work" settings.

There's a lot more to do after this, but get this started ASAP. You are not too old to do this, trust me. This how everyone is finding work right now.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:52 AM on November 15, 2022 [12 favorites]

Definitely need more info about your past experience to see what you could pivot to. What kind of product were you selling? Were you at management or other level or title?
posted by Unsomnambulist at 9:54 AM on November 15, 2022

Changing careers without an income hit is hard at any age. It's really hard if you are near or past age 50. Why would some company hire you to be a project manager or analyst or whatever when they can hire a 30 year old with 5 years experience doing that job? That's not a dig - you have to have a kick ass answer to that question f you expect to be successful in changing careers. Look at it this way since you are in sales now - your job is to sell yourself. What benefits can you deliver that the competition for any given job can't?

Sales is about as future proof a job category as you will find. No matter what, somebody has to sell something if a company is going to stay in business and its employees are going to have jobs. Also, I think there is less age discrimination in sales. If you can produce revenue somebody will give you a job, or you can make your own job if needed.

The path of least resistance is to stick with sales. If you really want to try something new that is fine, just be prepared for a significant income hit up front, and a lot of potential frustration. My friends who have changed careers post age 50 have done so involuntarily when they could not get a new job in their career field. Or they went entrepreneurial and opened a franchise or something like that, again often because they couldn't find anybody that would hire them.

It sucks, but it's reality. One reason I've stayed in tech sales (I'll be 55 on Friday) is that I can make good money, work life balance is generally good (if you are doing well nobody cares if you shut down at 3 PM on summer Fridays), and I can always find another job because money talks, and I can document exactly what I sold for other shops in the industry and thus what they can expect me to sell for them.

Good luck - it all starts with a solid sales plan for yourself, just as it would for whatever you were selling in your previous job. A good career coach can probably help you answer the "why hire me" question, but I have no advice to offer on how to find a good one.
posted by COD at 10:04 AM on November 15, 2022 [7 favorites]

Just popping in to say that this happened to me a few years ago--dept eliminated after I'd been with company for nearly 20 years--and YOU CAN DO THIS. It's not easy but you have a lot going for you in that you have savings and unemployment. I found a job I really enjoy now and you can, too.
See if you can access JobNow/BrainFuse through your public library. It has a ton of resources for job seekers, including resume and interviewing help, interest inventories, etc. It's free with your library card if your library subscribes. It might be a good place to start exploring what's next.
posted by bookmammal at 10:44 AM on November 15, 2022 [4 favorites]

If you are wanting to make a career change - different sector, different field - expect a job search to take longer. You really need to work to explain how your past experience will translate into a different field. A good career coach can help you identify your strengths and work with you to tell your story.

You might have to think about taking a transition job that you stay in for 6 months to a year or more while you position yourself for the next step. If there is a field you're interested in, see if there are ways to volunteer to get yourself some exposure, experience, and connections in that area.

Start thinking about cutting as much discretionary spending as you can to make your savings last. That will help you not make decisions out of desperation.
posted by brookeb at 11:04 AM on November 15, 2022

If you are in the U.S., take a look at your local job seeking resources available to you through American Job Centers, coordinated by the U.S. Department of Labor.
posted by needled at 11:13 AM on November 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

Do any of the supporting sales functions like sales enablement, sales training, sales engineering, sales data analysis or sales operations interest you? Those kinds of roles require someone who understands the job spec and mindset of sales people, so a sales background is super useful, but it's not usually as high-stress as roles with targets attached.

I've also seen folks from sales backgrounds transition really successfully into customer success roles.
posted by terretu at 12:29 PM on November 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

I’m not sure if marijuana is still an issue with most employers (I’m in a legal, liberal state).

In a state where weed is legal, the best rule to follow is Don’t Come To Work Stoned. It’s a lot like alcohol, really. Coming to work under any influence is simply not something one should do, and would be cause for dismissal should it be seen as affecting your work or your coworkers. Obviously, this can vary according to the particular job and/or industry.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:17 PM on November 15, 2022

Ask A Manager (the website) has much advice for people wanting to transition to a new working situation, resume and cover letter advice (and examples), interview prep, etc…
posted by kabong the wiser at 2:32 PM on November 15, 2022 [3 favorites]

Have you thought about working IN the cannabis industry? If I were you I would look at sales roles in cannabis.
posted by coldbabyshrimp at 3:49 PM on November 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

Have you thought about working IN the cannabis industry? If I were you I would look at sales roles in cannabis.

I’d add to this; the OP doesn’t mention what state he is in (although I surmise he is American) — Canada legalized cannabis about five years ago and it’s a growth industry here. There may be a bubble burst at some stage but it’s not uncommon right now to see two or three retail outlets for it in a single block of commercial zoning. A few stores have closed over the pandemic era, but seemingly fewer than pretty much any other type of business: they seem more durable.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:00 AM on November 16, 2022

In August there was an Ask A Manager thread about fields that are going through hiring booms, that might be helpful for brainstorming new career ideas. Some good conversations about how to move into the fields, what qualifications are needed, and so on.
posted by EllaEm at 6:51 AM on November 16, 2022

Don't forget the public sector. I worked for a transit agency (BART) starting in my early 40s--was switching from working in consumer product marketing in software and publishing. We had customer-facing jobs (both in-person and phone) and having a college degree was not at all necessary.

There are a few reasons this might make sense:

1. The jobs are usually Union and you have allies as you grow older to keep you from being fired simply because you are older. As a bonus result, older employees are valued and respected.

2. You are paid a living wage and have the opportunity to work overtime to increase that amount. You also are usually placed on a track where you get regular salary increases, retirement savings, full and usually excellent health benefits that may extend into retirement when you are ready. (When I moved from the private sector I took a pay cut but with the regular raises, promotions, etc. I soon was making more than I ever had).

3. Yes, the public-facing jobs mean you get verbal and even physical abuse sometimes, but your fellow employees have your back and will come to your aid and support you. You also have the opportunity to make someone's day, help a person who is in an unhappy place and even save someone's life.

4. People with sales experience are valued for these customer service jobs.

Good luck on your search.
posted by agatha_magatha at 9:40 AM on November 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

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