You've spent 25 years or longer in the workforce, and now you feel you're just treading water. You know it's time to kick-start your career, but you aren't sure how to do it.
Many older workers are discovering a second act in their working lives and finding creative ways to build careers around their passions. You can, too. Here are a few untraditional ways to do it.
Available at community colleges, for-profit schools and even elite universities such as Harvard, certificate programs are fast becoming a way for workers to jump-start careers. "They now outnumber bachelor's degrees," says Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
The programs, which are designed to give you expertise in a specific subject, run the gamut from medical assistant, data science and fundraising to museum studies and craft brewing. Classes often can be completed within a few months to two years. Tuition can range from several hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on the school and certificate.
Octavio Espinosa, 56, had been a research scientist in the biotech industry in San Diego for nearly 25 years before he decided to follow the "spark that kicked in when I was able to join my business and sales marketing colleagues."
He invested about $5,000 for a nine-course marketing certificate program, which he credits with helping him reinvent his career. Today he is vice president of sales and marketing for a lab equipment company. "It has paid for itself many times over," he says.
For Lily Cheng, 55, a certificate was a way to reenter the workforce after 19 years as a stay-at-home parent in Philadelphia. She received a certificate in medical coding and landed a job before her two-month program was over.
"I wish I had done it sooner. I just didn't have the confidence," she says. "The longer I stayed out of the workforce, the harder it became."
Before enrolling in a program, do your homework. Don't invest time and money if there is little chance of a job at the end. Start with some online research at Indeed.com to discover the demand in your community for the career you're considering, says Paul McDonald, senior executive director with the recruiting firm Robert Half in Menlo Park, Calif. Talk to a recruiter about job prospects.
Check out the school. Does it have a good reputation? Do the instructors practice in the industry, bringing real-world experience to the classroom as well as networking opportunities? Is there placement help after certification? Find out what happened to former students in the program. Are they working in the field for which they were trained? For more information on certificates and other career possibilities, go to LearningAdvisor, an online resource created by AARP's Life Reimagined and Kaplan, a provider of education and career services.