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by Russell Shaffer | August 13, 2009


In today’s job market, some people would call you crazy for switchingcareers.  Most people are glad to evenhave a job, much less rock the boat by switching one.  But sometimes changing careers is like an itch—you just gotto scratch.  The trick is scratchingat the right time.

It’s risky switching careers—will you find a job?  Will you succeed in your newfield?  Will you like it?  But there’s also a bit ofexcitement—you’re moving to something more fulfilling.  You’re changing pace.  You’re reaching your potential.  Reasons to switch careers can be plenty—somegood, some petty.  But before youmake the switch, ask yourself three preliminary questions:

  1.   Whatdo I want to do?
  2.   Whatdo I like doing?
  3.   Whatam I good at doing?

Seriously, answer these questions.  Write them down. Make a list.  Once you’vefound your answers, you know what direction you’re headed.  And now that you know what directionyou’re headed, the following steps will help make your career switch run alittle smoother:

  1. Have a plan.  This includes a timeline, a budget and a method ofattack.  If you quit today anddon’t know what you’re doing tomorrow, you haven’t switched careers; you’vebecome a statistic in the unemployment line.
  2. Know your reasons.  Hating your job isn’t enough.  If you hate your job or boss, first lookat different positions within your field. You may find something you like. The same goes for money. Who cares about making bank when you dread every waking hour between clock-inand clock-out?  But switching to afield where you can utilize your talents, and grow within the company and as aperson?  That’s a good reason to change.
  3. Do your homework.  Look at what your best potentials arefor a new career.  (Answers from theprelim questions come in handy here.) Don’t be afraid to explore new career fields.  When you find something you like, talk to people in thatfield.  Network.  Find out what they like and what theydon’t.  It could sway yourdecision.
  4. Look in the mirror.  Do you have what it takes to enter yournew field?  Do you have the skillset?  Newspaper editor to magazineeditor isn’t a big jump.  Butgarbage man to CPA will require more prep time and skill development.
  5. Update your skills.  Once you found your new career, makesure you’re up to scratch.  You’llbe competing with people who’ve worked in that field for years.  Make sure you have the skills you needto survive and thrive once you land your potential-fulfilling job.  If you need to, take a class or two atyour local community college.

Like scratching an itch, switching careers can feel greatand be very fulfilling.  Just becareful not to take the plunge without checking the waters.  Doing your homework, doing a self-checkwill make your career switch less rocking of the boat and more smoothsailing—even in this market.


Filed Under: Job Search

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