Is a Career Change on Your Horizon?

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Making a career change is nothing new in today's job market.

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 retirement day.

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 new challenges.

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 employer?

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 attention.

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. For many more practical, how-to articles like this, along with career change tips and a free course on acing your job interviews, subscribe to Resume Power Tips here:

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