As we explore this guide to career change we started this week with a checklist to determine whether or not a change was the right course of action. Assuming it was, we then looked at the effect a change would have on our finances and benefits. Now that you have explored all of the options and have determined that a job or career change is right for you it is time to ensure the transition goes as smooth as possible.
Phase 1 – Self-Assessment and Research
The most important aspect of changing careers is to take a hard look at yourself and understand your strengths and weaknesses. What are your interests and abilities? What skills do you need improvement on? What are your values? These questions will help guide you to a position that fits you best. Choosing a new career path simply based on a hot trend or ability to make lucrative money will ultimately fail if it does not address the above questions.
Once you have determined the answers to the above it is time to begin researching career options. Generally it is a good idea to focus on areas where you have an interest and some basic skills needed for the job. This doesn’t mean you should rule out fields where you have no experience, but remember, transitioning into a completely new field may require extensive training or schooling and finding an entry level position without background may be more difficult. The absolute best first point of reference when researching careers is the Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook. Originally a published piece, you can now fully search and explore the most up-to-date information right from the web site. This guide goes into great detail of each career covering working conditions, average pay, training requirements and a forecast of expected growth in that particular field.
Phase 2 – Are You Ready?
Once you have found some viable options for your career change you have to ask yourself if you are ready. Again the USAA Educational Foundation has a checklist to help guide you:
? I have identified a career I believe is right for me.
? The new career aligns with my long-term goals.
? I know my interests and talents would work in the new career.
? The challenges and lifestyle connected with this kind of work suit my personality.
? I have many skills needed for the new career, even though there will be much to learn.
? I have researched the ?eld and relevant organizations within it.
? I already have contacts in the new ?eld who are willing to support my transition.
? I understand the pros and cons of this career and still believe it is right for me.
? Individuals working in the ?eld think that I would be satisfied in it.
? Individuals I respect who know me, my abilities and limitations support this change.
? My family supports this change.
In this case you should be able to check all ten of these options off. If not, look at which ones you have not checked and address why. Once all have been checked you are ready to move on to the next step.
Phase 3 – Hitting the Pavement
If it has been a few years since your last job interview it is quite possible that your resume is in need of an overhaul. Remember, a resume is generally your first and only impression you’ll make to those screening for applicants. This piece of paper is your ticket to an interview so take great care in preparing it properly. If you are entering a completely different field it is likely that much of your past experience is not relevant to this position. Make sure you adapt your resume to include as much relevant experience as you can while filtering out distracting experience that acts as “filler”. A good resource for writing that perfect resume can be found at the Monster Resume Center.
Now that your resume is polished where do you send it? When it comes to actually applying for jobs you have three main resources available:
- Look for openings in the classifieds and send resumes to employers directly
- Post your resume to online job boards such as Monster and CareerBuilder
- Use a recruiter
The most direct approach is to seek for openings and apply either in person or by sending your resume directly. While this method can work it should not be your only plan of attack. Given the explosive growth of technology and sites such as Monster and CareerBuilder it is too easy not to use. The basic resume posting service on these sites is completely free. Once your resume is posted employers will actually contact you asking for more information. So not only can you search for jobs on the site but you can effectively notify all employers looking for employees in those job areas that you are available. In the past I have had phenomenal success with CareerBuilder. When we moved and I was found unemployed I posted my resume to their site and within 24 hours I had numerous emails from prospective employers. You will have to sift through some of the junk employers who respond to everyone or are looking for work-at-home people, but generally speaking most responses were legitimate.
Finally you have the option of using a recruiter. Generally these recruiters or headhunters work for employers and will not charge for their service. Most of the time if you receive a phone call in response to your posted resume you will be speaking to a recruiter. Some even offer additional resources in regards to resume writing and distribution. Don’t confuse these people with employment agencies or career counselors which generally do charge for their services. I generally don’t bother with recruiters because they will typically work for only one employer, or maybe in a very limited area. I find better use of my time could be spent using the various online and local methods to generate potential interviews.
At this point you likely have a few interviews lined up. This means it is time to brush up on your interviewing skills. Again, Monster has a great resource for interview tips. As you go through the interview process be sure to look at the experience as a two-way interview. Remember, you are being interviewed to determine if you can do the job, but you are also interviewing the company to see if they are a good fit for you as well.
If you have received a job offer, congratulations! Be patient and make sure this offer is the right decision. Remember to sit down with your spouse or significant other if you have one and go over the potential position to ensure they are satisfied as well. Be sure to discuss the possibility of new hours, longer or shorter commute, overtime, benefits and anything else that may have changed from your previous employer.
Ultimately if you have taken the time to plan through this process from start to finish you will likely find yourself in a new position that you enjoy and can help improve your financial position. More importantly you went through the process with hopefully as little stress as possible.
Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle
My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.