Despite the poor economy and continuing job losses, many people are still in denial about the possibility of returning to their former careers. They imagine “waiting it out” and re-entering the marketplace doing basically the same thing as they did before. But it is becoming ever more evident that the world has permanently changed and that previous jobs in certain industries will never come back.
While a period of mourning is necessary and understandable, at some point it is time to move on. But how? And to where? And doing what?
Here is a classic case of the importance of being able to turn a problem into an opportunity. The way to do this is through a three step process: (1) internal analysis, (2) external analysis, and (3) personal repositioning.
First, begin with a thorough investigation of your skills, interests, motivational needs, and your preferred style of achieving these needs. This information will be useful whatever you choose. There are many “psychological profiles” available on the internet which will give you a basic vocabulary. There are also more sophisticated instruments as well, although these traditionally require a skilled counselor to debrief. You may discover that the job you had was only meeting part of your combination of skills, interests, style and motivational needs, and it is possible that a thorough search may develop a better fit, resulting in long-term career satisfaction.
For example, I spoke with a physician who was an ER (emergency room) specialist. His personality was affable and gregarious and so patients were drawn to him. However, the ER was an ever-expanding unit serving more and more trauma cases and few repeat patients. His ability to bond with patients was being stifled, much to his dissatisfaction. He finally began the process of interviewing and ended as a physician at a financial services company where his ER skills were needed but he was also able to maintain ongoing connections to staff members. Thus, by analyzing his motivational needs and style, he was able to understand the unsatisfied parts of his career and choose a better fit. As you do your internal analysis, create four columns, listing skills, interests, style and needs. As you develop a comprehensive list, you will soon see which of your internal motivations are being utilized and which are unsatisfied.
Next, with this information, begin researching the external environment to determine the careers that align most closely with your existing skills and needs. Be rigorous in your analysis, including interviewing people who are now in those careers. It is important to understand the environment and lifestyle associated with these choices. For example, there are significant differences between the job of a corporate lawyer and a civil rights attorney. These include who you work with, how much money you make, how you relate to the target population, what hours you work, what extracurricular activities are essential to success, and what contribution you can make. All of these factors should align as closely as possible with your personal ambitions.
Finally, once you have identified the career which seems to be a good fit for you, it is time to do some high level research. Each profession has its own particular “language” and you need to become familiar with the jargon if you are to present yourself as a credible resource. Read professional journals, attend conferences, and do some primary research (i.e. speaking directly to people working in that career). Most importantly, you will need to understand and be able to explain how your past experience will be valuable in this new venue. In short, you are morphing yourself from a “job beggar” to a valuable resource for your prospective new employer.
John Trauth is co-author of “Your Retirement, Your Way” (McGraw-Hill, 2007), a step-by-step curriculum which explains the secrets for happiness in retirement and helps readers prepare for the psychological, strategic and financial aspects of this major life transition. Learn more about this book and take the free “retirement readiness quiz” at http://www.YourRetirementYourWay.com.