Insight Blog

Mid-Career Candidates: Taking the Next Leap

Mid-Career Candidates: Taking the Next Leap

Even with 15-20 years of experience under your belt, interviewing for your next role can be a daunting proposition. With the majority of our candidates being in the mid-career phase, we are very familiar with your likely motivations and concerns surrounding a career change, and what you need to demonstrate to prospective employers.

Search Consultants Jim Lord (Executive Director, Northeast), Marc Datz (Regional Manager, Midwest), and Wendy Zang (Managing Consultant) represent clients in all of Helbling’s core sectors of facilities managementarchitecture, engineering, and construction; and real estate development. Here, they weigh in with their advice on how to make that next leap in your career.

Zang: “Mid-career professionals continue to rise in the ranks of management, and soft skills are always a must. Lots of people have the technical know-how to run a team or lead a project, but having the communication skills and emotional intelligence to connect with, lead, and influence people is essential. I don't think you can underestimate the importance of enthusiasm either. As Henry Ford said, 'Enthusiasm is at the bottom of all progress!'

I'm all about exploring an opportunity, making open communication and transparency critical during interviews. You have to go into an interview with the right mindset. Many people think of interviews as opportunities to sell themselves, which is true. But, it's more beneficial to consider interviews as opportunities for exploration - on both sides. This is a time for you to think about whether or not a company and position is a fit, and a chance for the potential employer to learn if you are a good fit for the company. That can only be accomplished if both parties come to the table with transparency, and have honest and open conversations about themselves, the organization, and the role. Typically, mid- career candidates, like you, aren’t just looking at compensation or a title change. They want to feel like they belong in an organization; they want to share the same values with their co-workers.

Your technical fit for a job can usually be assessed from your resume and some basic screening questions. What’s harder for employers to understand is the ‘why.’ Why are you interested in the role? What is it that drives you? What are you passionate about? People who are genuinely motivated because of the substance of a potential role, and enthusiastic about the work, always stand out. Make sure you can articulate that enthusiasm, and what makes you - you.”

Datz: “Mid-career professionals are at unique points in their career paths where they have significant experience and a wealth of knowledge yet still have a considerable runway. When you reach that point of 15 to 20 years into a career, it's a good time to thoughtfully and strategically leverage and plan the rest of your career, whether that is with your current employer or with a new one. It's a time to reflect upon your strengths and what you're passionate about. 

Some mid-career professionals fail to fully realize their deep knowledge and expertise, and how much they have to offer employers. They can be reluctant to talk about their achievements. But, honing in on what you’ve learned, experienced, and led – and presenting it in an effective manner is what will give you an advantage during the interview process. Employers want to know how you have contributed to a positive, efficient, and successful culture; and how you have enhanced your team’s performance and productivity. How you tell your ‘story’ demonstrates your soft skills, communication style, leadership abilities, and management style.

Beyond wanting to learn about your capabilities and experiences, an employer wants to get inside your head, understand your passions, and what you’re attracted to career-wise. They want to make sure you aren’t simply exploring opportunities for more responsibility, a better title, or more money in general. They want to know you’re attracted to their organization specifically and would be a good cultural fit who understands and embraces their mission and values.”

Lord: “For senior-level roles that include managerial responsibilities, it’s imperative to have examples of how you took a structured and diligent approach to reach objectives, and how you implemented systems, processes, and procedures that enhanced efficiency. Employers also want to vet if you’re the type of professional who is willing to go beyond being a pure manager and is willing to roll up your sleeves to get the assignment done. As most managers have experienced, there are times when you have to jump into the trenches and help out, and the willingness to do that probably has a more profound effect than one realizes. It shows leadership and the ability to motivate a team.

It’s also important to balance highlighting your knowledge and wisdom gained in your career with your level of energy and willingness to still work hard. At the mid-career stage, the value of what you know and have experienced should start to exceed the value of what you can actively do. This is when you’re at a point of becoming more valuable through your ability to lead and motivate others to perform, which is an exponential multiplier when compared to what you can do alone.

Additionally, organizations are seeking leaders who have a high level of authenticity and emotional intelligence. The best leaders deflect praise to their team, and absorb criticism for  their team, all while leading through purpose. These are soft skills you certainly want to focus on because they’re highly valuable for any type of organization.”

While a job search mid-career can be intimidating, it can also be enlightening, giving you a renewed sense of confidence and hunger for achievement. Landing that new job that you’ve always wanted can bring professional and personal fulfillment – and isn’t that what everyone wants at this stage of the game?