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When and How to Change Your Career

Change. It’s everywhere now. And is sure seems like many people are struggling to keep up. Many jobseekers are in shock as entire industries change dramatically because of technology.

YinRoad Some jobs and even entire industries are disappearing completely. People are scrambling to figure out how to repurpose their skills sets and earn a living.

I help jobseekers and I keep a close watch on the changes that technology brings to the hiring industry. It’s dramatic. Hiring professionals grapple with the changes as they try to fashion hiring practices to get the best results.

The Great Recession has been devastating. Many businesses and most non-profits have been reduced to a skeleton crew.

Human Resource professionals are frustrated as they are pressured to bring in top talent when companies don’t want to pay for it. It get’s back to my anger and exasperation with corporate greed.
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Reid has had a remarkable career in radio broadcasting.
“My first radio gig was as a part-time announcer. From there I was hooked on radio. I moved up from announcer to Music Director and after 15 years or so, I became the host for the local Morning Edition. Those were four glorious years.

“Programming was the next step. How stations tracked their audiences, appealed to their tastes, and how they made enough money to operate. For 20 years I ran an award-winning news department for WNPR. I was promoted to Vice President and Station Manager.

“When the Great Recession hit, non-profits were hurting. I was let go. For over three years I did some consulting but that dwindled too. My spouse didn’t want to leave the area so my options were very slim. Finally, at 64 years old, I was doing whatever came along to keep my family afloat; painting, shoveling snow, hauling dirt…anything.

“To keep my sanity I delved into social media. Took classes, wrote blogs and launched tons of stuff to my Google circles, Twitter, and every other outlet—I knew I had to stay current with social media.

radio-waves-md_Border “It was difficult to consider that my career in radio was over. But reality forced me to think about other options. I’d done a lot of non-profit volunteering and running telethons at the radio stations was part of every job I had.

“Finally it dawned on me that I understood fund-raising. It was part of every job I’d had. So I created a few presentations, rethought who I was as a fund-raiser. Looking online I found a LOT of jobs for fundraising in the non-profit sector.

“It dawned on me that a part of every position, throughout my entire career, I had raised operating capital through trusting and loyal partnerships. That’s what every non-profit needs to be free of the waning government funding. I landed an offer in three interviews.”
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Maze_Person_Glow When should you change careers?
There are several key indicators that indicate a career change is in order:
  1. When the number of available jobs in your industry makes it reasonable to conclude the chances are slim that you will get hired. (I expect not less for a 1-in-10 return rate for positions. So if you apply for 10 positions, you should get at least one call.) Example: Printing. This article reports that the printing industry will see an 16% decline in the 10 years between 2008 and 2018.
  2. When the number of available jobs in your geographic location indicates that your chances are minimal. Example: Public school teaching jobs are in decline in New England, but available in the southern states and the west coast.
  3. When technology has brought about a shift in your profession that will eliminate future opportunities. Example: Postal services. The Internet and eMail has brought a shift in how we communicate and shop. Retail stores are feeling the crunch. College teaching positions and all the support positions that go along with them are moving to online delivery venues. Check out this article Online Education is Replacing Physical Calleges at a Crazy Fast Pace.
  4. When your role or your industry as a whole is becoming obsolete due to demographic shifts. Example: When Gen X reached 25 years old, the sale of motorcycles plummeted because there were no longer potential buyers. (Read about it in Ken Gronbach’s book: The Age Curve.)
  5. When you really don’t like what you are doing and want a change! (Notice that I didn’t say, “where you work.” You might like what you do, but not where you do it. Example: Well, if you know 10 people who are employed and asked them about their work situation, I suspect that half might want a change in the “where” and the other half might want to change “what” they do.
How to change careers:
First, be able to recognize a “good” job.
A good job has three components:
  1. Satisfying: Your job is meaningful. It resonates with your values.
  2. Sustainable: You can do it week after week after week.
  3. Meets your realistic financial needs: The word “realistic” is key.
How do I find a new direction?
We have all filled multiple roles in our work life. The key is to identify similar activities across several positions that together, give you the needed experience to apply for a new job. Usually a career change focuses on a less significant part of former positions.

Consider the following exercise:
  1. For each position you held in the last 15 years, write down the following:
    • What are the top three (or four) activities for each position?
    • What skill sets did I use to accomplish them?
    • What did I like the most about each one?
  2. Using online job boards (such as www.indeed.com), use your most enjoyable activities as keywords to see what kinds of positions are available. Add an industry from your background to your search words.
    Examples:
    • Writing, reporting, researching, legal
    • Customer service, phone, retail
  3. When you begin to see titles and/or job roles (i.e. similar positions) posted by different companies, you are getting close.
  4. Check to see how many positions are available. (Job boards usually tell you how many search results they found.)
  5. Compare the number of jobs nationwide with your location. E.g. how many jobs in the US with the number in Hartford, Connecticut.
GreenQuestionMark How do I apply for these new positions?
You will need to rework your résumé. Here are some suggestions:
  • Study several job postings to familiarize yourself with the language used for the positions you are considering.
  • Rewrite your former job experiences to use the current language.
  • Prioritize your experiences so that the skills needed for the new position are at the top.
It takes time to change your focus. As you rework you résumé, there will likely be several updates and versions. More important is to shift your mental image to clearly see yourself in the new role. Remember, hiring entities only know what they see on your résumé and online when they look you up. Self-perception is critical when you walk into the interview.

I’ve lived this process:
“My career started as a college professor, followed by a stint as an orchestra conductor. Since 9/11 one orchestra has closed down every week—my industry has disappeared.

“My first “make over” took advantage of my college teaching years. I applied for positions as a corporate trainer and in my new position, I trained college grads who worked at the call-center for a global mutual fund company.

“My second make-over” used my background as an orchestra conductor. Every concert is technically a project. It includes every aspect of the project manager’s triangle: time, cost, and scope. My next position was working in the Program Management Practice (PMP) for a Fortune 50 health insurance company.”


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One Response to When and How to Change Your Career

  1. Marcia LaReau May 13, 2013 at 7:26 PM #

    This comment by Michael Payton and published here with his permission:

    “Marcia, Once again, well done! I think we live in unprecedented times, a distressing period that causes many of us — employed, unemployed or underemployed — to question certain career truisms, and to adapt to swift, gut-wrenching changes to not only stay relevant, but, in many cases, to simply survive. I am always conscious of those ephemeral “eureka” moments in my life where you find great satisfaction doing something entirely new and different. And this can lead to discerning a new career path. For me, I was asked to teach a class of middle-schoolers a few months ago and discovered I LOVED IT. My students paid attention, learned a lot, and earned my respect and admiration. Who knew?”