“I’m thinking about changing careers but not sure about which career to go in. What is the first step?”
Not satisfied with the career you’ve chosen, or is it simply time for something new? Perhaps a career change may be right for you. Contrary to what people might say, it’s never too late to change your path. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, on average, Americans change their careers 3 to 7 times throughout their life.
The first, and most important, step to beginning a career change is to analyze your current career. I know you want to get away from it as fast as possible. But don’t be so quick to jump ship. Grab a sheet of paper or open up a new document on your computer–go on… I’ll wait.
To organize your listing, create a “T-Chart” with two columns. In one column, write down the top ten things you do like about your current career (even though you’re looking for a change, there has to be something you enjoy about it). And in the other column, list what you don’t like about your career. These should be the reasons you’re looking for a change.
Once you’ve completed your list, take it a step further. Looking at your likes and dislikes, what are your skills? In other words, what skills do you possess that you’ve gained and utilized in your current career? Be as specific as possible. To note, hardworking is not a skill.
Career Tip: Changing careers requires diligence, honesty, and more diligence.
Why is all of this effort so important? Because the next step is to select a career you’re interested in. That involves a great deal of research and planning. With this list you’ve just created at your disposal, you’ll know what to look for and what to avoid in a new career. Without this knowledge, you’re bound to repeat past mistakes, ending up unsatisfied again.
Career Tip: Your goal when changing careers should always be to align your skill sets and interests with a path of your choosing.
As far as tools for research, many exist but not all are worth using. For your convenience, we’ve listed some of our top recommendations:
- This Internet is always a great resource. One great website we always suggest to our clients is O*NET, an online database containing detailed, in-depth information for almost every career and profession in existence. Their website is http://www.onetonline.org/, and their services are completely free to use. O*NET’s listings contain job responsibilities, tasks, salary, equipment, work conditions, and more.
- Some people prefer to use the Internet; others prefer a more personal method of research. For those, informational interviews are always a winning strategy. Find professionals in a career of interest and invite them to an interview. Not only will you find the same information you would have when using the Internet, you’re also likely to get full accounts of day-by-day routines, which is important in determining whether or not a career is worth pursuing.
- The above tools not hands-on enough? Try job shadowing a professional instead. This will allow you to see for yourself what a career will entail. Spend a few hours shadowing several professionals in an area of interest, if possible. Granted, shadowing opportunities aren’t as abundant as many of us would like, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t try to obtain one. Many professionals are happy to grant the opportunity as it provides them a new networking contact.
- Time for an insider secret… look for volunteer or freelance opportunities in the field of your interest. While you might think it’s impossible to find, you have to think outside of the box. Thinking about working with animals? Volunteer at a local animal shelter. Want to get into publishing? Write some articles for a local newspaper. These activities aren’t as far removed as you might believe. Not only will they give you a feel for an industry, whether it’s direct or indirect, it also gives you some helpful resume additions.
Don’t let all of this get to your head, though. There are many steps in the process of changing a career. These are just some of the first steps you should immediately take. You still have to build experience, especially if you have little to speak of. You still have to find an opening, submit an eye-opening resume and cover letter, and conduct a successful interview. It’s a tall order, but you can do it.
For more tips on enacting a career change, and tips to help you land a position in that brand new career, visit Education Career Service at http://www.edu–cs.com/ where you will find cutting edge single topic career workbooks and complete career lifecycle books or visit us at Amazon.com (search Danny at ECS). Also, send us a tweet at @Dannyatecs. We’d love to hear from you.
Written by Brandon Hayhurst
Education Career Services