Marc R. Miller is the founder of Career Pivot, which helps those in the second half of life find fulfilling careers.
We recently checked in with Marc to get his advice on navigating a career change later in life. Here’s what he had to say:
Tell us about Career Pivot. Why did you start your business?
The idea for Career Pivot germinated while I was working for my second successful tech start up, LifeSize Communications, in early 2009. For the second time in 10 years, I was riding out dreadful economic times at a successful new venture. I watched as many of my friends were being laid off and blowing through their retirement savings in order to survive.
I looked around and found minimal resources for baby boomers because we all were supposed to be retiring in just a few years. Now most baby boomers will need to work much longer than planned. Out of this downturn, Career Pivot was born.
Career Pivot provides a recipe for career change for those with 20 or more years of experience. Of course, a recipe can be modified and seasoned to taste.
What has your career path looked like? How did you get where you are today?
My career started at IBM, where I jokingly say I spent 22 years wandering around. Every three or so years, I would make a change to something new. Started as a word processor developer, worked in hardware and software quality assurance, ran a help desk for mechanical engineering CAD tools, lead a world wide technical training group, crossed to the dark side into sales, a short stint as a IT consultant and finally finished in Marketing. I wandered a lot.
I left IBM 2000 to build a training program for Agere, a network processor semi-conductor startup. In 2002, I had a near fatal bicycle accident where I hit a Toyota Corolla head on where our speeds exceeded 50 mph. I lived!
I later volunteered for a layoff and attained my Texas high school math teaching certificate. I taught Algebra I and II for two years at an inner city high school. I followed those two years with a year-long stint at a non-profit before returning to LifeSize.
As you can see, I have made so many career changes that it makes most people’s heads spin. I have also made every mistake possible. It was the mistakes and my training background that prepared me to create Career Pivot.
What’s been the most important lesson you’ve learned about finding the right career?
It is all about knowing yourself. I was raised to be an employee and was expected to work for a father-like company that would take care of me. That worked for about 20 year until they moved my cheese. The problem I had and most of my clients have, is we no longer know who we are. We have morphed ourselves to behave the way our employers want us to behave.
How common is it today for individuals to be making career switches later in life?
I cannot say how common it is but most of us want to do something that fulfills us. Most of us took career directions that were defined by our parents or happened to be available at the time. We did not necessarily “choose” our careers. This time we want a choice.
What are the biggest challenges facing individuals switching careers in the second half of life?
The vast majority of those in the second half of life do not have a big financial cushion (pension, significant 401(k) or IRA, or savings). We have mortgages, children to put through college, and the need to feed the family. The biggest challenge is to do this incrementally while maintaining an income stream.
What makes older individuals well-suited to pivoting careers?
We have a wealth of experience that needs to be repurposed for the 21st century. Most of our experience is not obsolete as many believe it just needs to be mapped to the new world.
What considerations should older individuals make before jumping into a new career?
This is a three legged stool – financial, educational and emotional. When you make a change you will likely take a pay cut with the benefit of knowing you are doing something more rewarding.
Pursue education opportunities with an eye on what makes sense financially and what does the market demand. Masters degrees after the age of 50 often will not deliver anything but student loan debt.
Making a change in the second half of life can be an emotional rollercoaster for both your family and yourself. Being prepared emotionally is critical.
Where should individuals who are interested in jumping into a tech career begin their search?
With people who are already doing the kind of work you wish to be performing. It is all about finding people who look, smell and taste like you and learning from their experiences. Where did they get their training? How did they find their jobs?
What are the best tools or resources you’ve found for individuals looking into tech careers?
I am a huge fan of LinkedIn to locate people who look, smell and taste like you. Age discrimination is alive and well. You need to find those organizations that hire people who are like you.
How should job seekers use sites like Paysa to help refine their job search?
Knowledge is key. The more you know about the industry and individual companies the better. I believe in targeting the company and quit chasing the job. Paysa.com is a valuable salary resource in researching companies for your target list.