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Changing or Shifting Careers? …Be fast and efficient

To change or not to change…that is the question.

A business analyst has a fair amount of Project Management experience. She wonders if it would be a good idea to shift over to Project Management. It pays better than the Business Analyst positions…Should she or shouldn’t she?

Question Mark On Green Target Another jobseeker doesn’t like his job or the environment and would like to take his skills in a new direction. He wonders if he is risking his earning potential, especially with the new responsibility of his first child, now a few months old.

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Many jobseekers are finding that their skills have been replaced by technology and they are scrambling to find a new way to earn a living. Others find their entire industry is crumbling and know that they need to “do something.” Others are “seeing the handwriting on the wall” with regard to their current position, or even the wellbeing of the entire company.

Regardless of your employment situation, everyone who wants to earn a living should be on the lookout for changes and have a game plan so that if or when change is imminent, they are already ahead of their competition.

(And besides, knowing you have a plan will likely lower your blood pressure—an unintended but desirable consequence.)

There’s more to career change than transferrable skills.

When someone brings up career change, many people immediately think about transferrable skills. That’s fine. Transferrable skills are important, but they aren’t the whole picture. If it were the only consideration, there wouldn’t be any need for blogs, companies, and career coaches that focus on career change.

There are three points that I want to make in this blog:
  1. The most important consideration is the jobs market.
  2. The next most important consideration is your credibility.
  3. The make it or break it factor is your process.
The most important consideration: the jobs market
By the time a person reaches mid-career (40-something—if not earlier), he or she has transferrable skills. By definition these skills are more general because they can be applied to various situations. Common examples fall into categories such as interpersonal skills, communication, leadership, and organizational skills.

I hope you will agree with me that these kinds of skills can be applied to most industries and with the exception of “leadership,” these skills are needed in at least 95% of the positions that are filled.

Ladders Therefore, it is immediately evident that a person could consider numerous, if not endless possibilities.

However, before launching into a new direction, it is critical to ensure there is a market. In other words, it is essential to understand the market for the possibilities under consideration. Just because a jobseeker has a keen interest in something doesn’t mean there will be opportunities.

Especially today, with the challenging economy and the speed of technological change, understanding the market can ensure employment opportunities or lead to a dead end. I am a classic example. My training is in orchestral conducting. The market is simply not there. Another example is a jobseeker who wants to start a photography business. In this day of selfies and smart phone technology, the opportunities for employment are slim.

How to think about the jobs market: If you are thinking about changing careers, then consider these three steps:

Step 1: Select three or four possibilities. When I was moving from the music profession I chose:
  • Project management
  • Corporate training
  • Business operations
Step 2: Check out the availability of opportunities.
There were more jobs in Corporate Training and Project Management than in Business operations. So that’s where I focused.

Step 3: Next, and just as important: Ensure that there are possibilities to move both upward and laterally:

In my case, both of those career tracks provided this potential. As a project manager or trainer. I could move laterally by changing business units within a company; e.g. shifting from the IT area to Human Resources.

Additionally, both positions provided upward mobility. I could move from Project support, to a Project Manager, to a Sr. Project Manager. As a trainer, I had the option of starting as a Training Coordinator, moving to a Trainer position, and then to a Sr. Training Manager.

Understanding the opportunities determined how I prioritized my job search. I prepared two frameworks for résumés that highlighted skill sets in project management and corporate training.

The next most important consideration is your credibility.

Since transferrable skills are broader in scope, and since hiring entities are looking for industry experience; jobseekers can reduce their time to employment by selecting industries that are related to their former employment.

Having a related background shows a potential employer that the learning curve will not be as steep. They will see that as a potential candidate, you have an underlying understanding of the industry, jargon, and technologies that may be used.

Example: Two years ago, a client, the manager for a large big-box store was laid off. After considering the market, we decided that since retail was shifting to online sales, big box store management was less stable. However, as a store manager, she managed staff and operations with regard to logistics. One part of her responsibilities included receiving product, managing the inventory, and the distribution throughout the store. As such, she was also familiar with specific inventory software.

She now works at a major distribution center for a national online home furnishings chain. She has been promoted and is encouraged that the company is planning to open six additional distribution centers throughout the United States.

Insight

The make it or break it factor is your process.

Steps 1 and 2 are the beginnings of a strategy. Having a process to test your choices in Steps 1 and 2 is critical.

It’s a bit like fishing in the ocean.


Once you’ve identified possibilities, prepared a toolbox with a polished, customizable cover letter and résumé and LinkedIn Profile, then it’s time to test the results of your choices.

It’s a bit like fishing over the side of the boat. We can’t see the fish and we want to know who will show interest in the bait. My process is to apply to 5 to 7 opportunities to find out if and where there is interest. Are there calls? Are there LinkedIn profile views from the company? During this time, it’s important to reach out, build and connect with a network that can offer feedback, suggest change, and potentially promote your candidacy.

If there is no activity, it’s time consider the bait. A re-evaluation of everything that potential hiring professionals may see is in order. Getting feedback from industry professionals, especially hiring professionals is an important part of the process. Get feedback, make and track changes and then apply for 5 to 7 more possibilities.

Don’t forget to adjust your vocabulary

These three steps are the foundation of a successful career change. Learning to communicate in a new career track takes practice. As an orchestra conductor, I had to adjust my vocabulary and talk about “training initiatives” …which was the parallel for “orchestra rehearsal.” A misuse of industry jargon it a tip-off to a potential employer that you may not be ready.

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These three steps are the foundation of a successful career change. I believe that we are moving to a Labor on Demand workforce—where everyone will serve as a contractor, always looking for the next contract. I believe many people will have jobs that interrupt their unemployment.

As the speed of technology pushes the gamut of needed skills, these steps are going to become a constant. I encourage you to hone these steps and always be on the lookout for changes that may put your employment at risk. If you always have a plan that is ready to implement, you are ahead of your competition and will be able to maintain a steady revenue stream for you and your family.

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