By Jenni W. Gritters
NOW, January 8, 2018 —
Have you been considering a new career? Perhaps a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)? The new year is a perfect time to make intentional changes in your life, especially pertaining to your job. However, exploring a new career path can be overwhelming at times.
To get started, try these job search tips:
1. Make a List of Your Current Strengths
What skills do you already have that would translate to a career in STEM? For example, if you feel confident in your communication skills, perhaps you might look for a job in science policy. Jodi Glickman suggests some job search tips in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), the most key of which is to think of your strengths in terms of what people ask you for help with the most.
2. Research Career Options
Do some research about what qualifications will be required if you want to get a STEM job but are not yet working in the field. Consider what potential certifications you might need to complete. Check websites of professional organizations in your desired field to get a sense for how to prepare for a job. Writer Kenda Whitmire recently switched from a career in the humanities to a career as a nutritionist, and she reminds career changers that many STEM jobs will require that you take classes or acquire a new degree. Keep in mind that if you do need to acquire a new degree, you may have already fulfilled some prerequisites.
3. Find Companies Whose Aspirations Match Your Own
Rebecca Knight writes in HBR that it’s worthwhile to look for companies and careers whose mission, values or aspirations align with your own. For example, some STEM careers will allow you to help people directly — like nursing or nutrition — while others might involve more independent work, perhaps in a laboratory or factory setting. If you need to tangibly see the impact of your work, you might choose the former over the latter. At Northrop Grumman, employees agree to take quality and leadership seriously. If these factors matter to you, a career at Northrop Grumman might be a good fit.
4. Vet Specific Roles
Take a look at specific STEM jobs and ask yourself these key questions: How much do you need to make per year to achieve your financial goals? How well does the specific job fit in with your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes? What else are you offered as part of the job? Research has shown that a job’s “extras” — like benefits, commute time and managerial structures — can make a big difference in job satisfaction levels.
5. Polish Your Resume
Make sure that your resume reflects your transferable skills and new certifications; that way, you can show how you might be qualified for a new job in the STEM sector even if it’s not obvious at a first glance. “Maybe it’s not just, I’m great with numbers, it’s I’m great with details. And so I could take this financial analysis position that I’ve been doing for years and years and actually go do something very different as long as it is also detail oriented … it’s the skill behind the skill,” says Jodi Glickman, founder of the communication training company Great on the Job.
Job boards are usually for research; networking is often the real key to getting a new position in a STEM field. This is why informational interviews are important. You can also network by joining common interest groups for the industry you’re interested in, attending hackathons or reaching out to people in your local community who’ve also switched to STEM careers in mid-life.
7. Stay Persistent
It can be tough to get a new job, especially in STEM, and especially if you’re making a career change later in life. For this reason, Glickman recommends setting a reasonable time frame for your job hunt. For example, if after three months your dream job isn’t panning out, agree that you’ll spend 50 percent of your time continuing to work toward that dream job and 50 percent of your time working toward a fallback option that gets you halfway there.