Thinking About a Career Change?
So... you're thinking about changing careers? You're not alone. In this day and age your first career is seldom your last. Starting a new career can be exhilarating; it's an opportunity to start over again and learn to do something else well. The trick is to find something that excites you and refuse to settle for anything less. Career changers have to overcome some bias in the interviewing process. It is imperative that you know what you want to do so you can sell your convictions to the employer, as employers might be concerned that you will soon change your mind about your new career choice. The bad news is that you will have to prove yourself more in the interview and explain how your acquired skills and knowledge in another field have prepared you for your new field. The good news, though, is you're already skilled at that since you majored in the liberal arts. Remember when you had to sell your History major to Dell?
One word of warning: it is likely that you will not match your current salary at first, particularly if you're switching from a relatively high-paying field (e.g., business or law) to a traditionally lower-paying field (e.g. nonprofit or education). To avoid the salary shock, and to gain the independence they seek, many career changers start their own businesses. If possible, remain on your current job until you find a new job or enroll in an educational institution. People who are currently employed are hired more readily than those who are not working. Before you quit your present job, it's wise to consider your reasons for changing careers.
Evaluate Your Present Job
Make a list of what is good about it and what isn't. Consider all factors including salary, possibility for growth and promotion, working environment, and job duties. From this evaluation you can create a list of characteristics you want or don't want on your next job. Discover what's lacking in your present job. What do you want to do that you're not doing now?
What skills have you acquired over the years and what skills do you want to learn? What level of education do you currently have? With whom do you want to work (clients as well as co-workers)? Do you want to be your own boss? Make a list of your assets and best traits: what makes you marketable? How can your skills and education apply to the new field you're considering? Be sure to note your liabilities as well so you can counter them in the interview. Establish the geographic area in which you want to work so you can focus your job search.
Do Your Homework
Become a detective and start researching other career options. Through researching you'll learn the level of education you'll need to do your new job and the schools which offer the best training in your new field. You'll get a "reality check" by learning about the number of jobs in the field, the typical salaries, the future of the profession, and the time and money you will need to switch to this new field. Talk to people who are in the field already (one good source for alumni networking is Texas Exes). Use the Encyclopedia of Associations (at your local library) to find professional groups in your new field. Call to find out if there is a local chapter and attend some of their meetings or conferences if possible.
Develop an Action Plan for Switching to Your New Career
Be patient. Generally you can't make a significant change overnight. Consider creating a one-to five-year plan. Decide if you can you stay at your present job while you seek the new career. Consider using your weekends, vacations, etc., to work part-time or volunteer in your new field. Prepare your resume and cover letter using terminology from your new field and develop your target audience.