Changing Careers: Using Your Talents in a New Way

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  • 0:03 Changing Careers
  • 1:39 Make a Plan
  • 5:26 Executing the Plan
  • 7:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Changing careers can be an exciting, but overwhelming, prospect. In this lesson, we'll examine how to make a smooth career change, including researching career prospects, identifying transferable skills, and networking.

Changing Careers

John is a banker and has been for almost a decade now, ever since he graduated from college. But he doesn't like it the way he thought he would. He dreams of doing something fun and exciting, like traveling to exotic places and writing about it for magazines.

But John's already got a good job that pays well, so what should he do? Whether it's because they are unhappy, like John, or whether it's because they've been laid off, or whether it's for another reason, many people choose to change directions at some point. And for many people, John included, they are interested in changing not just their jobs, but their careers.

A person's career is their long-term occupational field. It's different from a job, which is just paid employment. Instead, a career is made up of many jobs strung together over time.

For example, John used to be a bank teller, and then he got promoted to assistant manager at his bank. After that, he moved up again, to bank manager. Each of those positions (bank teller, assistant manager, manager) is a job. Together, they comprise a career in banking.

And while John could just change his job, perhaps by switching banks or becoming a vice president of the bank or something, what he really wants is to change his career, which can be much more complicated.

So what should John do? How does he even begin to change careers? Let's look at how John can make and execute a solid career change plan.

Make a Plan

John wants to switch his career to something that's more fulfilling to him. He thinks travel writing might be fun, but is that really want he wants to do? And, if so, is it even feasible for him to do it?

The first thing that John needs to do is to make a plan for what he's going to switch to and how. He can do this in four steps:

1. List all wants & needs.
The first thing John needs to do is to figure out what he wants and what he needs from a job. A need is probably going to be a paycheck. But how much does John need that paycheck to be in order to live? That's one thing that John needs to know.

A want might be something like autonomy or the ability to work from home. These aren't things that John has to have in his life, but they are the things that will probably make him happier at the job instead of at the bank job.

2. Rank the list.
What is the most important thing to John in a job? What's next? And what's near the bottom of the list? John needs to figure out what his non-negotiables are. That is, he needs to know which things he must have in a job and which things he's OK with doing without.

For example, John really wants a job that lets him travel to interesting places and one that lets him use his creativity. But if he has a job that allows him to be creative but doesn't provide the opportunity to travel, would he still be OK? He might find that, for him, creativity is a non-negotiable, but travel is not.

Everyone's ranked list will look different, and everyone's non-negotiables will be different. That's OK and normal; everyone is different, so we won't all be looking for the same things in a job!

3. Research.
John has an image in his head of what it would be like to be a travel writer: he'll jet off to faraway places and get to have fun and soak in the environment, and then he'll spend an hour or two writing an article, and then hop on another plane and do it all over again.

That's a wonderful image, but is it accurate? The reality is that John will likely spend lots of time in airport lines, spend hours toiling away for a single short piece, and then have it sent back by his editor for him to rewrite. And John will have to spend every spare moment promoting his writing and trying to get new writing gigs.

John needs to do research to make sure that reality lines up with his perceptions. He needs to make sure that he understands what really goes into the new career he wants and what the downsides as well as the upsides are. He can do this with an informational interview, which is a conversation with someone in the industry.

He can also participate in job shadowing, or following someone around for a day or several days to see what their job is like. In an informational interview or job shadowing, John can figure out what it's really like to be a travel writer.

4. Identify skills & education needed.
While he's doing an informational interview or job shadowing, John can also ask about what skills and education are needed for the career he's considering. Some careers, like doctors, will require John to go back to school, but he might find that he doesn't need to go back and get another degree, just take a few classes or workshops. For example, he might want to take a class on travel writing or self-marketing for writers or even read a book on those topics. The important thing is that he needs to figure out what skills and education are necessary for success in his new career.

Executing the Plan

OK, so John knows what his needs and wants are, and he's done some research to find out what it's really like to be a travel writer and what skills and education he will need. Now it's time to implement his plan and start the process of changing his career.

But how does he do that? It's not like he can just wake up one day and say, 'OK, I'm a travel writer now!'

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