Job Seekers: Career Advice
Choosing A Career
Breaking into a new career can be difficult. If you are going to change into a new career, how do you make sure you get it right, how do you find out what it's all about, etc. As we grow and mature, a career that was once considered the job of your dreams may not be so today. The more research you do, the more likely you are to end up in the right place. One advantage of having been in a job you disliked is that you know what to avoid. Although it's difficult to tell if something is going to suit you until you actually do it, having a close look at day-to-day realities reduces the risk of making another mistake.
Reality Career Checklist
A mix of information from a variety of sources is needed to make an informed decision when choosing a career:
- - Start with the impartial information; make sure it's up to date.
- - Read promotional literature for inspiration, but bear in mind its aim is to portray the profession as attractive.
- - Listen to the gripes of those who are dissatisfied.
- - Seek out the stories of those who love the profession.
- - Go and see for yourself to judge if that profession is for you.
No Job Is For Life
We've become used to the idea that no job is for life and many of us move frequently between employers with relative ease, but changing careers completely is a bigger and much more complex decision. Often it is a case of wondering where to start.
One of the biggest hurdles faced with changing careers is financial. A complete career change often means retraining and that has financial implications. As well as paying for courses to build up new skills you have to consider lost earnings and the prospect of a lower starting salary in your new profession. It's also difficult to give up the security of being in a job (even one that isn't satisfying) for the unknown.
It would be easy to encourage everyone to go for their dream regardless of cost, but that's not realistic if you need to keep earning. But don't despair. It's not impossible to change career and provide for yourself at the same time, though it may take longer than it would if money were no problem. If you're prepared to think laterally and make some compromises on the way you'll get there. You can't afford not to make changes once you admit you're working in the wrong place.
- - Look at how your current employer might be able to help. Would retraining for a new role with them satisfy you? If your relationship is good they may be willing to invest in developing you so you can stay working for them.
- - Professions that may are experiencing a shortage of skilled workers may be prepared to be more flexible in their recruitment.
- - Where there are shortages but no formal recruitment and training schemes, see if they'd be interested in taking you on as a trainee. Convince them by showing your knowledge of, and passion for, their business.
- - Few employers can resist that. And even a basic trainee salary is better than no money at all or taking a loan to pay for retraining.
- - Investigate part-time training, distance learning and online courses that you can combine with your present job. Doing training in your own time shows commitment and will help convince future employers that this was a decision you thought about carefully and then followed through.
- - Contact the student services section of your local college or university to find out about courses and financial help available for mature students. They have funds of their own as well as information on educational charities and other organisations that make grants to people who would otherwise find it impossible to return to learning. Even small amounts can make all the difference.
- - Investigate voluntary work opportunities in your area. Relevant experience can be just as valuable as qualifications and many voluntary organisations offer training. The contacts you make through such work can be a great help towards a career shift.
- - Think wider. If the job you really want is out of your reach there will be other areas of work that offer the same satisfaction but are easier to move into. Broadening your original idea could throw up some interesting options.
Re-Evaluating Your Skills
Being in one job for a long time - or out of work for a while, can make you believe there's not much you're good at, apart from what you're already doing. There are so many skilled things we do instinctively every day that we stop recognising them as special.
Qualifications and experience aside there are some very important attributes that all employers feel they can't get enough of:
- - Communicating effectively.
- - Working well in a team.
- - Problem solving.
- - Using initiative.
- - Being well organised.
- - Being adaptable.
These transferable skills, essential for success in the most high-powered jobs, are often learnt and perfected in ordinary situations. It doesn't matter what examples you use to provide proof that you have the qualities employers are looking for, what does matter is that you identify and describe them in a convincing manner.
Re-evaluate yourself by answering the following questions:
- - I'm an effective communicator because...
- - I'm a good team worker because...
- - I'm a problem solver because I can...
- - I show initiative all the time because I'm...
- - My organisational skills mean I'm...
- - I'm adaptable because...
How To Guide Yourself Through A Career Transition
- - Assess what your greatest talents and skills are.
- - Ask 5 people who know you in different capacities to write down what they see as your greatest talents - ask them to not hold back and to be honest in their replies. You may discover talents you previously took for granted.
- - List the functions of the jobs you've most loved.
- - List any criteria you consider important in a position. It is important to remember that job function and job context bring satisfaction to a position.
- - Identify the skills necessary to break into a new career. While some skills will transfer across careers, your preferred position will likely require expertise you presently lack. Research your ideal career field to determine what new skills you will need to get started.
- - Acquire new skills. Consider volunteering at organizations related to your desired career field, returning to study full-time, part-time, by correspondence or by using online educational sources.
- - Rewrite your resume. Changing careers requires a resume makeover: one that highlights skills over job titles. Match the skills and accomplishments most applicable to your desired job field rather than providing a chronological time-line of your work history. Use categorical terminology to emphasize your abilities and relative experiences (i.e., administration, marketing, management, etc.) and include personal information, career objectives, education and extra-curricular activities such as volunteer work and hobbies.
- - See the many possibilities available, but don't get lost in the possibilities. Be clear about what you most want, about what's most important to you in a position or career.
- - Become deeply and broadly knowledgeable about the industry you're interested in.
- - Opportunity isn't something that happens to you, it's something you create. Be open to the possibilities that exist on a moment-to-moment basis. Take initiative.
- - Network. Searching for a job when shifting careers is different to when undertaking a traditional job search. As you may not have relevant experience within the industry you hope to enter, use networking to your advantage.
- - Visualise the future - picture your ideal work day one year from today and compare with your current situation.
- - Be prepared for the opportunities. Act on opportunities in a timely and professional manner. Learn to eliminate delay so you can respond immediately. Sometimes timing is everything.
- - Be Flexible. Aim high, but be flexible about accepting an entry-level position. Despite your previous work experience, many employers will likely view you as a relative beginner. As such, you may have to initially accept a position with less responsibility (and pay) than your previous job. Don't despair. Your past experience in the work world will likely earn you rapid advancement in your new career field.
- - Leave your present job gracefully. Don't burn your bridges with your former employer. Whenever possible, maintain a professional, cordial relationship with them until the end. Chances are you might need them for a reference or you may someday wish to return to your former position. Also, maintain contact with your former business associates, contacts and mentors. You never know what help they may be able to provide your new career down the road.
- - Schedule time off for yourself. As focused as you might be on your career transition, it's important to take time off. Develop yourself in ways that are unrelated to your roles in life. You'll be more powerful and effective as a result of taking this time for yourself.