You’ve decided you are ready to change careers. Have you thought about why you want to make the big switch? Perhaps your coworkers are rubbing you the wrong way. Or maybe you’re in a position that has no room for advancement. First, think about what you want to change and see if it is something that you can fix at your current work space. If you still want to change careers there are a few things you can do to prepare for the transition.
1. Figure out your strengths and weaknesses
This isn’t easy for most people. The majority of people have been doing the same thing for so long that they never notice some of their other hidden talents. Ask friends, family, and neighbors to describe what good qualities they see in you. Maybe you have been working a factory job for years and are used to working in a warehouse, but perhaps your friends see you as personable and a good listener. Then ask them what areas you could improve in your life. Maybe you are a nice person, but you have poor time management skills and you are often late to gatherings. Recognizing our strengths and weaknesses can often be an eye-opener, sometimes it can sting, but often it leads to growth down the road. The friend who thought you were a great listener could also see you caring for patients in the psychology field, or ministering to troubled youth at a church outreach event. You may think to yourself, ‘I never planned on doing that type of work.’ However, that is the point of a career change, to do something you’ve never done in the past.
2. Research professionals in the field
Once you have narrowed down something you would like to do, research that particular job or industry. You may think a job sounds exciting and fun, but perhaps is isn’t ideal for your situation. Does the job require you to work nights and weekends? Or is it a Monday through Friday day shift schedule? If you have a spouse or children, talk it over to see if the schedule will work for your family. There is nothing worse than to get into a job that has a schedule that isn’t realistic for your family. A job that offers big bucks may make you miserable in the long run if you can’t spend time with your kids or spouse. This is a decision that will be different for everyone so it is important to think about the big picture before you make the big switch. Next, contact other professionals in the field. Reach out to them on LinkedIn and ask them for a few minutes of their time. How long did it take them to get to where they are now? What do they love and hate about their job? Ask them if you can observe a day in their shoes at their job to see if their work is really something you would be interested in pursuing. Doing the research now will save you headaches in the future.
3. Examine your credentials
Before you sign your resignation at your current job, you need to find out what you need to improve upon before you apply to another field. Scour the internet for job postings. Read the qualifications that employers expect you to have and then read the qualifications they would really like you to have. These days it’s not enough to just say you are a hard worker. You are competing against many other candidates that may already have experience in that field. Perhaps you will need a specific license to work in your new field. Do you need to get a certificate or a degree to qualify for the job? Higher education is often the first step to get into a different industry. Some businesses only require a bachelor degree, others expect you to have a master degree. Finally, critique your resume and cover letter. These documents should be specifically tailored to whatever business or industry you want to pursue. If your writing skills aren’t up to par, consider taking a class for resume writing. Many employers receive 50-200 resumes for just 1 job posting, so it is important to stand out early, otherwise they may never even contact you to find out what a great person you are and what skills you can offer.
While you are going through your career transition, take some time to pray to God and ask for guidance. Changing careers can often cause a whirl-wind of emotions and trusting in Him can help ease the stress associated with starting a new life. Alumni and students are always welcome to contact Northwestern's Career Development office for assistance in job search strategies, writing resumes and cover letters, interview prep, and more.
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