By Mercy McKee
Where to Start
Making a career change can seem like an overwhelming task, but if you take it one step at a time it can be a rewarding process of self-discovery. The challenge is knowing where to start and how to proceed. Below are some basic steps towards finding your ideal career and transitioning into a new field.
Identify Your Interests
Working in a career that doesn't suit your personality can take a toll on your physical and mental health. Jumping into a new career can be a good opportunity to assess personal interests, passions, likes and dislikes. What drives you? What energizes you? How do you enjoy spending your time? There are many online tools, tests and quizzes available to assist you in this inquiry, including the Keirsey Temperament Sorter and America's Career Resource Network's Career Decision-Making Tool, which utilizes the RIASEC/Holland interest scale to match interests to possible career paths.
Identify New Career Opportunities
Once you have discovered some core characteristics and interests, it is time to do some research. Search for fields and careers that incorporate your passions. The U.S. Department of Labor offers a skills-matching service at O*NET Online and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook provides basic career information, including job duties, education and training requirements, salary information and employment outlook.
Evaluate Transferrable Strengths and Skills
After you've identified some possible career paths, assess what skills you already have that are applicable. Look at all of your professional and life experiences to identify transferrable skills. Transferrable skills are relevant in any field and include written and oral communication, problem-solving, teamwork, self-motivation, leadership, flexibility, creativity and attention to detail.
Take these skills and use them to start developing a new resume using the language of your intended new profession with specific examples. For instance, if your previous profession involved a lot of financial record keeping, point out your attention to detail and how that skill is relevant to the position you are seeking; don't just say you are detail-oriented.
Training, Education and Experience
Some new professions will require additional experience, training, certification or college degree to enter. Depending on the field you may need to go back to school; in this case, make sure to verify the accreditation of the school. Volunteering and internships can also help you develop new career skills and experience, as well as introduce you to people in your chosen field.
Networking and making personal connections is a very important part of getting into a new field. You should talk to friends, family, colleagues and anyone else you can think of who may know someone in the profession you are interested in. A few ideas include:
- College alumni working in the field you want to enter
- Related professional organizations
- The Chamber of Commerce
- The Small Business Administration
Once you get some personal connections, see if they are willing to have an informational interview with you. An informational interview gives you the opportunity to speak with those connections at length and learn about the field. These interviews are intended to educate you and start your networking circle; you should never ask for a job.
And Don't Forget
Switching careers takes time and research, so you need to pace yourself. Remember that it won't happen overnight, so be patient. And finally, proofread your cover letters and resume before sending them out!
Learn how PLA credit can help you earn a degree.