Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Changing Your Career

For decades, people thought that doing their job – and “doing it well” – was sufficient to ensure long-term career success, plenty of financial rewards, and job security well into the future. In this school of thought, managing your career was only like a tiny piece of the picture – when it came time to stop working for a time (in the case of parents wishing to stay home with their children, for example), or under extremely unusual circumstances (such as when someone wanted to actually change careers).

Today, working professionals typically change careers 5 – 7 times before retirement. Yes, you read that right – they change careers, not jobs, 5 – 7 times. Many people are still only equipping themselves to deal with the old reality and are unprepared to navigate in the new reality of career management, where jobs are only a subset of the overall “Career” bigger picture.

A Career change is a good way of getting that “oomph” back into your professional life. Most people battle with this idea all of their professional lives and a few of us choose not to take the beaten path and try something new. Most career changes if well planned do not require much additional qualifications or risk-taking.

So, you will ask, “when does it call for a career change?”

And I will answer you this – “career changes should be considered if you experience a few or all of the following criteria”.

  • When your job becomes mundane, overtly routine and boring, and you sense that you are not adding any value to yourself or to the organization. You have reached that burnout stage (or bottleneck) and you have advanced as much as you could in your line of work. Your work now no longer offers the challenges it used to
  • You have changed employers in the hope that a new organization might offer new challenges and it has not.
  • After graduating, any new recruit has two basic requirements of a job - lots of travel and lots of money. When you are no longer single, all that hectic traveling is bound to place a lot of stress on your family life.
  • When you are young, you are more mentally prepared to take on the stress that your job entails. As you grow older, your tolerance to stress decreases and you might find yourself seeking less stressful jobs
  • There are challenges, but there is no job satisfaction. And no amount of additional money in your current job is giving you that satisfaction. Though there might not be as much money in the job that you are considering, the thought of it itself is making you happy
  • The current job does not hold as many opportunities as it used to or it is being phased out for a more technologically advanced function.

Ah-ha … you seem to fit into one or more of those “unfortunate” situations I mentioned and now you’re pounding your head as to what to do next? Take it easy… things aren’t as bad as you think. Let me share with you some steps when you are considering making a career change of your choice.

First and foremost, you should be suitably qualified to make that change in career. If you are less qualified, consider taking up distance learning or training courses to bridge the gap. The more the information you have, the better it is. Understand the industry well and be prepared for the challenges you may have to face. Also understand that this is going to take longer than planned

Next, carefully evaluate the reasons that are making you head for a career change. If it is bad performance on your part, try better it at your current job itself. Changing your career because of a tough boss is not a valid enough reason to leave your job. This might boomerang when your prospective boss does background verification at your workplace

When you consider a career change, you must be open to starting at lower strata in the organization. Since you are just starting out in that new career (remember this ... .it’s not a job you have done or experienced in doing), no employer might consider you for a senior or managerial position. But that should not be a stumbling block when you are working on your dream career

Then, as you begin to research on the industry of your choice, also begin building a network that you can fall back on for information. This provides a lot of leverage. Prospective employers will be aware of you as a potential resource. Also reading up on the Internet, joining discussion forums to help you gather information helps in making career changes.

Once you have completed the steps above, you are at least prepared mentally to make that career change. But this is not the end of it all… remember, making a career change is a long process and it takes time. I will touch on other elements of this topic in my next article so stay tuned in.

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