We all remember hearing tales of the older generation and their devotion to their companies…not to mention their career path. You toiled away, day after day, hoping for that promotion that would move you up the ladder. You knew that industry inside and out, and when you retired after 40 years of service, you got the proverbial gold watch and pension.
Well, no one wears watches anymore, thanks to our smartphones, and a pension is a relic of the past.
Now, the name of the career game is agility. Instead of emulating a mountain climber, taking measured steps up the career mountain, we are more like an X Games athlete…jumping, jiving, diving, bounding. Sometimes we’ll be moving straight up, and then boom..it’s a lateral move.
Not only have our career trajectories changed, but we are being bombarded with a rapidly altering workplace that constantly offers exciting new opportunities. A graphic circulating on the internet today claims that 65 percent of today’s grade-school children will end up at jobs that haven’t been invented yet.
If that’s the case, there is no doubt that we all will become a nation of career switchers.
The race will be won by the nimble. How do you consider if a career change is right for you?
1. Make a List of Industries or Fields That Interest You and Conduct Research
There’s a lot of ways to make a buck. These days we’re not pigeonholed as butchers, bakers or candle stick makers. Even consultants have consultants! So, there’s no shortage of potential career paths.
How do you find out about all these “hidden” careers? Start talking. To everybody. Find out what people do and how they got there. Who do they know in a field that interests you whom you could meet with? Conduct exhaustive research on not only the career you think you want, but careers related to it.
Maybe your lifestyle precludes heading back to school to become a vet, but could you start a mobile pet grooming service? Or work in a vet’s office? Or become a vet X-ray technician? Or a pharmaceutical sales rep that specializes in veterinary medicine?
2. Determine Education Requirements
Right, back to that vet pedigree. If your dream job requires a degree you don’t have, or experience that would be challenging to replicate, look further unless you are willing to put in the time.
Think being a speech therapist would be a perfect fit for the flexible schedule you crave? That’s great; until you realize you need a whole bunch of anatomy classes. Ditto the master’s degree required to be a nutrition counselor. Eh, back to silently critiquing your dining companions’ food choices.
But maybe you can become a financial consultant or home appraiser by taking some online courses. Figure out what you need, how it’s available and whether you are willing to commit to the investment in time and tuition.
3. Figure Out What Skills Are Transferable from Your Current Industry to Another, to Ease the Segue
Many professionals have honed skills and contacts in one industry that are a boon to another. Journalists often end up as communication consultants. Reality TV stars seem to become designers.
Take a look at your strengths and figure out what careers they could apply to. Maybe you’re a teacher who has had your fill of working with kids and the professional world beckons. (Though, sadly you’ll likely just find adults who act like kids!) Teachers have a knack for distilling challenging concepts into terms that resonate with their audience. Maybe you could apply that to the financial world, helping clients understand investment options or tricky insurance information.
Are you a real estate agent who wants something more steady? Put your knowledge of the real estate industry and your ability to network and market yourself to work as a home stager, an appraiser or a mortgage professional.
Whatever you’re good at, there is a career where you can use those skills.
4. Think About What You Like About Your Current Career, and Which Aspects Are Not Negotiable
As you consider a career change, make a list of not only potential career paths, but also job “requirements,” whether it’s a certain salary you need, a flexible schedule or the potential to ‘do good.’
Do you have little ones at home who need you to have a set schedule? Then becoming a regional manager or salesperson with frequent required travel isn’t going to work. Unless you have back-up child care, showing houses evenings and weekends probably wouldn’t be feasible.
Do you prefer an office or virtual environment? Find companies and industries that cater to your preference.
Used to summers off? Well, sorry, I believe you’re out of luck unless the education field is calling.
Start doing some research and you will find that we have more options than ever before. The bottom line is that in today’s work environment, no one needs to feel stuck in career quick sand. Your dream job is waiting…go get it!
by Cathie Ericson