“I am an IT director with fifteen years’ experience, but I am bored. I have always enjoyed teaching and helping others, so I want to change careers and work as an instructor. Is this realistic?”
By Abby M. Locke, IMDiversity Special Careers Contributor
As a career professional, does the above quote strike a nerve with you? Recently, I have served a large number of clients who are looking to change careers. For one reason or another, they are succumbing to the passion that has gnawed at their spirit for years. They are also finding that changing careers brings anxiety, doubt, and even fear.
I often look at my own career path and the road that led to my dream job. As an accountant’s daughter, I readily majored in Business Management in college and spent over 14 years building a career in the financial services industry. Along the way, I even completed an advanced degree in Business to accelerate my career growth. Today, I run and operate a resume writing service that is both profitable and personally rewarding. I truly enjoy the challenge of empowering individuals in their job search and encouraging them to career success.
So how did I make the transition? More importantly, are there easy steps for anyone to follow? Absolutely! It is perfectly acceptable to develop new career interests in your lifetime; in addition, a career change does not have to be traumatic.
Define your career focus
Too many times, clients will contact me about wanting to change careers, but are clueless about what they want to do. If you are unsure, I recommend hiring a career coach. An effective career coach will work with you one-on-one and guide you towards rewarding career options. As part of the coaching process, you will be encouraged to examine jobs that fulfill your passion. Many career coaches also assist with interview training and networking techniques. Select a coach with at least one certification in addition to advanced degrees and training. Gaining clarity on your career focus by working with a career coach will make it much easier to develop a strategic career plan.
Take career risks
Take advantage of opportunities to work in a different capacity or learn a new skill. Another client of mine worked in higher education for several years, but took the opportunity to get involved in event planning for campus affairs. Eventually, she started coordinating events for large organizations, families, and friends. After a few years, she was able to make a smooth transition into a position as an event planner and consultant. On a personal note, I accepted a teaching position at a junior college in New York where I taught both writing and business courses to adults. At the time, I thought that I was taking a step back in my career. In hindsight, my writing and career counseling skills, which benefit me today, were nurtured and sharpened during that period.
Follow your heart
When you discover a new passion or interest, just keep following your heart. As a teacher, when I started writing resumes for my students, it was not long before the word got out. Students from other classes and ones I did not know started approaching me for resume help. Family, friends, and friends of friends soon followed. I was not sure where everything was leading, but I stayed focused and put my heart into every project. Work hard at your new interest just as you do in your current career. Delve into it completely, feel it out, and see if you would enjoy doing it for a living.
Do your research
Once you have identified your new career, start your research right away. In the past, I hired large printing companies to prepare my resume and any upgrades I needed. I was not aware of a growing industry of professionals who provided personalized, one-on-one resume writing service. During my career-changing research, I found several books on starting a home-based resume writing service. Talk to professionals in the field; perform research on the Internet; visit libraries and bookstores; and attend local chapters of industry professional associations if they are available. You never know what is out there until you start looking.
Decide your next move
Once you have decided on your new career path, determine your next move. Will a resume and targeted job search strategy help you land your dream job? Do you need to gain some experience in your targeted industry before you start job hunting? Are you adequately trained or do you need to go back to school? Is your passion leading you to start your business? Sometimes you may have to take the long path to get there, but be prepared and plan your steps accordingly.
Utilize volunteer work
You can start building work experience in your target industry through volunteer work. Do not underestimate the value of the skills and experience you can gain by volunteering. This summer I created a resume for a client seeking marketing positions. When I reviewed her resume, I noticed that she had eight years’ full-time experience as an analyst. She had no full-time, part-time, or internship marketing experience. But this jobseeker was different. She recognized years earlier that she was interested in pursuing marketing and public relations jobs. She strategically began offering free marketing services to start-up companies in her local community. She secured positions as a marketing director with one organization and a sales and marketing manager for another. In less than five years, she had sufficient marketing experience to offer an employer.
Develop a career-change resume
Career changers have to be very creative when putting a resume together. Unlike the traditional resume that focuses on achievements for each position, a career-change resume needs to highlight transferable skills. Consider using a functional resume format and integrate keywords from your experience that directly relate to your new career. Here again, your volunteer work and other special projects or assignments can be used to build your resume.
Respect the process
Remember that your current career advancement did not happen overnight, so do not expect to become an executive in a new field right away. Changing careers often means accepting a pay cut or lower title. However, it is important to stay focused and stay committed to find career happiness.
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