Changing careers can seem daunting. Even impossible. But, the truth is it can be done. Several of my friends and colleagues have done it successfully. I’ve done it too.
When you’re thinking about a career change, understand that every position has two parts: the job (responsibilities, duties performed, skills needed) and the field (the industry where the work is done).
For example, a marketing VP at an Internet start-up has strong communication skills, is a strategic thinker, and has experience creating marketing campaigns. She also understands the Internet industry.
By the same token, a director of operations in a pharmaceutical company can improve processes, manage budgets, and oversee a staff. He also has knowledge of the healthcare industry. He has both operations experience and healthcare expertise.
Keep this in mind when thinking about your job.
While everyone’s situation is different, there are 3 basic strategies for career transition.
The most difficult way, but the path many people choose, is to change professions entirely: job and field. An administrative assistant at an insurance company, for example, decides she wants to become a magazine writer.
This can be done, but it’s a tough move. In a potential employer’s eyes, a candidate without experience doesn’t bring much to the hiring table. Therefore, this type of change often involves going back to school and taking a step backward in terms of position and salary.
Take heart, there are easier ways.
One course is to move to new position in the same industry. In this scenario, an administrative assistant who wants to be a writer might look for a writing position, or a position that involves writing, She might look for a position working on the company newsletter or in the marketing department.
While the assistant doesn’t have writing experience, she has spent time in the insurance field. To support her goals she might decide to write for an online or local publication. Once she gets some writing clips moving to a full-time writing position will be easier.
Another option is finding the same position in a new field. Here, the administrative assistant for an insurance company looks for a similar position with a publisher. Once established with her new employer, the next move is to transition to a writing position with her current employer. To move a bit faster, she too might look for freelance writing opportunities.
While this won’t happen overnight, I’ve seen it happen.
My first job as a writer was with a publisher of several trade journals. One of the publisher’s administrative assistants wanted to be a writer. She kept her ear to the ground and volunteered to write an article whenever one of the publications was shorthanded. Eventually, she was hired as a fulltime writer with one of the journals.
Using either of the two-step methods generally is easier than jumping from one career to another. Although, I’ve done that too. Strategic, gradual change is often easier on the pocketbook as well. The less a candidate brings to the employer, the less they will be paid.