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Career Change Strategies – Part I

Workplace Experts from Around the World Offer Their Best Career Change Tips


Most professionals change careers several times throughout their work life. Sometimes it takes years to discover your true calling. However, embarking on a new career can be daunting. These seven steps to making a career change can help guide you on your path to professional fulfillment. For insider advice, we polled recruiters, career experts and executives from across the country for the best advice on how to make a career change (for more tips, be sure to read Career Change Strategies – Part II). Here’s what they had to say:

Do Your Research. “Get a real understanding of what your new career actually entails. Often people looking to make a change base their decision on limited information - someone from marketing presents a fun and flashy presentation and they are lured in, or they have a meaningful and eye-opening conversation with HR and decide they would like to ‘work with people.’ Dig deep into the role you think you want - ask incumbents in the position if you can interview them. Spend time coming up with detailed questions that get at the heart of how they spend their day, rather than overarching summaries. Choose the new career path because you are interested in and suited to the underlying work, rather than the profession. Take a couple of online assessments. The MBTI, for example, can indicate what an individual's natural preferences are. From there, someone looking to make a career change can assess whether their natural preferences align with their new profession. The likelihood of satisfaction and success in the new job will be much higher if it is aligned with the individual's innate strengths and preferences.” – Rodney Evans, independent organizational development consultant based in Durham, North Carolina

Volunteer. “The best way to make a career change is by capitalizing on volunteer experience. Claiming to be ‘passionate’ about something in which you have no experience is a hard claim for most employers to believe. Showing that you spent your time, energy, and resources to help out an industry or cause you believe in can make the difference.” – Andrea Ballard,career coach and the owner of Expecting Change, LLC

Tap into Your True Potential. “Making a career change is a great opportunity for people to move more in the direction of their fulfillment and purpose, so the question people should ask themselves is: ‘What would bring me the most joy using my true potential in the world?’ as a starting point for their new direction.” – Suzanne Strisower, certified career coach and author of 111 Inspirational Life Purpose Quotes and Exercises to Find Your Purpose in Life

Transfer Skills. “The best advice I give to career changers is to transfer skills and not industry. Law recruiters seek individuals who have analytical, organizational and interpersonal skills. Early in my career fresh out of college, I got a job selling the Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary and the King James Bible door-to-door. After 14 years and overseeing sales crews of 48 in three states, I applied for a job as National Sales Manager for Snapple Beverages (then, a new product). In my interview, the CEP at the time told me, ‘I'm not going to hire you even though you seem to be a strong sales manager since you have no industry experience. I'm interviewing people from PepsiCo, Tropicana, Seagrams...’ I replied, ‘Before I started selling dictionaries, I didn't have any dictionary experience. The sales process never changes - the product does, and you should be happy I don’t have industry experience. Everyone I talk to will be a prospect.’ I got the job.” – Barry Cohen, career coach who oversees job development and job placement for 14 New York City colleges

Think Long-Term. “The best time to make a new career change is five years ago. You need to think about your career as a long-term endeavor, and you should be thinking about what you'd like to be doing one year, five years, ten years from now...now. It's difficult to wake up one morning and say, 'I'd like to change careers today.' Cultivating interests, developing contacts, and mastering your skills are all like good wines -- they're better with age.” – Marc Cenedella, CEO of TheLadders.com

Consider Your Motivation. “When you transition it is important to know and understand your motivation for the career change. If the motivation is merely monetary or because you hate your boss, you may find out that the new industry or path you have chosen really is not a fit for you or you may not have the persistence to stick with making the change. Your motivation should be pure.” – Tiffani Murray, resume writer and career consultant with PersonalityOnaPage.com and author of Stuck on Stupid: A Guide for Today's Professional Stuck in a Rut

Job Shadowing. “Shadowing may be the best way to transition to a new career in law. Asking a contact at a law firm for permission to follow them around for a day to see what their job is really like sends the message that the individual is serious and wants to have a realistic understanding of the new career before they embark on it. It will also help with networking as the lawyer who agrees may be able to help the individual actually get a new job.” – Bruce A. Hurwitz, executive recruiter, career counselor, advisor at the multimedia resume portal Purzue and author of A Hooker's Guide to Getting a Job: Parables from the Real World of Career Counseling and Executive Recruiting

Intern Wisely. “My advice for switching careers successfully is to intern with the best. Look for opportunities, be they paid or unpaid, to intern with the best of the best in your industry or sector. A successful internship proves that you've garnered the skills necessary to switch careers and you may also get a recommendation from your manager, team lead or supervisor that would be invaluable in making a new start. All of the aforementioned will go a long way in getting your foot in the door on a totally new career path.” – Shilonda Downing, owner of Virtual Work Team

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