Making a Career Change

You've always wondered why anybody in their right mind would forego years of valuable experience in one field only to start from scratch in another. And yet, one fine day, their decision begins to make sense as you realize that your current career holds little or no charm for you. You may find yourself dreaming of another career.

Your decision to switch careers could stem from various reasons. Maybe, your priorities have changed and your current job no longer fits in with your changed needs and values; perhaps your industry is facing a change and is downsizing jobs; your current position may not be optimizing your core skills and you're probably feeling underutilized.

Whatever your reason, remember that you are not alone! Research proves that the average employee switches careers (not jobs) several times during his/her lifetime.

Common Mistakes made by Career Changers

It's always wise to learn from others' mistakes. If you're thinking of shifting careers, stay practical and avoid these common pitfalls made by most career changers in the first flush of enthusiasm.

  • Quitting the current job without another one in hand: Before you leave your present company, make sure that you have another offer in hand. That way, you can save yourself the frustration of being without a job for months or making the mistake of taking up the first job that offers itself, even though it isn't what you really want to do.
  • Underestimating transferable skills: Do a thorough research and find out which of the skills on your current job can be leveraged to provide a successful break in another field. For instance, as a journalist, you'll pick up communication skills that could prove invaluable in a corporate communication or customer relationship career. Then, look for careers where you can optimize on these skills.
  • Being allured by the money/benefits: As basic as it sounds, money cannot buy you happiness. Some careers may seem promising because of the money involved. But if your new role is simply not in keeping with your values and interests, it could leave you disenchanted.
  • Changing careers without a plan: Make sure that you have a detailed plan of action ready. Include items like strategies to find the first job, networks that you can capitalize on, finances to tide you over until you get a break, job skills required, training and educational background etc. Having a detailed plan of action in hand will give you a realistic estimate of the time required before you can consider yourself successful in your career change.

A Sound 5-Step Plan to Change Careers

Step 1 - Assess your reasons
A little reflection can sometimes go a long way. Why do you want to change your career? What do you lack in your present job and will the new field you're considering give you that? Do a SWOT analysis to get more insight on careers that might suit you.

Step 2 - Researching New Careers
Once you've figured out your areas of interest, spend time researching possible careers centering around your passion. Sometimes, your decision to pick a certain career could be the result of wrong beliefs or because someone you know excelled at it. Make sure that you do your own research.

What training and skill sets are required? How many years will it take you to earn the salary you need to live comfortably?

You can find some informative tidbits and articles at O*NET Onlineand basic information from the Occupational Outlook Handbook (from. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

Step 3 - Training and Education
It may be worthwhile to take a course and see if you really like the subject matter. You could consider a technical school that will equip you with skills and give you hands on experience. You might also want to consider taking up a voluntary job or an internship to acquaint yourself with the new field. If you are considering going back to college read Adults Returning to School After Being in the Workforcefor tips and resources for adult students looking for a career change.

Step 4 - Networking
Build contacts in the field you're considering by joining online forums or industry associations. Try and get introduced to people who are in the field of your choice, conduct informational interviews, contact alumni from your college and anybody else who can give you job leads.

Step 5 - Find a Mentor
A good mentor can run with your vision and help you tide over the rough times. He/she may also be in a position to give you great leads by helping you expand your network. A mentor can save you years of having to rough it.

Career Change Resources:

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