Making a career change at any age, is more common that you might think. In the 1940’s and 1950’s, workers typically did not change careers during the duration of their work life. Today, career professionals may completely change their path two or three times, in the course of their career span. The global business environment changes rapidly, and while some jobs become eclipsed by technology or innovation, new roles are also created, and worth exploring, for progressive career professionals.
One of the questions recruiters frequently hear is: “Where do I start?” Our team shares five steps to starting a career change, and where to invest your time to create a smooth transition into an exciting new industry or role.
Transferable Skills Inventory
When making a career pivot, the best place to start is an introspective evaluation of the transferable skills you already have. The next step is to do some online research regarding your new career, including labor market research on criteria for employment, salary and demand for the role in your area (or internationally). What skills do you possess that might make for a successful transition to a new career? What soft skills or training will you need, before you can make the change?
Evaluating Workplace Culture Needs
Why is your current role and career a bad fit? It is good to focus on the positives of making a new career change, but before you define the kind of job you want, you must spend time evaluating the kind of work and environment that you dislike. Create a list of ‘deal breakers’ in terms of corporate environments and be honest about cultures that do not fit with your lifestyle. If you hate to travel and dislike large crowds, any aspect of convention or event marketing will not be a good fit. Do you dislike constant telephone calls? A migration to inside sales (no matter how lucrative) may not be a good fit for you.
The investment can take years and be costly in terms of continuing education and certification, so narrow your needs down to at least five critical factors that align your workplace fulfillment needs and corporate culture. It will help you to identify your best fit, when interviewing.
The Value of Volunteer Work
Every role looks incredibly interesting, and some may feel like a perfect fit until you are actually working within the scope. Before you invest in retraining, reach out to your business network or local community to seek out volunteer opportunities with organizations in your target niche. Whether working as an part-time intern, or volunteering with charity events, the inside scoop on different organizations and what the role is really like will be valuable, and it will also give you the opportunity to expand your network and make valuable new business connections.
Retraining and Certifications
Pursuing a new career in a new niche, simply involves relearning the industry that you are accustomed to. However, if you are making a fresh start in a completely new career role, retaining and certifications are part of preparing yourself to be competitively employable within the industry.
Your local College or University can be a good place to start, and reviewing online continuing education and certification courses is fast and easy. If you are thinking of enrolling into some night and weekend courses, free resources for returning students are usually provided. Take advantage of this resource, and book an appointment with a career counselor, who will have more information on specific fields, and minimum educational, skill based training or certifications required for entry.
Another benefit of engaging in retraining is that your skills will be competitive with new graduates in the sector, and recent training looks favorable on your CV. It will also permit you to get a taste of your new role and responsibilities, to help you decide if your new career path will be a good fit for you.
Networking and Career Opportunity Search
During the entire process of evaluating your new career choice and determining qualifications and skills required to be competitively employed within it, start considering who in your business network can help you break into your new role.
Asking your professional network on LinkedIn in a public way (for instance posting that you are looking for a job) is not the best way to engage executives or colleagues to keep you in mind. What works far better in terms of using LinkedIn, is a more personalized approach. If someone is within your network, send them a private message that is short, but one that indicates your interest in their industry or field. Ask for referrals to any resources that can help mentor you on your new path.
You will be amazed how (if asked professionally) most executives and managers will happily refer you to organizations who may be hiring. In the very least, most will congratulate you and agree to listen for suitable opportunities for you. Your initiative, and commitment to professional development speaks volumes.