Switching fields may seem taboo, but it's quite doable, especially now when labor markets are tight. Almost half of the 164 employers who responded to our MONEY/Salary.com survey say they regularly target mid-career changers when recruiting. One reason: Switchers are dedicated to their move, with 32 percent saying they'll spend "as long as it takes" to get the necessary certification and schooling.
What are they looking for? Pay and advancement, sure, but also fulfillment and a sense that they can control their career paths.
Steve Mullins, 44, already has a good job: He's a telecommunications engineer for a pharmaceutical company. But he's studying to become a nurse - it's a top job for career changers because demand is so high. "They can offshore my job any day of the week," says Mullins of Noblesville, Ind. "And of course, when you fix a router, it doesn't say thanks."
To make your case to a hiring manager, follow these tips:
You'll be more convincing if you take classes, join industry organizations or moonlight (even on a volunteer basis) within the field you're exploring before you try to go full time - and you'll also have a much better idea if this really is the right move for you.
Quantify your accomplishments: Show that you increased sales X percent or managed Y number of people. "It helps provide the scope and breadth of your accomplishments," says Bishop, "and it shows you very clearly understand what you've done."
Also highlight areas in your background that give you an advantage. When interviewing for an IT position, Randy Jensen, 36, of Riverton, Utah, pointed out that after 15 years in radio, he has good communication skills. "I can string two sentences together," he says. "I'm not going to be a hermit in a cubicle."
To make the switch from sales engineer to marketing, Todd Cox, 39, of Atlanta, has been reading books and seeking out mentors. "It may be someone I read about or hear speak," he says. "I tell them what I'm trying to do and ask if they''ll coach me along. It doesn't always work, but everyone gives me little tidbits."
So if you're a lawyer itching to become a travel writer, work as a writer for a legal publication first (new title) and then eventually move into travel writing (new industry).
Or do legal work for a travel publication and contribute pieces until you're able to pick up a writing position.
It took Susan Rubin, 48, of Armonk, N.Y., four years to give up her legal practice and become a yoga instructor.
"I was hesitant to make the jump," she says, "but in the meantime, I was training and saving money. It was very hard for me to close the doors of my practice. But once I did, I never looked back."