Tips for Changing Careers

When looking to change careers, try finding one where your strengths and past experience is both relevant and valuable.

If a 2007 survey on worker satisfaction is any indication, Americans' dissatisfaction with their jobs is at its highest in 20 years. According to market information firm The Conference Board, fewer than half of all respondents were satisfied with their jobs.
It's a fact that is probably none too surprising. What's more, just who is the most dissatisfied is even less surprising. More than 61 percent of workers under the age of 25 were not happy with their jobs, a fact that's likely due to career uncertainty or the entry level (i.e., boring) status many such workers likely hold. Where the survey might have proven most surprising was the apparent dissatisfaction workers age 45 to 54 seem to have with their jobs. Less than 45 percent of workers in that category were satisfied with their jobs, a somewhat startling result when considering the assumption many people find something they'd enjoy doing for a living by the time they reach their 40s.
However, as the survey indicates, finding that elusive dream job, if it even exists, is no small task, regardless of a person's age. But with dissatisfaction so high across the board, how can one know when to leave their current job and pursue what's perceived to be greener pastures? If you're thinking of a career change, consider the following tips before casting out your net.
* Decide if it's your career or your job you don't like. There's a difference between dissatisfaction with your career and dissatisfaction with your job. If you like the work you do, but you feel restricted at work, don't like your coworkers, or feel there's no room for advancement, that doesn't mean you need a career change. That's more indicative of someone who needs to change jobs. You can, and probably will, be happy if you stay in the field, but you likely just need a change of scenery.
On the other hand, if the work itself is dissatisfying or unchallenging, then it might be time to consider a new career. If you don't ever see yourself being fulfilled or happy in your current field, then a career change is best for you.
* Understand your talents and strengths. What you're good at should guide you into your next career. If you're a successful businessman but have always wanted to be a commercial fisherman, it's best if you're actually good at catching fish. The same goes with any career change. Simply dropping your current career and heading into professional parts unknown is setting yourself up for failure. Ask yourself what your strengths are and where your talents lie. A successful career will be built on your strengths, so when choosing a new career look for one where those strengths are applicable.
* Try and make the transition a smooth one. Making a career change is not going to be one big bed of roses. If it were, all those 45- to 54-year-old dissatisfied workers would have switched careers years ago most likely. To make the road a little easier, emphasize your skills that transfer beyond your current career and into other fields. A great example is anyone with management experience. Effective management is needed in every business, from Fortune 500 companies to baseball teams to pizza parlors. So if you have management experience, emphasize that experience as you search for new employment. Prospective employers will be far more likely to hire you into a new field if they know you're bringing transferable skills that can apply to their company.
* Know what you're getting into. Some fields require advanced degrees, while others require certification. When choosing a new career, understand what it takes to be successful in the fields you're interested in. Success often breeds satisfaction. But if you ignore or are unaware of certain requirements, that can greatly reduce your chances of being successful, which could land you right back where you are now, dissatisfied and looking for answers.

(MS)


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