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I am very new in my new career (I am changing it at 40). My networking is really involving only one company. How do I expand my network to get more job opportunities that are not necessarily in my field of choice, but will benefit?

I have a lot of paralegal experience, just from earning my B.A. I would like to advance into Homeland Security, but I am finding it hard to meet the job qualifications for a position in this field because of my age and my inability to join the Army or other national force. Was my education pointless, who will utilize it? human-resources government homeland-security disabilities talent-recruiting age-in-the-workplace

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Subject: Career question for you

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Kim’s Answer

Hi Melissa!

You have posted quite a few questions in a short time, so let me try to address them all.
Since you are 40 years old, my advice is geared towards you, and not necessarily applicable to any younger persons reading this post.

If you are not already, you need to be on LinkedIn, and join some of the groups there, such as the Paralegal Society, etc. Also look for the Homeland Security Groups. CareerVillage is geared more towards youngsters, and although you have gotten and will get responses here, you will have better luck on LinkedIn. Connect with people! (including me) Watch for local speaking engagements, and attend them.

Your education is not "pointless," however, it is up to you to market yourself. I'm curious as to how you have "A lot" of paralegal experience just from completing your BA. You are currently in a situation we see too often. You are over-qualified by virtue of your education, for entry-level positions, and underqualified, due to lack of experience, for the positions you are pursuing.

You are correct: Homeland Security positions are filled by those with military/law enforcement experience. Did you do an internship in Homeland Security? Sad to say, but a degree proves only that you are dedicated enough to finish something that you started. It does not prove that you are capable of doing the job. You will probably need to enter at a position lower than you think you should, and prove yourself.

On your resume, you will need to show what "transferrable" skills you have, and how they relate to the positions you are applying for. I'm not really sure what experience you have. If your paralegal experience came only from getting your degree, that is not "a lot." You are competing against many highly qualified people. Do you want to see their resumes? Go to and click on "find resumes" in the upper left corner. Set your search to your city, and use terms like "homeland security" or "emergency management." You are able to see all those resumes!

If your computer skills are strong, I would recommend focusing on admin positions within those agencies to get your foot in the door.

Have you ever participated in an emergency exercise? Another thought, perhaps you can join the Red Cross or some other emergency group, even if it is volunteer. They usually participate in those exercises, and have their own planning staff. Perhaps Emergency preparedness rather than Homeland Security? Helping prepare for hurricanes, etc?

I hope this has been helpful in some way. Keep trying and you will get there!


Thank you Kim, I have just created a LinkedIn account so it looks very small. I will look you up, maybe get some additional advice. Melissa A.

I am going to try to connect with you. I just wanted to forewarn you so you are confused and wondering who this person is. Thank you. Melissa A.

I won't be confused, go for it! Just watch the spelling of the last name as it is frequently misspelled. Kim Igleheart

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Shana’s Answer

Hi Melissa,

I have to agree with Kim and her response to your question. Utilize LinkedIn! It's a fantastic tool for professionals trying to build relationships and network with peers in the field you are currently in as well as those fields you are trying to break into. It would be a great way for you to find a Homeland Security point of contact who can point you in the right direction. Government jobs are hard to break into, and having an advocate can increase your chances immensely!

As Kin also recommended, make sure you are translating your skills to the field you are trying to get into. How can you apply those skills and past experiences into a new role in your desired field? Getting help from resume writers and people who tailor your LinkedIn profiles can help you get off to the right start. It can be expensive, but consider it an investment in your career. Taking advantage of networking and hiring events in your area is also a great idea. You can meet those key people you'll need to mentor you on your journey.

Good luck!


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Rafael’s Answer

One option that may be of help is volunteering, especially in the your new career area. This will allow to both learn about your new career while creating new networks for you to work with in the future.

First, congratulations for having the courage to step into something new. I recently transitioned my career across completely different industries and found myself in a similar circumstance. It has been very helpful for me to leverage LinkedIn by joining groups that expand my network. After joining groups based upon your new career, you can participate in discussions and develop connections from that point. Also, as you connect with co-workers, you can ask them to connect you with others and leverage those relationships. Meagan Boson

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James E.’s Answer

Melissa, First, congratulations on getting you BA degree. I is really important that even though you are working that you stay visible and build your network. If you really believe your "purpose" is to move your career into the Homeland security area you should research the profession well and identify security associations, which you might want to join. Also, check into personnel in the homeland security space through LinkedIn and connect. Perhaps there will be some who you can discuss the profession with and get further guidance from regarding your interest. Key to this will be your level of energy and passion about this area. There is a GovCon (short for government contractors) newsletter that is published weekly, it may also give you some insights. Best of luck, Jim Thomas

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Susanne’s Answer

Hi Melissa,

As someone who's experiences closely mirror yours (I transitioned into tech with almost no technical professional background at a much later age), I first want to congratulateyou for taking these initial steps in the career change. It can be very hard, and frustrating, especially when the field you are entering is vastly different than the one you're in and there's a preference towards particular age groups. ButI'm of the belief that anything is possible.

As others have mentioned, LinkedIn, volunteer opportunities, professional organizations and leveraging your existing transferrable skills are all great ways to break into a new career.

I was not sure if there was a specific part of DHS you were looking to get into - while some of these positions have hard age requirements (e.g. Border Patrol), they do need people with a wide variety of educational and professional backgrounds for other types of positions.