Changing Careers: A Roadmap

You've heard it is one of the hardest times to find a job in the U.S. since the Great Depression. Although the economy may be picking up, the job market isn’t necessarily following along. While this is obviously bad news for the unemployed, it is also not very good news for persons hoping to change jobs in the near future.

Maybe you know that your current position will not lead to a promotion—you have come as far as you can, and you’re looking for more excitement, responsibility, and creative opportunities. This is a situation where moving careers laterally, and picking up a brand new, different job title can be incredibly rewarding. If you’re looking to change jobs or interested in exploring a new career field, take the three tips below about how to best move laterally in today’s labor market.

Cultivate Transferrable Skills

It’s crucial to create a base of skills that can be handy for any job, be it in business transaction, marketing, research, or design. First, identify some general skills that will help you keep up with the competition—things like a knack for easy and quick communication, excellence in writing, and an admirable workplace etiquette.  However, it’s also important to pick up new skills that may open up more job prospects. This may mean taking a graphic design course so you can master programs in the Adobe Creative Suite.  It may mean you need to buy some books about computer programming and play around with algorithms for a few months or so.  Make sure you have as many skills as possible under your belt before you officially enter the market.

Do Your Research

You’ll need to do a broad sweep of the industry or job to which you’re thinking about transferring.  Find out what the position is typically responsible for, what the scope of the worker’s tasks looks like, and who succeeds within the field.  As you do this, it’s smart to actually reach out to persons who do the job you’re interested in pursuing—not only will you learn about the work, but you’ll also create a network of people who could help you meet employers and vouch for your abilities and commitment.

 Make Learning Your Number One Goal 

As you try to change careers laterally, a good thing to remember is that it is going to be stressful, especially in the beginning.  Entering an entirely new field often means entering an entirely new work environment—from the people you work with, to the time schedules they keep, and the standards by which they are evaluated. Once you eventually do seal down a job, try to treat the first few months of work as a learning experience, not as a test.  Be willing to ask for help.  Acknowledge when you’re not familiar with a technique or don’t feel proficient in your ability to perform a task. No one appreciates someone who pretends they are fine or in-the-know and in turn executes a job poorly. Be honest about your aptitude, but also, at every turn, be ready and open to learn new skills.