Switching Careers

A Practical Guide for Making a Change

Making the decision to change jobs is not uncommon – most of us do it several times during our employment years. But the decision to change from one field to another – a true career switch – is a serious undertaking.

According to Rebecca Bubier, Staffing Supervisor at Bonney Staffing Center’s Auburn branch, the most common mid-career switches are moves into areas of Medical, Accounting, Legal, Sales/Marketing and, within the field of Light Industrial, IT. Why are so many employees entering these fields for the first time? Feeling bored or stuck in a current job can be common motivating factors. “Those in their 20s and 30s often cite feeling unable to advance in their current job as their reason to make the switch,” Bubier said, “whereas older workers can be motivated more often by job security.”

Whatever your reason for making the switch to a new career path, consider these practical pieces of advice before making the leap.

Take the Time

Changing careers can be exciting, but it can mean some up-front work. Some job experts recommend developing a “parallel career,” that is, setting the foundation for your new career before you leave your current job. Building this foundation can entail finding out about opportunities in your area, understanding what skills you need, or figuring out how to handle finances during your job change. It can be the perfect time to talk to others in your new field, hone your interview skills, or start networking.

Find the Job You Want

You’re ready to make the change. Now how do you get there?

Start with informational interviews. Informational interviews with people you respect in your field of interest are low-pressure ways to learn about your industry, and most people are more than happy to oblige. You may find a mentor – or a job opening – along the way.

Talk to a staffing professional. Staffing professionals are well-versed in the art of career transition. Not only do they offer great advice, they can help you market yourself to attract the employers you’re interested in. According to Bubier, entering into a new career can be a matter of gaining enough experience to allow for a career pivot. For example, she might place someone interested in an accounting career in a banking position first. After they gain some experience, she can comfortably market them as a candidate in accounting.

Start networking. You might attend industry trade shows, job fairs, or conferences related to your industry, and tell your plans to friends and family. Getting word out about your new career will start setting the foundation so you’ll be well-positioned to move into the job you’ve always wanted.

If you know you need a change but you aren’t sure what career is best, there are plenty of local resources that can help you find the right position. In New Hampshire, The Job Match System allows job seekers to conduct a job search, learn more about their career options and explore new occupations. The Career Change Planning Checklist, can help with self-assessment and getting an action plan. Take a look at the LearningExpress Library offered by the Maine State Library, as well. It features practice tests, tutorials, and eBooks related to job search and workplace skills improvement, career certification and basic skills improvement.

You can also check out some of the most recent data about some of the fastest-growing industries by reading our recent post, The Fastest Growing Jobs to be sure you’re choosing a career with potential for growth.

Education or Experience?

The many educational options available at colleges, online, or as part of certification programs, can seem like launch pads for a ready-made career. Bubier often sees candidates who have put money and time into furthering their education with the idea that it’s a straight line to their dream job. “Sometimes, they can be disappointed to find that they still need to build that experience, and start in a more entry-level position than they’d hoped.” she said. The fact is, most employers care about experience over all. “Getting an education or certification in your new field is important,” she said. “But in many cases, you still have to work your way up.”

Before you jump into a degree, see if you might benefit from other avenues to build job experience. Many positions offer on the job training. Volunteer opportunities can be valuable in building relevant skills, as can temp work related to your field. You might even consider a program such as The Maine Apprentice Program. It combines on-the-job learning with related education that reinforces what you learn on the job.

Polish Your Presentation

While having relevant job skills is important, candidates would do well to focus on polishing their presentation while they are preparing for their new career. “Presentation is huge,” said Bubier. “If you are a candidate who has excellent software skills & strong recommendations, I can market you to clients even if you’re just out of school.”

If you’re building a parallel career, build in time to work on your presentation. Hone your interview skills, create a strong, professional resume, and gather letters of recommendations from organizations where you volunteer, or from teachers who can speak to your aptitude and work ethic as well as your skills. You can also make use the Bonney Support Center to get interview tips, cover letter advice, and other resources for putting your best foot forward in your job search!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *