Shifting Gears

by Greg Faherty, CPRW
For many people, the idea of changing careers can be frightening, especially for someone who's been in a particular field for many years. You worry about starting over, taking a lower salary, proving to prospective employers that you have the skills to succeed. But the truth is changing careers doesn't have to be stressful or difficult. In fact, it can be a way to finding true employment happiness. Changing careers is more common today than ever. According to Judy Chriss, President and Owner of Chriss Careers in Tarrytown, NY, "We are seeing many more candidates who are either looking to change careers, or who are open to the idea. And with the employment landscape the way it is today, we often recommend that candidates who are in high-turnover or stagnant job sectors consider a career shift as one of their job search options." The secret to effectively changing careers is to market yourself in the proper manner. Select your new career carefully. It should be one you're interested in pursuing, but that you also have the necessary skills or training for. Sometimes those skills aren't so obvious, either to the job seeker or the employer. But skills like negotiations, technical writing, training and mentoring, sales support, customer service, collateral development, and many others all lend themselves to multiple industries and jobs. So how do you illustrate your skills to a prospective employer? A major factor is putting together an effective career change resume, designed to highlight your skill sets rather than your employment history. You also need to emphasize important skills and experience in your cover letter. Charlene DiPisa, of Stony Point, NY, is a perfect example of today's career changer. After working for several years in administrative support and office management, she decided to pursue her true passion, working with special needs children. As the first step in that process, she obtained a position in the North Rockland School District as a Teacher's Aide. "The main thing for me was getting a resume that highlighted my transferable skills, and working with a career coach who assisted me in preparing for interviews." So, if you're feeling that your career is going nowhere, or if you've been out of work and you're thinking that now is the last chance you'll ever have to go after that dream job you trained for back in college, consider shifting gears and heading in a different direction.

Helpful Hints
  • Find out what other careers might be good fits for you. A great place to start is with Dick Bolle's book, "What Color is Your Parachute?" You can also look into standardized career tests, offered at local colleges and many career counseling agencies.
  • Write down your top 10 or 20 skills, and then write down the skills required for the job or career you're interested in. Compare them. If half or more are matches, you're probably a good fit for the new position.
  • Once you've got an idea of the path you want to pursue, consider hiring a professional resume writer to build you a strong career change resume and cover letter.
  • If you're still nervous or having trouble evaluating yourself, visit a career counselor.
  • Talk to people who work in the field you're interested in. Discuss your background and skills with them, and see what skills they use on a daily basis. You might be surprised at how many you already have.
  • Think Positive! Don't look at unemployment as something bad. Instead, look at it as being given a chance to try something new, something you've always wanted to do.