Changing Careers for Fun and Profit

Changing careers requires perseverance, conviction and frequently a
temporary downshift in lifestyle. If you’ve ever considered a switch,
here’s how to go about it.

By Leslie Stevens-Huffman | November 2007


Changing careers is difficult. It requires perseverance, conviction
and frequently a temporary downshift in lifestyle. If you’ve ever
considered changing careers, here’s how to go about it.

IT
might be your passion, but many experts say increased longevity will
require today’s workers to have multiple careers over their lifetimes.
While the need for IT professionals isn’t going away, outsourcing and
changing technology have impacted the demand for their services,
causing more to consider getting into a new line of work.

Changing
careers is difficult. It requires perseverance, conviction and
frequently a temporary downshift in lifestyle. But for those who can
endure a short-term diet of peanut butter sandwiches, the rewards can
be fruitful. If you’ve ever considered changing careers, here’s how to
go about it.

Identify Your Transferable Skills and Passions

"No
matter what field you’re in, the jobs all require the same behaviors,
tools and disciplines," says Ford Myers, president of Career Potential
LLC in Haverford, Pa. "The key is identifying the ones that you’re good
at and finding where you might be able to use those same skills."

Myers,
who became a career consultant after 20 years as a graphic designer,
has helped many IT professionals change careers. To identify new
opportunities that will be right for you, he advocates introspection,
assessment and an objective viewpoint.

"Assessments such as
interest inventories and vocational profiles can help you identify your
strengths and job interests," says Myers. "When you change careers,
it’s also a time for introspection about what you really want and need
in your life, but many people can’t do that objectively. Having an
outside person who will be direct and honest with you and who has an
unbiased view is helpful."

Becoming something like a
physician would require a career revolution, accompanied by a huge
investment in education and training. So instead of making such a
dramatic switch, many IT workers instead choose to evolve into a
related field, which requires a shorter learning curve and a faster
return to comparable wages.

"Nobody ever got hired because
they were really good at something. They got hired because the company
needed them," observes Waffles Natusch, president of the Rhode
Island-based career consultant the Barrett Group, who has himself
successfully changed careers. "If you’ve managed people, consider
general business management or managing outsourced IT services, because
management is a transferable skill that’s in demand. Think about your
industry experience. If you’re an IT professional with manufacturing
experience, consider becoming a supply chain or purchasing manager."

Teacher,
technology sales person, software trainer, construction or engineering
project manager and technical writer are all positions that can be
attained by technology professionals going through an evolutionary
career change process.

Test the Waters  

Once
you’ve developed a short list of possible new positions, immerse
yourself in professionals who work in the field to assess your fit and
the job market. Attend adult education classes, industry association
meetings, networking groups and career networking sites to get a sense
of what daily life is like. If you develop a relationship with those in
the field, some may allow you to shadow them for a day, and they may
help you identify job opportunities. Educating yourself is vital: You
don’t want to change careers only to discover your new path isn’t right
for you.

To Find a Position: Network  

One
of the biggest obstacles you’ll face is the mindset that candidates
must have pervious experience in order to be considered for open
positions. To avoid frustration, go around human resources to directly
present hiring managers your resume. Not a natural networker? Start
with other networking-adverse people.
 
"I’ve frequently
spoken to IT groups about networking, and the key is not to compare
yourself with the guy who’s out on the golf course everyday," says
Myer. "Start with the guy in the next cube who is also shy about
networking, so you can build confidence. Also e-mail people and use
sites like LinkedIn to help break the ice and get started."

Perform an Attitude Check  

Evolving
successfully to a new career requires you to have the right attitude
and perspective about the changes that have occurred in IT. Remember
that many industries and professions have gone through radical changes,
and many people have had to change careers, even when they didn’t want
to.

"I often have to do a great deal of counseling with
IT people because they can be their own worst enemies," says Myer.
"Wearing your emotions on your sleeve and being arrogant is not going
to get you a job anywhere, so it’s important to look at the image you
are projecting. Many people did very, very well in the early days of
IT. Now you have to have more realistic expectations, and you should
count your blessings because most people have never even had the chance
to experience a job market like the one that you did."

Leslie
Stevens-Huffman is a freelance writer based in Irvine, Calif. who has
more than 20 years experience in the staffing industry.

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