One of the biggest challenges for anyone looking to change change careers is making the change. It's easy to rewrite a resume and go to networking events. It's much harder to put yourself on the line and face failure. One of my favorite thinkers is Seth Godin, who loves it when people "deliver." For someone trying to change careers, delivering begins when you go on the first interview. Delivering is also when you start to describe yourself in your new role. Change might be the most difficult thing we do as humans, but it is also the power that lets us grow and develop. Failure is part of the process, so is frustration. However, speaking for myself and the millions of other who have found happiness by changing career, every moment of sorrow will be repaid by years of satisfaction. Get out there. Find what will make you happy
Martin Luther King is a great model for anyone who wants to change careers. King was a minister and could have stayed in his church. He would have done good work and helped many people. However, he had a higher calling. The minister became a champion for civil rights, and he changed history.
King's own words are invaluable for anyone looking to change careers or make any major change in life: "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."
I changed careers when I turned 40. That was 14 years ago. There were plenty of starts and stops, interviews that felt like a waste of time. Finally I found a place to start my new career. Several of my clients have had similar experiences. As Dr. King said, "faith" is the key. If we believe in ourselves, we'll see the "whole staircase" and find our new path.
I was called recently by a client I’ll call Mary. Mary first worked with me over ten years ago when she first graduated from college with a degree in Marketing. Her first jobs focused on creative functions. Mary was talented and quickly became a manager. However, she also learned the ins and outs of how companies sell online. Two years ago Mary was promoted to Director of E commerce for a company that sells exclusively over the internet. Almost without knowing it, Mary changed careers.
Last week I talked with Mary about updating her resume. She knows her industry very well and decided to have three different version of the resume. In one, she will make a lateral move and pursue a position as Director of E commerce. To give herself more opportunities, Mary will also pursue positions as a Website Director, a position which would give her full responsibility for the website, not just E commerce. Finally, Mary also could use her technical skills as Director of Optimization, a position that focus on improving how customers move on a website, especially in getting them to purchase products instead of leaving them in the digital shopping cart.
Mary’s story is a good example of someone who is managing her career, not just looking for a job. She understands how technology has changed. By learning how the technology works, she has given herself more opportunities. Is there a similar opportunity in your industry? Have you learned new skills or mastered a new technology that opens new career paths?
Theodore Roosevelt wrote, "Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing."
Most of the clients who come to me for help in changing careers aren't looking for more money or a more impressive title. They want to do work that is meaningful, often something that helps other people. If that kind of career changes is appealing to you, start with your values: Who do you want to help? What do you want to change? Once you've established your mission, the next question is how you can best work in that field. For some people that will mean defining transferable skills and demonstrating how you are ready to work in a new field. For some people, the challenge will be to go back to school or to obtain a certificate. The challenge, as President Roosevelt said, is to find work that is worth our effort.
Where’s the best place to look for a career? Technology. According to an article in Bloomberg, six of the top ten industries that hire career changers involve technology. As the article notes, these companies are not just looking for employees with technical skills. They need employees with a wide range of skill sets. The trick in a career change is to identify and leverage your transferable skills. For example, negotiation is a skill that can be used in sales, purchasing, and management. It will be used differently in each job function, but the skill will transfer from profession to profession. In some cases, a career changer will need to go back to school for a new degree or certificate. More often, if you can align your transferable skills and experience with an employer’s needs, you can make a career transition. With the unemployment rate going down, now is a great time to make a change.
- Employers should offer full time jobs whenever possible.
- Employers should offer predictable schedules that let workers plan their lives.
- Employers should encourage worker retention and job security after companies are sold.
I agree with these points and would add the following for all workers:
- Workers should have the right to form unions without facing intimidation from their employers
- The minimum wage should be raised according to changes in inflation.
- The use of non-compete clauses should be limited and regulated. No minimum wage worker should be restricted by a non-compete clause.
- Equal pay for equal work.
- Repeal Taft-Hartley and other anti-worker, “Right to Work” [for less] laws.
Working people need to demand some protection. They deserve a workers' bill of rights.
I’m currently working with a client who began his career as a Chef. Frank (not his real name) loved working in the kitchen and making his guests happy. About five years ago, he stretched his skill set by becoming an Executive Chef. Rather than running the kitchen, he took on the role of managing business operations. In this role, Frank’s first concerns were budgets and profitability. Rather than cooking, he now coaches chefs and unit managers to make them more conscious of business goals. Frank now makes more money and feels more challenged by his work. He remains dedicated to providing his guests with the best quality of food, but now he does so as an operations leader, not the person behind the stove.
A few years ago, one of my clients was a successful mechanical engineer. Joe (not his real name) was assigned to projects across the U.S. based on his ability to redesign products and systems. Joe’s manager came to him one day and asked if he was interested in becoming a Product Manager. Like Frank, Joe had to learn new skills quickly. He began to meet with customers to learn what they needed in new products. He now had to consider what components and raw materials would cost. Joe began to create budgets and forecasts. He continued to use the technical skills he learned as an engineer, but he added a new understanding of business, including purchasing and marketing.
We often think of career changes as big moves, the police officer who becomes a sales person. In many cases, career change is an evolution. By picking up new duties and being open to new challenges, it is possible to find a new career with less stress. Look for ways to do more at your current job. Volunteer for special projects. A new career could be just around the corner.
Most people think about career change in terms of finding work that will be meaningful. They want to follow their passion. That’s a great goal, but any career transition needs to start with this question: How much money do I need to earn? Would-be career changers often ignore this question, and they are shocked to learn that their dream career will not pay enough to let them cover their living costs.
Before beginning a career change, you need to research average pay for the field you are seeking to enter. Develop a realistic budget to see if you can cut your costs. After taking these steps, you can decide if a new career path is realistic or just a dream.
One of my clients has had an interesting career. While he has been very successful in retail sales, he has always filled a role in IT, which is fitting for a person who majored in computer sciences. He recently earned a major certification and now wants to focus his career in IT.
He asked a question many career changers face: “Do I have to start at the bottom?”
Before I could answer, his girlfriend, who accompanied him to our meeting, snapped: “You don’t have to eat dog food.” I smiled hearing her words.
Many career changers assume that going into a new field means starting at the entry level. This assumption is flawed because it ignores the direct experience, transferable skills, education, or certification that makes the career change possible. My client has skills and experience that will let him be a system administrator or IT Manager. If he applied to positions like Help Desk 1 or Technicians, most employers would say he was overqualified.
People change careers all the time. Some transitions are easier than others. However, in many cases, it is not necessary to go to the bottom of the ladder and start climbing all over again. There is always an employer who is looking to higher talent and pay a low wage. They’ll feed you dog food if you’ll eat it. Now your value and respect yourself. Find a job that meets what you have to offer.
One of my favorite websites Big Think featured a quotation from the great Zen teacher Alan Watts: “The only way to make sense of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”
We often resist change and hang on to what we can no longer have, or – worse still – cling to that which is not good for us. Watts’ advice is very relevant to anyone thinking about changing jobs or careers. Don’t dread the change. Dance with it.
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