The Challenges of Midcareer Professionals
Sometimes, the middle is a tough place to be. This is true of arguments, long projects, and even careers. Let’s explore what it looks like to be a midcareer professional, and what hurdles they can face on the path to economic mobility or new employment opportunities.
WHO ARE MIDCAREER PROFESSIONALS?
Midcareer professionals are individuals who have spent a significant amount of time in their chosen career and have gained considerable experience and expertise. They are typically in their thirties, forties, or fifties—perhaps older—and may have already achieved some level of success and stability in their career. At this stage, midcareer professionals may be looking for new challenges and opportunities to further advance their careers.
They may also be seeking work-life balance, considering entrepreneurship, or exploring different career paths. Alternatively, midcareer workers facing unemployment due to job changes may be looking for new employment. While these people often have a wealth of knowledge and skills to offer and can be valuable assets to their employers or clients, they often face unique challenges in job seeking or career shifts.
THE CHALLENGES OF MIDCAREER PROFESSIONALS
For midcareer professionals, there can be several barriers to achieving economic mobility, the ability to improve one’s economic status over time. One of the main barriers is a lack of access to education and training opportunities that would allow them to develop new skills and move up the career ladder. This can be especially challenging for individuals who have already established themselves in a particular field and may not have the time or resources to pursue additional education or training.
Additionally, midcareer professionals may face age discrimination, which can limit their opportunities for advancement or lead to job loss. The cost of living can also be a barrier, particularly in expensive urban areas where housing and other expenses may be prohibitively high. Finally, family obligations such as caring for children or aging parents can limit flexibility and availability.
Let’s take a closer look at how midcareer employment challenges and age discrimination affect midcareer workers, and how they can be overcome.
MIDCAREER CAREER CHANGES
Midcareer changes can be spurred by a variety of reasons, including changing workplaces that may alter the nature of jobs in ways that spark a desire to move to a new position or field. The midcareer stage is a time when professionals may question their career choices, feel unfulfilled or stuck in their current role, or see that their role is changing and they need new skills to adapt.
A midlife career change can allow people to pursue their passions, learn new skills, and attain more stable employment and income. However, these career changes can be especially challenging. Because individuals may have established a certain level of expertise and identity in their current roles, it can be difficult to start over.
FACING UNEMPLOYMENT AS A MIDCAREER WORKER
Midcareer workers can also face a crisis of a different sort, as changing job markets can place jobs at risk and lead to layoffs. Additionally, individuals choosing to take a hiatus from work may experience difficulties in finding a job after their return. These unemployment issues are pressing concerns; our research here at Generation has shown that 63% of job seekers over the age of 45 are unemployed for over a year, compared to only 36% of job seekers aged 18 to 24.
When it comes to unemployment, people in midcareer stages often face unique challenges. As they are typically in their prime earning years, a period of joblessness can lead to significant financial strain, potentially affecting their ability to maintain their current lifestyle or save for future needs like retirement.
Moreover, their past professional experience, although valuable, may paradoxically pose hurdles in their job search. Some employers might view them as overqualified for certain positions or worry about their salary expectations being too high. Midcareer workers may also struggle with the need to upskill or reskill, especially in fast-evolving industries where newer technologies and methodologies continuously redefine job requirements.
Yet another common hurdle for midcareer job seekers is age discrimination. Even though employers highly rate the performance of their midcareer workers, a noticeable and harmful bias still exists. Our research shows that many hiring managers perceive younger workers as more favorable job candidates than workers over the age of 45. When asked to rate candidate strengths, employers overwhelmingly say younger candidates are more application-ready, have more relevant experience, and are a better fit with company culture.
This age discrimination in the workplace means that midcareer workers may be viewed as less innovative, less adaptable, or less technologically-savvy than their younger counterparts. These biases can lead to older workers being passed over for promotions, training opportunities, or new projects—or even being forced into early retirement.
Furthermore, older professionals may face additional obstacles when attempting to shift to a new career. Hiring managers may assume that older workers lack the necessary skills or may not fit in with the culture of the new company.
Age discrimination is particularly problematic in the tech world, where youth is often highly valued, and where age may be viewed as counter to innovation. Older professionals may struggle to keep up with the rapid pace of technological change or may not be perceived as a good fit for startup or high-growth tech companies. Ageism in tech can lead to a lack of diversity in the tech industry, as well as a loss of valuable talent and experience.
To combat these barriers, midcareer professionals can take steps to stay up-to-date with industry trends and to build their networks to stay relevant in their field. They may need to seek out alternative forms of education or training, such as online courses or apprenticeships. They may also need to be willing to relocate to areas with lower costs of living or more job opportunities.
HOW GENERATION CAN HELP
If you are a midcareer professional going through unemployment, shifting into a new career, or simply looking for more fulfilling work, Generation wants to help! Our employment programs offer hands-on education and experience in various fields, and are held online and offline in 17 countries worldwide.
Through our programs, adults of all ages—whether unemployed, underemployed, or needing to learn new skills—can access training, support, and a path to meaningful employment. We are here to help you succeed! Developing skills through employment programs like ours can help you become more competitive in the job market and can help you increase your earning potential.
At Generation, our mission is to train, support, and place people into otherwise inaccessible career opportunities that can change their lives. Explore our employment programs to see how we can help you, or donate today to help us create thriving career opportunities for our learners!