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Career Fridays: How To Successfully Change Careers

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Changing Your Career

Following Your Passion and Changing Your Career

As you read this you may be on a career path that no longer satisfies you and you're looking for a way out. It may be to follow your true passion or pursue a career path in a new industry, however, with the country's current economic climate you're understandably petrified by the thought of switching gears. Not now, you say. But occasionally you find yourself asking, "If not now, then when?" Of course, more often than not embarking on a career change won't be easy, but if the only thing keeping you back is waiting for "the right time," then you're wrong, says Andrea Kay, author of "Life's a Bitch And Then You Change Careers." "There's never a good time when your life will be perfect and you won't have to worry," she says. "You have to make the decision that this is a good time and I will be strategic about my move." Here are a few ideas to help you create a strategy for changing careers.

Know When It's Time To Get Out

So many people complain about their jobs but few take action to change their situation. A key factor in switching career gears is knowing when it's truly time to get out, says Kay. "There are various clues. It could be that you work in an industry that is drying up or the thought of going to work makes you sick physically and emotionally, or you're just at a point in your life where you say, 'I've never liked what I do.'" If you're not happy at work, chances are you're as productive, which often means you're not as marketable, so if you're looking for change these may be just the signs you need to help you make that move.

Ask yourself, "Am I really ready?"

Changing your career can be daunting, especially if you're leaving behind a comfortable position or have financial obligations. It's a process that requires asking yourself some "deep soul-searching questions," says Kay. These include looking at your life and asking whether you are willing to truly put in the time it takes to switch gears. This is not the time to say, 'I don't have time or money to go back to school,'" she adds. "That's what 90% of people say and my response to that is that you don't even know if you need to go back to school because it depends on the career you're going into." Look at what's going on in your life and find out whether you're willing to accept some of the setbacks (you may lose income, for instance) that may come with making the transition.

Follow your passion, but be practical

"When you ask 'What is your passion?' 99% of people can't even tell you what that is," says Kay. Finding your passion is the start but it's not very meaningful if you don't do the work to define what that is. "Some people are passionate about animals, but does that mean they should become a vet? Not necessarily. Does that means they should write about animals? Maybe." That's why it's important to define exactly what you'll be doing by matching your skills with your passion.

Assess Your Transferable Skills

One of the most important thing to do when considering a career change is to ask yourself the question: "What am I good at?" Is it communication? Do you have great people skills? Are you a skilled project manager? A skilled web designer? "You really need to ask yourself those kinds of questions to help you identify the 'What would I enjoy doing?'" part of your transition," says Kay. In most cases you will be able to use the knowledge you have in some form on your new career path. She adds, "The key to making a change is to match up what is needed out in the world with what you have to offer. Your new career is somewhere where those two meet."

Research Your New Career

What looks good on the outside may not always be what is, career-wise. Do your research and find out exactly what it's like working in your chosen career path. Once you have narrowed it down consider requesting an exploratory interview with a human resources manager to find out what sorts of persons they are looking for. "Once you're clear about your direction," says Kay, "you can say, 'I amlooking for a role in this new direction.' Would you mind giving me some feedback about the kinds of opportunities out there."

Get Out There And Network

Kay defines networking as the process of "having purposeful conversations with people to give you advice on whatever you're seeking." Networking could mean joining a professional organization, joining an online group or being referred to a new contact who works in your chosen field by your college's alumni association. Once you have found someone, "ask them questions about whether you're a good fit and can they can refer you to other people to talk to. Remember you're not asking these people for a job, you're asking for information and referrals," she says.

Create a Circle Of Support

Whether it's getting a career coach or a mentor, getting support is one of the best ways to stay on track. Kay also suggests getting a "nag-buddy." "This is somebody that you have in your life who is very supportive of your new career search and will act as a sounding board; somebody who is really open to what you have to say and who will be there to hold you accountable. They're there to say 'Did you follow up on that homework that your career counselor gave you?' or 'did you check in with those four people that you were going to follow up with?'"

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