Considering we spend almost 60% of our adult life engaged in some sort of work-related activity, it pays to find a career that we find fulfilling and meets our key needs and values. The average person will have 14 jobs and have changed careers 3 times in their lifetime, so by default some of us make a change based on what is presented or offered to us.
But for the vast majority of today’s workers, making a career change into a more fulfilling and rewarding career seems like a pipe dream. Employers are only looking for people with years of experience, right? Perhaps not. If you can utilize your network and bundle and package yourself as a key contributor, you too can make a change into an exciting new occupation.
Even in a tough economy and challenging job market, a career change is still within anyone’s reach if it’s well thought out and well planned. Here are 5 keys for pulling off a successful career change even in the midst of economic uncertainty:
1. Be sure of your reasons
Ensure you’ve thought out all the reasons as to why you want to make a change. If you make a career change strictly for the money, you’re making it for all the wrong reasons.
Also, don’t simply set the wheels in motion to make a change based on a bad week or bad day at work. Remember, there is no “winning lottery ticket.” All positions have benefits and drawbacks. Understand the concept of business reality, that when you make a career change, you’re usually staring out at a lower position and lower pay rate.
The best way to determine if you need a change is to conduct a values check; is your career in alignment with your top/most important personal values (freedom, independence, creativity, quality work, challenge, subject matter expert, etc). If you feel like you’re chasing the proverbial carrot being dangled by your employer, the rabbit rarely catches the prize. I’ve know too many who have stayed in bad jobs for too long simply for “security.” Your plan of action starts with a single step and the first step is knowing what you want and what you would need to do to make it happen—and taking that first step is often the most difficult. It’s the implementation of the plan that is actually the easy part.
2. Determine which industry best aligns with your interests and passions
Ask yourself: what you can you really get behind (cause, service, product, and industry) and what you’re passionate about. You’ll simply do a better job and be more fulfilled if you can really champion a particular cause. I made a career change from IT sales to starting my own professional development company because I was—and still am—passionate about helping people achieve their goals.
What kinds of subjects, topics, or issues pique your interest? Or, are you one of lucky few who are really passionate about a particular cause? Either way, take some time to think about what you would do if money were no object and what you would get involved with. You may not end up with a perfect match to your dream job, but something related is well within your reach—guaranteed.
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3. Conduct a skills analysis to determine your transferable skills and which positions may be the best fit
Once you have determined what industry or business type you’re targeting, now you need to determine which position(s) may be the best fit. In other words, once you’ve determined what “team” you want to play for, you now need to establish what “position” you want to play on that team. Companies won’t hire a jack-of-all-trades type for any position so bundle and package yourself as someone who can solve a finite set of problems and create value in a specific area.
Conduct an honest inventory of your best transferable skills; things you can do well and really excel at. Remember, ALL skills are transferable. The key is in how well you preset yourself in terms of utilizing your skills in a new industry and/or occupation.
Here’s where hiring a professional can really assist you. Any seasoned career coach or counselor will be able to help you identity your most transferable and marketable skills. This will be your “golden list” as you will use it to help determine which new occupation best leverages your top transferable skills.
4. Research job descriptions and conduct a Gap Analysis
Once you have determined some target job titles, conduct research on the major job search engine sites like Indeed.com and SimplyHired.com and find some open job descriptions. Review the job descriptions for key duties and responsibilities and what skills are mandatory. Research at least 15-20 positions so you have a strong representation of the common denominator skills employers are looking for. Compare what top skills employers are looking for with your transferable skills inventory. Ask: what can you meet and where are the gaps and what would you have to do to bridge these gaps?
5. Talk to people in the field by conducting informational interviews before making a change
Before making a move into any new industry or occupation, talk to some people on the front lines.
Use LinkedIn and search by occupation and industry to find people who are working in your target industry and occupation. You can ask for an introduction if you have a mutual contact or send an InMail to request an informational interview. Learn about all the pluses and challenges. Ask how they would go about making a career change or landing a job in your target field if they were new with minimal experience.
Another strong strategy is to join or attend relevant industry trade groups and networking events. Just about every occupation and major industry has a professional group (think American Marketing Association and National Speakers Association). This is an outstanding way to rub elbows with veterans in the industry, make valuable networking contacts, get job leads, and arrange follow up meetings.
If you employ a solid plan and back your plan with passion and desire for the cause or business, a successful career change is well within anybody’s grasp. Don’t spend your working years helping someone else achieve their goals. Take charge and move in the direction of your dreams, inspirations, and desires. Will there be risks? Certainly! But what worth achieving didn’t come with its own chance for failure? Live your life playing to win, not playing not to lose.