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The question

I'm 48 years old, a permanent resident and possess a BA in economics. I have worked as a surety and also as a commercial insurance underwriter for about four years (since moving to Canada from the U.K.). I'm considering a change, but feel as though I've blackballed myself from transitioning to another career/industry due to my age and experience. Also, another concern is staying within my current salary band (which is quite low) with the transition. I'm comfortable with face-to-face interaction, speaking to large groups, and travelling (I speak there different languages). Quite frankly, I'm seeking a change because I feel I am without any prospects, unchallenged and underpaid. Prior to my current career I was working in trade finance in the U.K. Considering these things, what industries/careers do you think provide a lateral financial transition?

The answer

First of all you have good experience as a commercial insurance underwriter and a surety and trade financier. You have a BA in economics. You have international experience in finance and trading and you are multilingual. You have many assets to offer an employer.

I recommend that you make a list of all your skills, experiences and talents. Also identify your areas of interest and your passions. Get clear on the types of roles that you like to play – e.g. adviser, administrator, trainer, advocate, marketer, facilitator, promoter, writer, researcher, etc. Consider what your ideal career and positions would be. Make a list of your transferable skills – both soft and technical.

Make a list of companies, agencies or organizations that you would be interested in working for. Think outside of the box. Be creative. Do your research on them and the positions that interest you. Take note of the skills and experience that they are looking for. Be prepared to take additional courses or seminars to upgrade and/or acquire new skills.

Don't blackball yourself thinking that you cannot make a change at your age. Don't become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Shift your perspective. Be positive and confident. Imagine yourself landing a position with a private, government or non-profit agency which will embrace your experience, wisdom, talents and gifts. You have a lot to share with prospective employers. Remember your assets. You also have about 15 to 20 more years to work and contribute to the work force. Also remember there are going to be labour shortages with the baby boomers retiring. Find a career or position that you are passionate about. Often people are far more interested in their second or third careers as opposed to their first jobs.

There are many organizations in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors that can use staff with excellent financial, interpersonal, and large group facilitation skills. The list includes banks, credit unions, insurance brokers, mortgage brokers, investment brokers, non-profit credit counselling agencies, government financial agencies (federal, provincial, and municipal), fundraising organizations, hospitals, research institutions, universities, and Crown corporations, to name just a few.

Update your résumé, highlighting your experience, talents and career interests. Practise your presentation and interviewing skills with friends, a career counsellor or coach, and set up information interviews with key officials from companies that you are interested in. The more practice you have with both informal and formal interviews the more comfortable you will be in presenting and promoting yourself to prospective employers. Get your foot in the door, and be open to consulting, part-time or full time work

Increase your visibility by attending professional or networking meetings and groups where people that you would like to work for attend. Write articles and make presentations on topics that you are familiar with. Start a blog and/or a website.

Do your research on what the remuneration typically is for positions that you are interested in and be prepared to ask for what you are worth in the workplace. Don't undersell yourself. Remember there is usually 10- to 20-per-cent room for manoeuvre in any salary negotiation.

Be courageous, creative and persistent and you will land a position that you desire.

Bruce Sandy is principal of and Pathfinder Coaching & Consulting.

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