In my last post I looked at some of the advantages and disadvantages of making a career change. For those that were not put off by the disadvantages and feel that a career change is the route to follow I want to look at some of the steps you will need to take to make a successful transition.
Start With a Plan
As with everything in life the first thing to do is to carefully map out an effective career-change strategy. This includes a detailed action plan that takes into consideration finances, research, education, and training. Keep in mind that a successful career change can take several months (or longer) to accomplish, so patience is key. Don’t forget though that this part of the process isn't just about a picking a new job -- it's also about you.
People often pursue a career based on their likes, but a truly good career fit also takes into account what you enjoy doing, what you're good at, and what sort of lifestyle you desire. For instance, you may really love cooking, but if working nights and weekends conflicts with your vision of a great family, you might want to reconsider applying to culinary school.
One method of determining what career can fit in to all these categories is by using Personality Assessments and Interest Surveys. These tools can help to identify your key strengths and interests and match them to potential careers; they can also help in your research by providing links to further information. Assessments such as the Jackson Vocational Interest Survey (http://www.jvis.com/ ) and Career Cruising (www.careercruising.com) can be accessed online, while others such as Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Personality Dimensions are often delivered through Employment Resource Centres.
In your research be sure to examine all avenues. This includes talking to people in your network, meeting with an employment or guidance counsellor and learning about the industry. Reading industry journals and talking to people in the profession about what they do. Learn whether your target industry has growth potential and get the real story on what it’s like to work in it.
A good way to do this is to set up "informational interviews" with individuals who are already doing whatever it is you're considering moving into. You can ask them what they love and hate about their jobs and what it takes to be successful in their field. Your research can also involve volunteering within fields of interest. Not only will this help you to “test the waters” in your desired new career but it will help you to build your network connections within the field as well.
It is important though to begin nurturing professional friendships early and tend to them regularly. Professional organizations and industry trade associations are a good place to start as many of them hold networking events. It is also at this stage where social media sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter are invaluable as not only can you find out information about careers and companies, you can also start to ask questions and even make contributions to ongoing discussions. This social capital will pay off in the long run when it comes to connecting with employers in the industry.
Based on your research do you have the necessary experience and education to put yourself out there as a qualified job candidate in your desired new career field? If not, you will need to find a way to bridge the credentials gap, this might mean making your goal more long-term while you go back to school or receive additional training. Again you need to consider the time and cost impact for you career change, so it is worth comparing the different community colleges, private career colleges and school boards to see which one best fits your plan. It is also advisable to get advice from those in the industry as to which schools carry the most respect within that field.
So you’ve completed your research, you’ve connected with people in the industry and have brushed up on your qualifications and experience. Now is the time to start identifying specific organizations you want to work for. This is where the connections that you have developed through networking and social media come into play. Who do you know that works for or has connections with that company? Would they be willing to introduce you?
It is also important have prepared a well crafted resume and cover letter should an employer or contact request one or if you need it to apply to a specific positing. While advice on what a resumes and cover letters should look like is abundant on the Internet, I suggest seeking advice from Employment Resource Centres on issues such as content and formatting as well as people in the industry. After all these are the people that will be viewing the resumes and can tell you what they prefer to see in them.
Remember as you start to actively pursue vacancies, only focus about 20 – 30% of your efforts on advertised positions; those posted on want ads or on job boards. Make sure to spend the rest of your time exploring the opportunities you find through research and your network.
When Do You Make The Change
Ideally the best time to begin considering a new career is when you are already working. It goes without saying that a steady pay check can relieve a lot of the stress and financial realities that come with the territory. Remember only you can decide whether you are in a position financially to make a change or if you need to return to your previous career to fund the next. However, you can also think of it as an investment that will pay off with less stress, more joy, and greater success down the road.