The actual first step in career transition is to take time for self-analysis of your career likes, dislikes, skills, and values. Then, it’s time to move into three more steps that will keep you moving forward!
Step 1: Brainstorm career possibilities.
Your goal is to brainstorm career options that you feel meet (and vice versa) your own job criteria. Here are two great ways:
- Brainstorming Buddies. Reach out to two or three brainstorming buddies. Find people who are open to exploration of options, who have worked in diverse careers or settings, and who are not biased about what you should do. Send your brainstorming buddies a document listing everything you’ve found out about yourself. Add any notes you think would be relevant, such as not wanting to relocate or retrain. Ask them to take a half hour and brainstorm as many possible career options as they can. Give them at least a week to complete it. Then collect!
- Collaborative Assessment. When you receive the brainstorming feedback, have a one-to-one with a trusted friend or colleague. Look at the choices together, and narrow them to three or four options that interest you. You’re ready for research. You can always go back and modify this initial list. For example, let’s say that you selected “management consulting” as one of your options. If further research changes your mind, just remove it and add another option.
Step 2: Research roles and industries.
Having narrowed your options to a few, start researching to learn more about them, and decide if you want to follow them further. At this stage, you may well still be unsure! That’s okay!
Some General Resources:
- U.S. Department of Labor – Bureau of Labor Statistics – http://www.bls.gov/ [free]
- Resources for Job Seeker or Worker – http://www.bls.gov/audience/jobseekers.htm
- Career Guide to Industries – http://www.bls.gov/iag/
- Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey – http://www.bls.gov/jlt/
- Employment – http://www.bls.gov/bls/employment.htm
- Employment Situation Summary – http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm
- Unemployment – http://www.bls.gov/bls/unemployment.htm
- Economic New Releases – http://www.bls.gov/bls/newsrels.htm#OEUS
- International Labor Comparisons – http://www.bls.gov/fls/
- Pay & Benefits – http://www.bls.gov/bls/wages.htm
There are others: company websites, association websites, LinkedIn, glassdoor.com, Indeed, and on. These resources enable you to explore occupations and industries and learn more about the realities of working in the scenarios.
Another way you can research a potential field is to organize informational meetings with individuals currently working in them. For example, if you are interested in potentially being a medical device salesperson, first research in the above-type databases. Then if you’re still interested, set up meetings with other sales people in the industry to gain their perspectives.
Step 3: Dip your toe in the water.
So, after you’ve narrowed down your potential choices, there are ways to either get real-world experience if it’s a major change; or add to your qualifications if it’s related.
- Volunteering is a great way to position yourself within an organization that interests you. It can arm you with a clear view of how your skills match up, and can open new networking avenues for you.
- Part-time work is another way to stay with your current job, while transitioning into a new role. So much work is contracted out that you can get experience working in a prospective career through freelance work, temp work, or contract work. It will ramp up your schedule of commitments, but in short-term will bring in money while offering experience.
- Transferring is often a possibility for folks. If you like your employer company – just not your job – it can serve you well to explore the possibilities of moving within the company. It also lets management know that you’re ready to assume more accountability, loyal to the company, and on.
- Enhancing your skills and knowledge is another way to shift career direction. If you can’t afford to go back for a full degree or certification program, you can enroll in individual classes or part-time studies that bring your skills to a marketable and competitive advantage.
There are, of course, more steps to the job search. After Step 3, you want to prepare your resume and marketing communications. You want to network. You want to ace the interviews. But these three steps are often not prioritized early; or are not applied at all. And it can make all the difference!
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