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Realities of career change: Smooth the transition with small steps

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Posted: Thursday, October 21, 2010 12:00 am

Studies show that the average job-seeker will change careers several times over the course of his or her lifetime. Different variables contribute to the desire for career change, but the common thread between those seeking to make this transition is an overwhelming feeling of uncertainty about how to do so successfully.

Kimberly Bishop, founder and CEO of the career management and leadership services company that bears her name, is in the business of not only helping individuals find jobs but also manage and successfully change their careers.

Bishop advises that people looking to change careers set aside time every day to zero in on what they are looking to achieve as they begin taking the next steps to shift from their current career to the next. "It's really about taking the big picture and breaking it down into smaller, more actionable steps. It's very easy to become overwhelmed, but individuals must do their homework first before shifting into their desired career," says Bishop.

Not sure where to begin? Bishop offers both traditional and non-traditional career transitioning tips below.

1. Research, research, research - It may sound tedious, but learning more about the career field you are interested in is vital. How much research you do also depends on how much of a change you're making. For example, are you transitioning from a nurse to a Web designer? A great place to begin your research is online. Sites like the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook can provide insight into a variety of career fields and the positions they encompass. Another key place for conducting research is to hone in on specific companies in the industry you are pursuing. Their sites can provide you with accurate job descriptions and applicable skills needed to fill those positions.

2. Identify your transferable skills - You may already possess many skills that can be leveraged in a new career. For example, communications, leadership, budget management and planning are all transferable and applicable to what you might want to do in your new career. You may be surprised that you already have a solid amount of experience to offer.

3. Assess your training and education - Search the Internet and identify job descriptions for positions in the field that interests you and find out the education and training requirements for these positions. While most individuals do not have the opportunity of going back to school full-time, many colleges and universities, such as DeVry University, offer flexible scheduling options, allowing students to take courses online, on campus, or a combination of both. Having the ability to complete your degree program while balancing your current job and family commitments can help ease the stress during your transition towards a new career.

4. Think outside the box - Get out and about to do your career research because not everything can be found online. Attend a trade show or networking event in the career field that interests you. Some of these events are free, while others may charge a minimal fee to non-members for entry. Once you attend these events, use the opportunity to talk to other attendees and ask yourself the following questions:

• Do I like the people I am surrounded by here? Could I see myself working with them on a daily basis?

• Do I like the environment? What is it that I specifically like? 

• Could I truly see myself at a tradeshow/networking event like this in the future?

5. Gain experience - Realize you are essentially starting over from square one. By obtaining an internship, part-time job or volunteering in your new career field, not only can you solidify your decision, but it can give you much needed experience for embarking on your new career.

6. Know the importance of family - While family may think they know what you do, they may not understand your actual skill set. By taking the opportunity to share your intentions and abilities with your family, it may springboard a connection to someone else they know in your related field.  They may have a neighbor, tennis partner or old college roommate who could offer the perfect opportunity for networking or job shadowing.

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