At many of the seminars I give I see people who are facing a career change and they are not at all sure how to manage it. Whether you are transitioning from the military or federal service, looking for new opportunities after years in one area, or just need a change, your new options require a plan. Simple actions will stop your fears and floundering.
Assess what you have been doing that you enjoyed — what are your successes and how did you achieve them? Technical or ‘hard’ skills may come to mind first — your ability to rebuild an engine or solve complex data puzzles or define the architecture of a huge IT project.
But don’t forget your ‘soft skills’. Study after study indicates that employers are searching for folks who can demonstrate that they really are good at working with a wide range of people, can communicate effectively orally and in writing, listen well, and are flexible. These are just a few of the critical soft skills – include yours in your plan.
Once you have looked at your strengths and the things you liked about your previous work, talk to others who know you well and ask for their input. You may find a skill you have undervalued or one that needs a bit of explanation.
Take all this self exploration and begin to draw a picture of your next job.
What do you really want to do?
What sort of environment do you need to succeed?
What ideas really excite you?
To match your strengths to potential work you need to learn:
What jobs use the strengths you have identified?
What are the common requirements for such jobs?
Who is hiring for these positions?
One way to do this is to take a couple of your main interests and do a search on a large job board such as Indeed.com or Monster. You should get a huge listing of potential jobs – take a look at 40-50 which catch your eye. Narrow that down to 20 or so which seem most interesting as you finish the review and look at these carefully:
What are the common aspects of the jobs which appeal to you?
What are the main requirements and how many of those do you meet?
What are the common keywords being used?
Who is hiring for these positions?
Translating your past to your future
Now you can assess yourself against some specifics to see what in your experience translates into the new options. Some of that may be easy – the work is quite similar to your past work. Others require you to think about your experiences in a new way. I talked with a municipal financial expert recently whose entire experience had been in banking. It was a long road to a new job she said, but she found things she enjoyed in her old work and learned how to translate those into new arenas. Her analytical skills and data mining experience combined with presentation expertise and customer service skills are what won her a new position in a non-financial trade association seeking to better support and retain members.
If you are really stuck, there are a number of options. A good career coach can be invaluable – just be sure you get recommendations and make a good match. Online guides such as RileyGuide.com and JobHuntersBible.com offer advice, resource links, career exploration and assessment options. Job support groups run by government, professional associations, community, or religious-based organizations often have excellent programs and services. Joining online groups in areas which interest you can help you see how your work would translate into a new arena as well as making connections which may support your transition.
Just do it…
The hardest part of all this is to actually think about your own career needs and do the research. Too often we just slap together a resume focusing on our past and hope an employer will see a place for us. Then we get discouraged as time passes and not one real option unfolds.
So make your plan and then get to work. You can find a great new option with a little thought, some research, and the effort to translate your successful past into the marketing plan and resume keywords for your future successes.