Is Now Time For A Career Change?

by | March 10, 2009

It's been a year since you've been fired from your job as a business development specialist for rutabagas.com, the Internet's first source for tuber vegetables, and you're still looking for a job, wondering if maybe you should begin pursuing another career.

For folks whose joblessness has made them consider abandoning the career they love for a new field, experts say patience, planning, and "guerilla networking" might help someone avoid an unwanted career change.

"A lot of people who are business development people, if that's what their gift is, I don't think they shouldn't abandon that," said Ruth Luban, a career counselor and author of Are You a Corporate Refugee?: A Survival Guide for Downsized, Disillusioned, and Displaced Workers. "That nomenclature of business development -- they may have to change their language to reflect their objectives on the basis of the qualities of biz dev that really lights their fire and what they're good at. And hopefully, that'll change what they find when they go to the job boards."

Even if a job search is taking months, that's still less time than someone would generally need to learn enough skills to move into a new field.

"A career change generally takes a long time, six months or more, because of gaining new skills, new experience, new education, training, things like that," said Rosemary Augustine, a job search expert and author of How To Live and Work Your Passion and Still Earn a Living. "Sometimes it can take up to two years."

For someone who's been on the job hunt for a while, Luban's most important piece of advice calls for job seekers to lay off the classifieds - at least for a while each day - and perfect the art of "guerilla networking."

"I really, really advocate that people spend half a day to be completely on [their job search] and do everything that they can do," Luban said. "But after four or five hours, you're really not productive anymore, and you've probably made your contacts for the day, and checked the lists and done everything you can do, and at that point, it's probably time to get out."

Getting out means going to bookstore readings, coffee shops, chamber of commerce meetings, and anywhere else that you can meet new people, discuss your status and ask for job leads - and basically re-establish a social life.

"The essence is to open yourself to opportunities," Luban said. "When business was good, people were working 10 hours a day and more. It's always about work -- to the extent that people have lost friendships outside of work because they don't have enough opportunity to create them.

Luban tells a story about an man recently laid off from a commercial real estate firm. Encouraged by Luban to spend part of the day outside, the man began spending part of each day perfecting his photography hobby. One day, he finished a day of shooting with a stop in a cafe. There, he met two friends he had worked with in the past who were starting a business that scouted land for telecommunication companies to build transmission towers. When the man told his friends that he was out of work, they offered him a spot in the new company as a third principal.

"Everything's just shrinking, so you're better off hearing about openings rather than going through traditional channels," Luban said.

This kind of "guerilla networking" means taking advantage of every small-talk opportunity to discuss your need for a new job: attending "Pink Slip parties" where the laid off mingle with recruiters, joining support groups for out of work folks, or even just walking up to someone in the computer section of a bookstore and asking about IT openings.

"It's not for the shy, it's for the desperate," Luban said of her technique.

And while talking about your recent layoff can be embarrassing, it's essential.

"Networking is the strongest tool of job hunting, and very few job-seekers really take advantage of their networks of friends, family, former colleagues, associates, and anyone else they know," said Randall Hansen, a professor of marketing at Stetson University, in Deland, FL, and the webmaster of Quintessential Careers, a career advice site located at www.quintcareers.com.

Lastly, if you're beginning to despair of finding a job out there that you want, don't beat yourself up.

"When a job search is taking a long time, if you don't have psychological support, it's really difficult not to think 'What's wrong with me? Why is this taking so long?'" Luban said. "It's really not personal. It's a reflection of what's going on in the job market.

Filed Under: Job Search


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