These career-related tips — for all job-seekers making or contemplating a career change — have been gathered from numerous sources throughout Quintessential Careers and organized here for your convenience.
Have a government job and thinking of ditching it for the private sector? Heed this advice from career consultant Karen Chopra in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “One concrete piece of advice I can give to people wanting to leave the government is to dump your government resume and start from scratch. The government’s requirements for resumes are so extensive and nit-picky that they are almost impossible to work with. List your content knowledge and your top skills. Work those into a resume. Highlight your four or five key accomplishments for your most recent 10 years’ worth of jobs. Describe your government job in broad terms: ‘Responsible for monitoring environmental permits for eight Western states.’ Build the resume up from those essentials, rather than trying to edit it down from the unwieldy things the government demands.”
It’s best not to quit your current job just to dedicate yourself to finding your next job. “Virtually never is it a good idea to end employment merely to make a career move,” advises career columnist Joyce Lain Kennedy. “Employers wonder what’s wrong with you if you’re jobless.” Kennedy suggests that career-changers who are having difficulty making time for the job search to work on their time-management techniques and seek help from recruiters/headhunters.
Before you consider changing careers, pinpoint why you want to make a career change. Are you burnt out with your current career? What don’t you like about your current career? Once you’ve identified these dislikes, spend time examining what you like to do — not just in your current job, but in your spare time, at home, etc. Examining your dislikes and likes is just the first step of making a career change.
You can read the other nine steps in our article, The 10-Step Plan to Career Change.
If you went back to school to prepare for a career very different from the one you were in before returning to college, you’ll probably need to build a resume around both your recent degree and the transferable skills from your previous experiences (work and school). Examine the skills that employers in your new field are looking for in job candidates and consider whether you demonstrated some of those skills in your previous jobs — regardless of the field.
You can read more about how to do this analysis by going to Strategic Portrayal of Transferable Skills is a Vital Job-search Technique. Then rebuild your resume around those skills, most likely in a functional resume. You can find the best sources of information at Quintessential Careers: Resume Resources. The resume of choice for most career-changers is a functional resume, which is organized around skills clusters. Examine the skills you’ve acquired through all your experiences and determine which ones are best transferable to your new career.
Career burnout is perhaps the most common reason for making a career change. So how do you know if you’re suffering from burnout? Here are the early warning signs, according to the folks at MAPP (Motivational Appraisal of Personal Potential, one of our favorite online assessments):
- chronic fatigue — exhaustion, tiredness, a sense of being physically run down
- anger at those making demands
- self-criticism for putting up with the demands
- cynicism, negativity, and irritability
- a sense of being besieged
- exploding easily at seemingly inconsequential things
- frequent headaches and gastrointestinal disturbances
- weight loss or gain
- sleeplessness and depression
- shortness of breath
- feelings of helplessness
- increased degree of risk taking
Not surprisingly, the MAPP folks recommend taking one of their assessments, to find out “what you are naturally motivated toward with regard to your work. Sometimes a simple change at work can help you avoid many (if not all) of the early warning signs of burnout.” MAPP offers a free career analysis assessment and other more comprehensive instruments for a fee. Find the MAPP.
We usually talk of transferable skills as falling into five major categories: communications; research and planning; human relations; organization, management, and leadership; and work survival. The key is identifying those key skills.
Read our article, Strategic Portrayal of Transferable Skills is a Vital Job-search Technique. Once you’ve analyzed your transferable skills, the next step is the development of your functional resume. A good article, including links to some sample functional resumes, is: Should You Consider a Functional Resume?
There is a monthly newsletter that “aims to give people the tools to live their lives to the fullest.” Making Changes claims not to be just about one’s career or relationships. “It’s about YOU, the whole person,” the newsletter’s Web site states. “You’ll get in-depth interviews with individuals who’ve changed their lives for the better.” Kathryn Andrews the creator and editor of Making Changes, is a veteran journalist and consultant, who says, “Our top priority is to provide useful and timely information along with provocative interviews with movers and shakers: people who have made significant breakthroughs in life. For me, Making Changes is a culmination of experiences in my own life: the cancellation of my TV show, a bitter divorce, financial struggles, survival, and finding out what’s really important.” Subscriptions cost $25 annually and can be ordered here.
If you’ve held a job that might raise a few eyebrows — say, as an exotic dancer — what do you tell potential employers when they ask what you’ve been doing for the past few years? Focus on any jobs and school work you might have held before your more questionable gig. Did you complete any projects/internships/co-ops while in college? You’ll probably also want to use a functional resume, concentrating on the transferable skills you’ve attained from all your school and work experience. Finally, list your actual work history, but try to optimize the title for your job; for instance, in the exotic dancer example, you could use “entertainer.”
Spend some time with our Resume Tutorial, where we provide a more detailed explanation of functional resumes — along with samples. And remember to project poise and confidence in the job you’ve had, even if not everyone would understand it.
Don’t let your fear of not making enough money deter you from making a career change, advised career consultant Karen Chopra in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “The fear that they won’t be able to make the same amount of money is a major deterrent for most clients,” Chopra notes. “That concern often shuts down the whole exploration process. I ask that clients set aside the issue of how much money they can make until later in the process, when they have a better sense of what they might like to do.”
Looking for a career that offers travel, good money, but also creativity? Consider consulting with a firm such as Accenture (the former Andersen Consulting), or international management. Both of these careers can offer you a travel, allow you to be creative in handling new problems, and provide a good salary.
For career-changers, the key to developing a strong functional resume is identifying key transferable skills that apply to your new possible career(s). And when you conduct a self-analysis, you’ll be amazed to find all the many skills you have that easily transfer from one job to another. Read our article, Should You Consider a Functional Resume? for more specifics.
If you’re transitioning from a military career to a career in the civilian sector, consider all your transferable skills. The second step is to go and visit some of the sites listed at Quintessential Careers: Job Resources for Veterans and Former Military. One of our favorite sites on the list is Transition Assistance Online, which provides free services to separating military service members to assist you in finding their next job or career with employers seeking to hire individuals with the unique training, education, skills and leadership that only the military provides.
Finally, once you’ve done a full self-analysis and determined all your skills and accomplishments, look at all the traditional methods: networking, other offline job searching, job-hunting on the Net, etc. We outline all the steps in our tutorial, Quintessential Careers: Job Search 101.
The best resource for career-changers is Career Change: Everything You Need to Know to Meet New Challenges and Take Control of Your Career, by Dr. David P. Helfand (VGM). Dr. Helfand’s book, which has been recommended by numerous career professionals, gives you proven advice and solid strategies in making a career change — a life change. Some elements of the book include understanding self-assessment test results; strategies for overcoming fears of change; steps to increase your self-esteem; and much more. Read Dr. Helfand’s Top 10 Career Change Suggestions.
In the meantime, here are a few short tips for anyone contemplating a career change:
- Make a plan
- Join an industry association
- Get experience — transferring within your current company, volunteering, consulting
- Get training or education, if necessary.
- Stay focused and don’t get discouraged.
If you are contemplating a career change, find someone else who has made a career change and talk to them about your fears and hopes, advised career consultant Ka en Chopra in the Q&A interview she did wit Quintessential Careers. “Having been through it, they will be ab e to share their experiences, a d you won’t feel so lonely as you start out on a new career path.”
Most employers stress the importance of experience. They want the combination of experience and education/training/certification. Thus, if you’re thinking about making a career change that requires training, look at schools that offer the classes you need and see if they also have co-op programs,internships, placement, etc. Consider remaining employed in your current profession, while taking classes, AND starting to gaining valuable experience in your new field.
Get a copy of Dr. David P. Helfand’s Career Change: Everything You Need to Know to Meet New Challenges and Take Control of Your Career.
Consider your transferable skills and read: Quintessential Careers: Transferable Skills. A functional resume is often used when you have employment gaps or when you are trying to make a change from one field to another, and you want to emphasize your transferable skills, not your old career path. Analyze the key skills you have developed and honed from your previous employment and use these skillsets for the bulk of your resume. Toward the end of your resume, list a bare-bones employment history that de-emphasizes the gaps. Be prepared, however, to answer questions about gaps at the interview. Employers will want to know why you spent time unemployed.
Read our article, Should You Consider a Functional Resume?
Experienced civil servants who want to apply their background to the private sector may have concerns that government rules, politics, and jargon won’t translate well outside the bureaucracy. While it would certainly help if the rules and policies were the same in the private sector, the key is to have mastered the skills, because they can easily be transferred to other jobs and other employers. Thus your opportunities may be better than you think. Plan your job search, including developing a list of prospective employers, using your network, developing/honing your resume, polishing your interviewing skills, writing a dynamic cover letter, etc. You might want to visit Quintessential Careers: Marketability Test for Job-Seekers to see how prepared you are to begin your job search.
Something bugging you about your current job? Before making a change, assess the complete picture; don’t just focus on the one thing that irritates you. Do you enjoy what you are doing? Are you making a good salary? Do you have good benefits? Do you like the work environment and your coworkers? Is there room for advancement? How long have you worked there? Can you afford to quit? If the job offers you opportunities to use and develop new skills that make you more marketable in the workforce, you might consider staying. If the negatives outweigh the positives, start job-hunting immediately.
Thinking of switching careers late in your professional life? Ask yourself these questions: If you do so, will you have to push your retirement back? Will leaving your current career adversely affect your pension? How much more education do you need before you can make the switch, and how will that time affect your decision? Are you leaving because of a true passion for your desired new career or out of negative feelings or frustration with your current career? As you make a career change, one of the most important things you can do is talk with people currently working in your potential new career. Before making the jump, talk with several people at varying sized companies to get a better picture of the field. Conduct some informational interviews. Check out the ins and outs of informational interviewing by visiting Quintessential Careers: Informational Interviewing Tutorial.
“The Nine Lives Exercise” is a terrific way for career-changers to figure out what career they want to transition to, advised career consultant Karen Chopra in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “Imagine that you have been given nine lives,” Chopra says. “In each life, you will have a different career of your choosing. You will make all the money you require, regardless of the career you choose. You will have the skills and talents required for each career. And each of your careers will be equally prestigious in the eyes of your colleagues, family and friends. Now, list your nine careers. Make them as outrageous as you like, provided that you would enjoy the job. Once you have the list of nine careers, write down any themes that you see among the various careers you have chosen. Get a friend to do the same thing. A theme must be shared by at least two of your careers, but does not have to be common to all of them. Now, look at those themes. Are they present in your current work? If not, how will you incorporate some of those themes into your new career?”
You want a better career but haven’t attained a college degree — and you don’t feel you are in a position to attain one. Try to find a way to complete the degree anyway — part-time at night, on weekends, or through one of the growing number of universities that offer courses via distance learning. Our society increasingly requires a college degree for almost any job, much as the high school diploma was required 20 to 30 years ago. Taking courses and finishing your degree is long-term. In the short-term, design your resume to emphasize the transferable skills you have developed from your previous employment. Check our article, Transferable Skills: A Vital Job Search Technique.
The final step is finding those few enlightened employers who realize that experience is at least equally important with education. Even for positions that require a college degree, these employers have a formula in which “X” number of years experience is equivalent to a college degree; however, you should know that these formulas usually end up requiring quite a few years of experience to compensate for the lack of a degree.
Did you go back to college and major in a different area than that in which you’ve been working? If you are currently working, you should be able to develop a list of transferable skills that you use in your current position that would also be valued in the type of position you aspire to. Determine the key skills needed for your dream position by looking at job descriptions for that kind of position. You can find such descriptions at Web sites related to your new field or by asking one of your old college professors. Once you have that list, examine what you do in your current job and see how many skills match the skills in your ideal field. With your degree and work experience, you should be able to polish your resume and find yourself a new job. Check our article, Transferable Skills: A Vital Job Search Technique.
As the world continues to get smaller, there is a growing need for individuals who are fluent in languages other than English. Governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations all have needs for employees who can speak (and write) other languages. A good place for anyone looking for career information is our tutorial on Job-Hunting on the Internet.
If you’d like to earn more by making the transition from the non-profit world to the corporate sector, your experience in not-for-profit shouldn’t be a stumbling block. Have your resume reviewed by someone who can check both style and content. You may want to omit older experience from your resume, as many companies shy away from job-seekers who appear overqualified. Smaller companies are often more flexible, so consider that avenue. Don’t rule out looking at other not-for-profit organizations. While some nonprofits take advantage of their employees with low pay, others parallel for-profit organizations.
For the job seeker who would like to change careers or reach for the next level in his/her career, this is an excellent time to make a move, advised professional resume writer Beverly Harvey in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “There are numerous unfilled positions in every industry because not enough qualified employees are available. Currently, employers are willing to train a candidate who shows promise. In economic downturns, companies can’t afford to make a hiring mistake, so it’s much more difficult to make career changes. This is an excellent time to be positioning yourself for future career moves. For example, if the company you’re currently working for has openings in an area that interests you, ask about transferring within the company — right now they can’t afford to lose you and are more reciprocal to your requests. Be sure to prepare a resume showing how your skills will transfer to that type of position. This resume preparation may require some investigative work on your part. See if you can get a job description for the position from the personnel office. Then tailor your resume to the job description. If vacancies exist in the department you currently work in, you may want to assume additional responsibilities and learn all you can about several positions. Assuming responsibly shows leadership, which is always a valuable quality. When the pendulum swings, themost valuable employees are the ones who will hang onto their jobs.”
Family concerns need not derail your plans to change jobs or careers, advised career consultant Karen Chopra in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “Concern for family is a common theme among career-changers,” Chopra observes. “They are afraid that they are being selfish by seeking out a career t