Career Development

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Career change guides, tutorials and resources for professionals in transition.

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Career Planning: Creating a Career Plan

There are many reasons that people face career change. Sometimes career change can comes as the result of a long anticipated layoff while other times it can occur suddenly without warning. But don’t think you’re alone. Know that career change (not job change) happens to everyone sooner or later. The average job-seeker will change careers several times over the course of his or her lifetime. Whatever the reason, the key to having a successful career change is having a good plan.

The following are several steps you should follow in order to have successful career change:

  • Determine Your Likes and Dislikes.
    Probably the largest impetus behind career change is disatisfaction. More often than not individuals seek career change as as means to make their life more satisfying. Either they’re not making enough money, they don’t get along with their boss, they don’t like their company, they feel there isn’t enough advancement opportunity in their industry or they’re simply disatisfied with their job. Whatever, the reason its important to identify your likes and dislikes before making a career change. This will ensure that the next career you choose is satisfying. Make sure to identify both your dislikes and your likes. While identifying your dislikes is usually easier its more important that you identify your likes. The goal here is not to find a career that you can stand but to find a career that really motivates and inspires you for many years to come. When identifying your likes consider what you like doing when you’re at work, when you’re at home, when you a free time. What excites you, motivates you, what makes you tick? What are you really passionate about? If you’re not sure then we highly recommend taking some career assessment tests.
  • Explore New Career Opportunities.
    Once you’ve gone through the self-discovery process its time to explore the types of careers that are centered around your passions. There are a lot of career exploration resources. Some of the best are online. You ca find some great career descriptions and information on this site by clicking on the Explore Careers link in the upper lefthand corner of this page for starters. You can also find a skills-matching service at O*NET Online provided by the U.S. Department of Labor and basic job information through the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. Probably the best way to explore career opportunities is to speak with industry professionals and become familiar with the professional associations in your area.
  • Identify Tranferable Skills.
    One of the biggest issues that individuals must address when facing a career change is transferable skills. Transferable skills are professional skills that you’ve developed that can be applied to your new career. The more transferable skills you have the easier the career change transition will be. Transferable skills may include sales, communications, leadership, planning, etc.
  • Career Training and Education.
    If you don’t have enough transferable skills to qualify for a job in your new career field you may find it necessary to increase your skills and knowledge via a career training or education program. Often your current employer will provide or sponsor such career training programs. If not check out your local colleges and/or vocational schools to see what programs they provide. You may even consider an advanced degree or certification. If you decide to pursue a higher education make sure the school where you’re enrolled is accredited. It may also be prudent to see how successful their career placement has been in placing graduates in good career positions.
  • Networking.
    Did you know that most job openings are filled long before an ad is ever placed on Monster.com, Careerbuilder.com or another popular job board? How is does this happen? Networking. Most competitive job openings are filled by the friends and business associates of employees and professionals that work for the company. If you want to have a success career change experience you must be able to network within your career field. If you don’t know very many individuals in the field you want to enter a great way to build your network is start participating in professsional associations. Another great way to network is by contacting alumni from your college who are working in your new career field.
  • Get Some Experience in Your Career Field.
    A career change is a very different animal than a job change. Typically when you change jobs you stay within the same industry. When you make a career change in all likelihood you’re going to be starting your career in a completely new – an often foreign – field. Getting all the experience you can prior to making the career change will ensure a smooth transition. Some of the best ways to gain experience are by voluteering or getting a part-time job in your new career field. Another great way to gain experience is by temping. Gaining experience in your new career field is imperative — do whatever it takes.
  • Find A Mentor.
    When you’re traveling down a foreign path there’s nothing more helpful than a guide who has been down the same path before. Finding a mentor in your new career field may be one of the best decisions you ever make. A mentor can assist you in many ways. They can tell you want is required to be successful in the industry. They can provide you encouragement. They may have contacts within the industry that are beneficial in finding a job. A mentor doesn’t have to be the CEO of a company but they do need to have substantial industry experience.
  • Be Flexible
    Ever heard the phrase “begars can’t be choosers”? Well, that might be going a bit far but its important to realize that a career change will require you to be flexible. Don’t be so rigid about what you expect or require from your new career that you pass up opportunities. Remember, you’re starting a new career. Expect setbacks and expect that your first job in your new field may not be your dream job. Just getting into the industry is a good start. Once in your new career field you’ll find additional career advancement opportunities.