Republished with permission by Ready. Aim. Hire. (original date Friday, October 30, 2015)
Had a young Thomas Jefferson been asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he could have said any of the following and been considered successful in his wishes: an architect; a lawyer; a farmer; an inventor; and even the President.
Let’s not forget he was also a Founding Father of democracy.
Clearly, Jefferson knew a thing or two about many things, including changing careers, as he successfully employed his many interests and skills throughout his long, fruitful life. In today’s times, career changes grow increasingly common as people approach mid-life.
If you’re feeling tempted to scratch the career-change itch, it may be time to explore the possibility.
Proceed wisely with these five steps.
Step One: Analyze
Before tossing a career overboard, make sure there aren’t less drastic measures you can take. Thoroughly analyze what you like and don’t like about your work. Are you dissatisfied with the career or just your current position? If, for example, it boils down to inflexible work hours, the problem might be resolved by discussing changes with your employer, such as working from home. If you’ve grown dissatisfied with the work environment, the answer might lie with a similar job but a different employer.
But, if you simply don’t like what you do day-to-day and feel you have something else to offer, continue to Step Two.
Step Two: Assess
Conduct an honest assessment of your interests and skills. List the passion(s) that triggers your drive. Review all your past jobs and consider what aspects of each you liked and disliked. Next, identify your skills and strengths. What are you good at, and in what areas are you lacking?
Think about how you want to spend your working hours. Do you want to work autonomously? Outdoors? In a collegial environment? Is it important to you that you feel you are making a contribution to the world?
Personality and aptitude tests might aid your assessment, but don’t underestimate your gut instinct.
Step Three: Explore
Once you fully “know yourself,” explore the types of careers that match your personality, skills and other desires for professional fulfillment. Brainstorm career ideas with friends, family and colleagues whose opinions you trust. Invite their insight into how your skills and experience can be used in other ways. Visit a career counselor, a job bank or a career fair.
Step Four: Research
Once you have identified possible careers that beckon, research them thoroughly. Find out: how much training or education is required and how to get it; potential for employment locally or elsewhere; likely compensation; and work conditions. In addition to taking in online research, read industry journals and company newsletters, and talk with people in the fields you’re considering. Gain exposure to the career through job-shadowing, volunteering, working part-time or freelancing.
Step Five: Switch
Apply those job-seeking skills you’ve used in the past. Create a stellar resumé, highlighting past experience that is relevant to the new career. Prepare a short, casual “elevator speech” summarizing your career objectives and employment attributes. Then network, network and network some more through local business groups, service organizations, online professional sites (such as LinkedIn) and other places where people gather.
Along the way, remember that opportunity is open to you because we are all created with the unalienable right, as Thomas Jefferson wrote, to “the pursuit of happiness.” If being satisfied professionally is a means to that happiness, transitioning careers might be just what you need.