Planning to make a career change? Good for you! Here are some ideas and strategies to help you get started and get off on the right foot.
First, be aware that you face some risks in making a career change. If you're established in your current career, these may include loss of status, security, and money. You may be starting over at the bottom rung of the ladder. It’s a good idea before you start this process to be clear on why you want to make a career change, and whether your “why” stacks up to the challenges and risks you’ll be facing. We’ll look in more detail at “What’s your why?” in a future post, but for now spend some time considering your reasons for making a career change.
What do you hope to gain? What does this change mean to you? Try spending 15 minutes writing down your answer to the question: Why do you want to do this?
You may already have some idea of what you want to do. Maybe your target new career is your "why" -- something you've always wanted to do or feel a strong calling to. You may be considering Real Estate, since you're on this page. If you're still in doubt, or just need a little confirmation, this might be a good time to spend awhile exploring what your career goal is.
Start by listing things you do well or enjoy doing -- they're frequently the same things. Include any activities, not just job-related things or things you think you can get paid to
do. If you need inspiration, ask the people closest to you what they think your talents are.
You may also find it helpful to write a separate list of things you dislike doing or know you don't do well. Again, write down anything that comes to mind; you'll edit later.
Now look at your list of activities and think about the skills and abilities that are required to do the things you enjoy. For example, if "photography" is on your list, you probably have an eye for composition; your characteristics likely include creativity and attention to detail.
List out your education and training, job experience, hobbies and hobby classes. Include volunteer work; everything you've ever done. Add the items from this list into your "like" and "dislike" lists and pull out the relevant skills and talents. Are you starting to see a pattern?
Note that abilities required for activities on your "dislike" list could also be important for activities on your "like" list. Perhaps you had an after-school job as a kid taking inventory at a store, which required math skills. Taking product inventories may not excite you, but you enjoy working with numbers. See how this works? You'll be looking for careers that maximize activities and abilities on your "like" list and minimize those on your "dislike" list.
Now it's time for a little vision-casting.
Daydream about how your "ideal life" would look, thinking about things you would enjoy doing daily (refer to your list!), and take notes. Would your ideal life include travel? Working from home? Interacting with people? Solving problems or creating something for others to enjoy? Is there an obvious way to incorporate elements of your ideal life and the things you enjoy doing into a career path?
You'll return to this step throughout the process, fine-tuning your career direction, as you add in ideas.
Next, start matching yourself to potential careers. Search on the Internet for career skills assessments; if you already have some idea of what you'd like to do, search for lists of skills and interests related to those careers. For example, traits considered important for a real estate agent include personal integrity, tech savviness, negotiation skills, attention to detail, and an outgoing personality. Some skills, like technology or negotiation, can be learned if you have the interest.
See how you match up, and be honest with yourself. Right now your new career is just an idea; all you've invested is a little time. If something you thought had potential turns out not to be a great match, let it go and move on.
Chances are you've found many potential matches you never thought of before, so start investigating some of those.
Narrow your list. Revise until you have just 2 or 3 potential careers that you feel confident you'd enjoy and do well in. Explore avenues within those; for example, maybe you decide you don't want to be a professional photographer, but you think you'd really love managing a gallery or teaching photography classes. Learn all you can about your 2 or 3 favorites. Research online; check out the websites of related professional organizations. If you're interested in real estate, for example, go to the websites of the Real Estate Commission (ncrec.gov) and the Association of Realtors (NAR.realtor). Keep narrowing until you get to the One Thing that inspires you most, and focus on that.
Talk to people who are currently in your new career. Most professionals are happy to talk to you about what they do. Remember, you're not asking them for a job, you're learning about the career they're in. Ask them what they love about it (and what they don't), how they got started, and what it takes to be successful. What skills or training are required? What is their day like? What sets the most successful people apart? If possible, shadow someone in your target career for a day so you can see what it's really like. Be flexible; they may or may not have a lot of time available. Take what you can get and maximize it. Be prepared with a list of questions and take notes on their answers.
Will you need training? How much, what will it cost, and where can you get it? Go to the
websites of schools that offer the training you need, such as TRESNC.com for real estate training. What schedules are available? If the training you'll need is lengthy or expensive, make a financial plan for how you'll afford it. Will you be able to keep your current job (or start your new one) while you train?
Find professional organizations in your target field. If possible, join one (or more); this will be a place to make contacts in your chosen field and learn more about it. It may also become an avenue to a job in that field.
While you plan your move, get your team together. Surround yourself with positive people who will encourage you. Build a network of others who are making career changes and exchange resources, ideas and support. If you're taking a class, your
classmates are a ready-made support group. Above all, avoid Negative Nellies! Making a change is hard enough without anyone trying (consciously or not) to discourage you. If Nellie is a close friend or family member, at least avoid the subject of your career change when they're around.
Take courage! This is a marathon, not a sprint. You probably have a job, a family, friends, stuff at home that needs attention. Until you make your new career a priority, it won't happen. Remember your "why" and don't allow yourself to get paralyzed. Make a schedule and Do Something daily if possible, even if it's only 15 minutes. Read one article, take one career assessment, or spend 15 minutes on your skills list. This won't happen overnight, but if you persevere, it WILL happen!