Making a career change is nothing new in today's job
I've heard it said that the average American changes
careers at least once in his or her life. Long gone are
the days of working for the same company from the time
you graduate high school or college until that magical
You sure won't find that kind of loyalty from companies to
their workers these days, and it's rare to find that kind
of loyalty from the average worker as well. What with
companies merging, downsizing, and moving their operations
offshore, you'd be wise to plan for a career change
somewhere along the line in your life.
Of course, losing one job doesn't automatically mean that
you can never find another job in the same industry or
career path. Hopefully, you will. But what if you can't
find another job? Or what if you don't really want to?
Maybe you're bored with what you've been doing, or you've
gone as far as you can in that career and you're ready for
Is it really possible to switch to a new career midstream
in your working life?
The answer is a resounding yes! But you have to
know how to go about it. It takes a bit of planning, thorough self-assessment, and perhaps additional training.
When I tired of the grind in health administration as a
nurse, I spent about 2 years trying to figure out what else
I could do. Luckily, I was able to parlay a love and talent
for writing into a new career as a health writer. I did
have to prove my ability to write--even though much of my
job responsibility in my previous healthcare administration
job did involve writing. I was fortunate enough to be able
to use networking and some lucky breaks to get into the
career I wanted with a minimum of effort.
My partner, Jim, has been a systems engineer for more than
20 years, but graduated with a bachelors degree in math
originally. When he began to search for a career change
alternative, his path was not quite as clear as mine had
been. Finally, though, after spending quite a bit of time
on self-assessment, he honed in on his love for training
and teaching. But you can't just move into the field of
teaching with no experience or education. Fortunately, the
shortage of qualified teachers--especially in certain high
needs areas--has led to the development of a number of
"alternative path" programs for teaching. Jim has enrolled
in just such an online program out of Montana State
University and will be launching his new career later this
year as a high school math teacher!
So, the question is... once you've figured out what you
want to do in your new career and you've gotten the
training you need, how do you sell yourself to a new
The first thing you want to consider is the format for your
resume. The traditional chronological resume format is not
your best choice for a career change. Instead, you want to
use either a functional--or even better, combination--
format. You can read more about the different types of
resume formats here:
Second, you need to take a look at your transferable
skills. That is, what current or past experience or skills
do you possess (either from past jobs or in your personal
life) that you could use in your new career?
For example, one of my readers recently asked how he
could get into interior design without any previous job
experience or training. I'm not sure you can get into
this field without any training, but if so, then I
advised him to look at any design experience he's had,
perhaps with redecorating his own or a friend's home. I
also encouraged him to build a portfolio of his work,
which can be a very effective way to get an employer's
Thirdly, you have to be honest with yourself about whether
you can really make a career change without adding to your
skills and credentials by getting some training in the new
field. There's a lot to be said for the contacts you can
make during such training too, that may help you network
with people who can provide an entree into the new career.
In summary, anyone can make a career change if they really
want to. But to do so, you'll need to know what related
skills and experience you bring to the table. And you'll
need to know how to sell yourself to a prospective
employer. Career change is inevitable... you can count on
it! But make sure it's on your terms by making a solid
career change plan.
Kathi MacNaughton is a freelance writer and resume expert.
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