Feeling stuck in your work, maybe you made a New Year’s resolution to find a new career. But now that it’s a couple of weeks into 2014, you’re feeling more scared than excited by the prospect.
“Fear is common when it comes to making a career change,” said Darcy Eikenberg, executive coach and founder of RedCapeRevolution.com. “The working world is a scary place these days, but you have more control and resources than you think. Instead of spending energy on being something you are not, you could put that energy toward finding a career that engages more of your passion, aptitudes and interests.”
Experts and research show that people working in the right career perform better.
“They’re happier and know they are making a contribution to themselves, their organization and the community. It’s a win for everyone,” said Eikenberg, author of “Bring Your Superpowers to Work: Your Guide to More Clarity, Confidence & Control.”
Changing careers is a process. Eikenberg tells clients to think of it like crossing a creek. It’s too wide to leap, but by stepping from stone to stone, you can move forward and accomplish the goal.
What do you want?
“The first step is to gain clarity about who you are and what you want,” Eikenberg said. “Begin by asking yourself what isn’t working for you right now?”
Before making a radical change, look closely at what’s making you unhappy. Your dissatisfaction at work might be a toxic colleague, an overbearing boss or boredom. A different job, another company or volunteering for different assignments might help solve the problem.
If you really want to work in a different field, dig deeper and learn what opportunities are available, what education and training are required, how your personality and talents align, and whether you can live with the working conditions and salary.
“Doing research will help you get past your false assumptions — that you have to be an author to write for a living, for instance. There are thousands of jobs that involve writing,” Eikenberg said. “Or that you’re not good enough. More education, coupled with your own talents and interests, could make you good enough.
“Before you enroll in school, however, know what you want from the program and how it will benefit you.”
Assessing talent and motivation
Changing careers is more common these days, and most people don’t work in the same field all their lives.
“I know because I started in engineering, went into human resources, then sales and marketing, and finally founded my own career consulting business,” said Richard C. Kirby, executive career coach and founder of Executive Impact. “What you need to do is understand your own skills, interests and motivation.”
Online assessment tools can help. Kirby recommends using the Career Seeker version of the MAPP assessment (www.assessment.com) to help learn about your motivation for working in various fields.
“You can view how your long-term interest and motivational level fits with 900 job types,” said Kirby, author of “Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!).”
Assessment tools can help avoid obvious career mismatches. The Campbell Skill and Interest Survey (www.profiler.com) can help narrow a career search to areas in which people have high interest and skills.
“Assessments are a good investment when making life decisions,” Kirby said.
Hiring a career coach to interpret the results can also help. “You’ll get a broader perspective, more complete information and can move to a career decision quicker,” he said.
Do your research
Want to find out what a career is really like? Tap into your professional network or use LinkedIn to contact people who actually work in a particular field. Conduct informational interviews to ask about job satisfaction, duties and what training and education are most needed in the profession.
“You need to find the best way to fill your skills and education gap,” he said.
One of Kirby’s clients — a corporate lawyer — was tired of the negativity of litigation and wanted a change.
“After some assessments and talking to others, she earned a certification in mediation,” she said. “She was able to add new skills to her legal degree to become a highly qualified mediator.”
Deciding what you want to do and what you do well should be your first goal, but it’s also smart to consider factors such as salary and the job market.
“You don’t choose a field just because it’s booming, but you also don’t want to train for something that’s in low demand,” Kirby said.
Resources for practical career information include salary.com, payscale.com and the Occupational Outlook Handbook tab on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website (www.bls.gov).
Going back to school
Another good strategy is seeking one-on-one career advice from the continuing and professional education departments at local colleges and universities.
“Continuing education and professional education are market driven. We constantly talk to labor departments and community advisors about where the future job demands will be. We create new programs based on those changing society needs,” said Barbara C. Calhoun, dean of the College of Continuing and Professional Education at Kennesaw State University.
Talking to these professionals can be especially helpful for potential nontraditional students.
“In this market, you don’t want to leave a job until you are certain you’ll have another one,” Calhoun said. “Our students are generally older and have jobs and families. They don’t always have the time and money to get a degree, but they can combine their past work experience and knowledge with one of our certificate programs to begin a new career. Everything in a certificate is designed to lead immediately to a job.”
Kennesaw State’s College of Continuing and Professional Education serves more than 18,000 students in 45 programs. The college holds career expos twice a year and is launching new programs in medical assisting, real estate property management, health care coaching and others. The school’s Android app development program is aimed at launching graduates into the $15.56 billion global app industry.
Having the right credentials is often critical to making a career change.
“People might have human resources or project management experience, but in a softer job market, transferable skills are a harder sell,” Kirby said. “Earning a certification tells an employer you’ve met industry standards. It gives you credibility.”
Every conversation, assessment and search tool is another stone in crossing the creek.
“Just put your foot in and keep moving forward,” Eikenberg said.