Planning a Career Move 101

August 16, 2011

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Switching careers can be a daunting transition. For those looking to start over, developing a plan and sticking to it can make all the difference.

There are many steps to planning a successful "encore career," the first of which is determining whether or not you need to make a change.

Career Know-How.com offers this advice from Marci Taub, co-author of Work Smart: 250 Smart Moves Your Boss Already Know: "Clarify whether you need a full career change, a career shift, or an industry or sector change before you leap."

This process can involve determining what it is about your current job that doesn't work for you, and how to avoid those qualities in a new setting. Randall S. Hansen writes at Quint Careers, "A lot of people change careers because they dislike their job, their boss, their company. ... However, you will not know what direction to change your career unless you examine your likes."

Researching new careers can be small-scale or all-inclusive. Hansen recommends using online resources such as the U.S. Department of Labor's O*NET Online skill-matching service or the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook. Godwin believes it can also be a good idea to talk to people who have made a career change and ask for advice. It is best to talk to people who have recently changed careers and are still enthusiastic and optimistic about the shift and those who have changed careers in the past.

"When you talk to people who made a significant career change quite a while ago, you learn what works over the long-run, and what to do when the excitement wears off," Godwin notes.

Monster.com says seeing a career counselor can be enlightening: "A career counselor will help you focus your goals, prepare your resume and prep for interviews." An experienced career counselor can also direct you to professional or trade associations, where you can network with others in your target industry.

Once you have determined that a career change is the best move and have received tips about how to do it and where to go, you may realize that you lack certain qualifications for a new career. Hansen stresses that you can broaden your knowledge without breaking the bank: "If the skill you need to learn is one you could use in your current job, see if your current employer would be willing to pick up the tab." However, plunging into a lengthy degree program might be too much too soon. "[S]tart slowly. Take a course or two to ensure you really like the subject matter."

Additionally, you can gain experience for a new career by moonlighting. Working a second job part-time or on a freelance basis can help you to gain insight and skills for a career change, while facilitating networking with possible employers or customers. "Such work builds your resume and lets you test the waters in your new field," Monster.com says.

Before you begin actively pursuing jobs, don't forget that the devil is in the details. Monster.com's tips for "starting out or starting over" remind job seekers to get a good haircut and determine the right interview outfit. In addition to making an impression on a possible employer, "you may find looking good makes you feel good and gives you confidence."

Finally, Hansen underscores perspective. "You'll need to be flexible about nearly everything — from your employment status to relocation to salary," he says. "Set positive goals for yourself, but expect setbacks and change — and don't let these things get you down."

Earlier: Tips for Making a Career Transition

Resources

Five Ways to Make Starting a New Career Less Scary by Leslie Godwin Career Know-How.com

The 10-Step Plan to Career Change by Randall S. Hansen Quint Careers.com

Nine Tips for Starting Out or Starting Over by Pat Boer Monster.com

Jump Start Your Career Change by Ian Christie Monster.com

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