Are you considering a career 180 – a jump to a new role or a brand-new industry?
While the old saying, “With no risk, there’s no reward,” holds true, I am a personal proponent of calculated risks following homework and research before taking the plunge.
The 6 steps below will help you to gain answers to those nagging questions: “How hard is it to break in?” What are my chances of succeeding?” “How much work will this require?” and “Is it worth it?”:
Whittle Down the Possibilities
When figuring out where to go next – consider what you are good at and what you like. I’ve found out that strong career possibilities will land at the place where these two intersect.
Taking my experience as an example, I knew I could write, although I really disliked creative writing. Secondly, I’m a good listener, but find myself impatient when it comes to long-term issue resolution.
For me – resume writing seemed like a perfect fit. I could meet with a client rather quickly, listen to their career history, and get to work writing. In other words – the intersection of what I’m good at and what I like to do!
There’s no better way to find out what you need to succeed, and learn first-hand about the perceived pros and cons of a new industry/job type, than to speak with others in the field or role.
Struggling to figure out where to start? Begin with a list of those in your inner circle – friends, families, peers, etc., and then go a step beyond to the outside circle that will include those whom you often cross paths (the parent next to you at your kid’s soccer game each week? The person on the bike next to you during your weekend spin class?)
Next, move on to the people who you don’t know, but who are in the industry or roles where you’d love to land. Utilize LinkedIn’s search functions to figure out who you’d like to speak with to reach out via a connection request – telling them you’d love to learn from them about the industry/role. While many will be too busy to reply, all you need is one or two to respond, and you’ll be on your way.
An add-on benefit of this tactic? Should you decide to proceed in earnest, you’ll have the strong beginnings of a robust network from which to launch your job search!
Read and Research
Part of researching careers involves researching companies to obtain info about everything from their history to their revenue figures, as well as any HR benefits and perks that might come with the role.
Sources to glean insight include company websites, where you can find info about benefits, press releases and news appearances, and Best of Lists to gain high-level overviews of the best companies to work for in your city, for working mothers, for IT sales, etc.
While it’s easy enough to get info on public companies, private ones are a bit tougher. I recommend looking to Forbes and Inc.com who regularly publish lists of privately held companies in the U.S. Contemplating a leap to nonprofit? Check out TopNonProfits.com’s list of the 100 nonprofits on the web.
Align your Aspirations with Your Reality
When it comes to career change, you must first determine if your life poses any deal-breakers and see how they mesh with your aspirations. The result of this exercise is often a personal compromise.
As an example, a few months back I worked with an IT project manager passionate about sustainable agriculture. While his long-term plan was to buy a farm, work the fields and sell his crops, he didn’t have the cash to support this, didn’t want to take a loan and couldn’t afford to take a big pay hit. His deal breaker was funding.
We worked together to create a resume and LinkedIn profile that landed him a role in IT working with a company dedicated to sustainable food practices. Not his complete dream per se, but a step in the right direction.
In other words? He arrived at a compromise that didn’t contradict his deal breakers and left him professionally fulfilled.
Everyone’s reality is unique. Figuring out yours are will help you to determine if your talents can indeed evolve into a new career or industry.
Back to School or Not?
Lacking a particular skill may kill your chances of a career change, and hitting the books sometimes is a logical next step when your intended career leap requires a specialized skill that can’t be obtained via on-the-job training.
Sometimes learning this skill means enrolling in a program for a year or two; other times it might mean an investment of a few months to earn a specialized certification.
If you determine through research and outreach that you indeed need to hit the books, see if your employer will pay for any of all of it. If they do, it may mean you must hold off a bit on your long-term plan but helps you avoid out-of-pocket expenses.
Go for a Test Drive
While I admire those ready to leap without looking, many of us (present company included) are just way too nervous for that. An option for us nervous nellies? Take a test drive.
Test drives can take many forms, from volunteer to pro-bono work. Depending on your career aspiration (thinking about going into business for yourself?), it might mean working late nights and on weekends to gain a client or two before fully severing the cord.
For my sustainable agriculture client, it meant volunteering to pick crops for hours and starting a small garden. For me, it meant sub-contracting with other resume writing companies before going out on my own.
A test drive can give you the confidence you need to take the plunge – or give you a reality check that it wasn’t as great as you once thought.
While daunting, a career change challenge can be overcome. I help people to do it all the time! Research, networking and a bit of exposure to the area where you aspire to go, will point you in the right direction.