Things to Know When Considering a Career Change

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, according to its 2015 to 2016 Current Population Survey, around four percent of the total workforce changed careers from one type of occupation to another.

If you aim to be among these numbers, then there is much you should know in order to facilitate a successful transition. Key among these considerations are your reasons for making a change, the current state of the job market you will be entering and the people you know, or could meet, who may be helpful in your career change efforts.

Once you have decided to explore this possibility of changing careers, step back and consider all the nuances. Analyze your present thoughts, feelings and possibilities to strategize your best actions ahead. Resist all urges to act first and think later. Taking your time to change careers smartly can help to ensure you find a new career you excel in and enjoy for years to come. Consider the possibility that a small change might suffice in lieu of a major change. In fact, the smaller the change you make, the easier the transition may well be.

Why You Want the Change

One of the most important things to know regarding a career change is your reason for changing careers. Do you want a career change because you are not happy with your present employer or is it because you want to utilize a different set of skills? You will need to consider what exactly needs changing in your work life. Do you want a new job (i.e. working for a different company or supervisor) or a new occupation altogether? The answer to this question will help you considerably in directing your focus forward to execute your career change plans. Knowing how to identify transferable work skills from one profession to another will also help.

Current Employment Data

If you are once again entering the job market, then you will surely want to know what type of market you are entering. Being aware of the demand for the type of work you will be seeking as well as how much competition is currently out there for that type of work will help you make a sound financial decision about your intended vocations. Valuable information you can glean from employment data can give you a fuller picture such as wages for particular positions in particular markets, like different states, and worker mobility between specific career groups. For instance, some companies have remote workers who are able to do their job from home.

Current employment data can also help you pick new careers or occupations by showing you which ones are presently projected to offer the most employment opportunities. In 2014 and 2015, for example, those occupations were as follows, starting with the most projected openings:

  • Registered nurses
  • Customer service representatives
  • Operations and general managers
  • Nursing assistants
  • Auditors and accountants
  • General maintenance repair workers
  • Childcare workers
  • Tractor-trailer and other heavy truck drivers
  • Manufacturing and wholesale sales representatives, with the exception of scientific and technical products
  • Elementary school teachers, with the exception of special education teachers

You will need to know what level of skill, expertise and experience will you need to offer in order to be competitive in this market. Will you need to further your education by doing on-the-job training or attending a technical school or a traditional college?

People Matter

One of your most valuable assets in finding and landing a new career is other people. You will need the knowledge, direction and aid of other people in order to go from wanting a career change to actually achieving it. Other people have contacts you need to get your foot in the door and keep your resumé seen. Former coworkers may have their eyes and ears on the job market you are considering re-entering. Utilizing human connections to further your career change goals can be approached in many ways.

Network in order to expand your circle of contacts in areas related to your chosen future field. If you already have a network, then inform your connections of your plans and pick their brains for information and assistance. Identify individuals currently working in the very positions or fields you are considering and ask if you can conduct an informational interview with them. Prepare for the interview with all your questions written out in advance so you do not waste the person’s time. Be clear you are not seeking employment from or through this person, merely information on the job and his or her experience around it. You may also ask for tips to make your resumé and cover letter stand out to the people hiring for the desired position. Once an informational interview has been completed, just like after any job interview, send a thank you note to show your appreciation.

Find and make use of internal contacts working inside companies where you would actually like to work. See if you can get any inside assistance in successfully navigating the hiring process, whether that be an outright introduction, a simple notification when relevant openings occur or resumé tips on what skills will stand out to the hiring manager.

Stress-Reduction Measures

Even though stress may be one of the leading causes of your career change plans, changing careers itself can also be quite stressful. Emotions commonly associated with the process of changing careers include the following:

  • Guilt over leaving your current employer, company and coworkers behind
  • Sadness and depression over not being able to make it work out with your current job as you may have hoped
  • Anxiety and fear about the uncertainty to come and your ability to navigate and cope with it successfully

One mechanism for dealing with these negative emotions stirred up during any big change is to focus on the associated positive emotions inherent with the change. Changing careers almost always produces feelings of motivation, determination, relief and acceptance, as well as all the stress and related negative emotions. Train your attention to these empowering feelings anytime one of the less empowering ones threatens to derail you. More than anything, be cognizant that entering the job market can stir up many emotions.

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