7 steps to a smooth career change -- Page 2
Birkel, author of "Career Bounce-Back,"
has created some questions to help you figure out if your next career
path will be a successful one:
- How do industry experts rate the field's health
today? Research trade journals, industry associations or the general
press. Even an Internet search engine inquiry into the industry
could give you valuable information.
- What major changes are being predicted?
- What factors will help the industry during the
- What are the biggest threats the industry will
face in the decade ahead?
- In what geographical areas will the field be strongest?
- What are the biggest advantages or disadvantages
for working in this field?
True, it's good to get in on the ground floor of things.
Just make sure it's a field with a solid foundation.
Step 6: Test drive a new
Most career counselors suggest making a gradual career change. That
means hanging onto the job you want to escape while making initial
forays into your desired employment area. This will give you a chance
to adjust to the new work without giving up your current paycheck.
The easiest way to test a new career is to scale back
the hours at your current job. If you can afford it, see if your
boss will let you work part-time. Or use some vacation time to try
your hand at something comparable. If your ultimate goal is to open
a flower shop, a weekend job at a local florist could provide an
inside look at the industry.
Also look for volunteer positions or internships in
the new field. Such positions might not precisely mirror the job
you ultimately want, but they should give you a feeling for what
the field requires.
A job-testing stint also could help you discover flaws in what you thought was an ideal job. Headhunter Werksman
worked with a software engineer who yearned to open a high-end coffee
shop and tried a stint as a barista.
"That took the luster off his dream," Werksman
says. It was disappointing, but it was better that he found out
before he made the big leap.
Step 7: Determine whether
you can you afford to make the change.
Maybe in your zeal to find a new career, you told yourself that
the money doesn't matter. But the truth for most of us is that money
That's why you shouldn't impetuously quit your current
job. Neither, says recruiter Werksman, should you try to finance
a career change by tapping your 401(k) or other retirement fund.
And don't take money out of your kid's college fund.
Do find out the accepted
salaries in your dream field. Check salary surveys published
in trade journals, wage data collected by trade associations and
statistics published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Then crunch the numbers and come to a realistic decision
on whether you can afford to change career gears. If you've got
kids to put through college or a heavy load of credit card debt,
it might not make sense to take a $30,000 pay cut to pursue your
dream job. On the other hand, if you are sure you'll be happier
and don't mind scrimping for a couple of years knowing that eventually
you'll be making good money, then go for it.
A good way to figure out your financial career-change
feasibility is to write a business
plan. This holds true whether you're taking the entrepreneurial
route and opening your own juice bar or going
back to school for training to become a veterinary technician.
If your calculations reveal that you can't afford to make the switch
as you originally planned, the change still might be possible. Maybe
you can't survive on a vet tech salary, but you could become an
office manager for a vet. That would pay more and allow you to work
in the animal care field.
In addition, putting your business goals on paper
will help you tweak your career change moves and increase the odds
Career counselor Godwin had a client who wanted to
start a retail operation where parents could hold parties for their
children. They discovered a lot of businesses already offered the
service, so Godwin helped her client revamp the idea. The retail
party spot turned into a business in which the client now puts on
children's parties in their own homes. The business plan process
allowed her to put a different spin on the original plan and mine
an overlooked niche.
And be ready for your new career's total bill. In
addition to financial costs such as a probable pay cut as you start
over at an entry-level position, retraining expenses and possible
relocation outlays, you'll also have some personal dues to pay.
It will be like starting your first job all over again, one that's
likely outside of your professional comfort zone.
"I don't believe you are ever too old to change
careers," says career counselor Birkel, "but you do need
to be prepared to pay the costs for making the change."
Jenny C. McCune is a contributing
editor based in Montana.