Ajay Joseph’s book, Successful Career Change Tactics – Choosing the Right Career for Your Future, should be required reading for anyone thinking of pursuing a new career.
Joseph makes the assumption that if someone wants to change their career, they must, by definition, be unhappy about something. It could be coworkers, supervisors, their responsibilities, or even company policies and procedures. But the truth is, you could very well be thrilled with all of them, but still be miserable. The problem may be family. Or, there may be no problem at work or at home. It could be that you simply have grown and want something new. That is why one of the first questions I ask a career counseling client is, When was the last time you were proud of yourself?
By definition, an individual should be most satisfied when they are proud of what they are doing. If the answer is, A few days ago at work, you probably don’t need a new career, just a vacation. If the answer is something completely different, it may be time for a change.
In a future post I will discuss testing – aptitude tests. I think they are all nonsense. You know you. You don’t need to take some silly test so that a computer can generate a report telling you what you’re good at! So sit down and make an honest assessment of yourself. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What are your interests? What are your values? What do you enjoy doing? What do you hate doing? This should help you to decide your destination. It will not, however, provide a road map to get you there. That’s another reason why the tests are a waste of time. They may guess correctly what you are good at, but so what? Can you make a living doing it? If so, how?
Either alone or with the help of friends or a counselor, once you have decided which new career you want, start creating a new network. Introduce yourself to people in that industry. Ask for meetings. Invite them for coffee. Explain that you are not looking for a job, that all you want to do is “pick their brains” to learn about what they do. Mean it! End all meetings with a sincere “Thank you,” and not with “Do you have any openings?” If they are interested in you, they’ll let you know. And after the meeting, send a hand written note.
As part of your new networking activities you should join relevant professional associations. They can be sources of both contacts and leads. Check out their websites. They almost always have job boards.
Then comes the hard part: creating a plan for marketing you. That’s when a career counselor can help. One free piece of advice: NEVER use the words “transferrable skills.” If you tell an employer that you have “transferrable skills” you are saying, “I don’t meet your minimum requirements but these are the reasons why you should consider me anyways!” Bad strategy. You have the skills. You have the experience. You have the record. Just prove it to the employer that if they hire you they will not only be getting what they are looking for, but quite a lot more.