There are three distinct questions that people about to embark upon a fundamental career change should ask themselves.
- What am I capable of doing?
- What am I temperamentally suited to do?
- What will the world let me do, given what I have done before?
While the first two points may be self-evident, the third is often overlooked by ambitious, highly motivated career change seekers, convinced they can do anything they set their minds to. This may be the case, but what they fail to understand is how their future career options can be limited by past choices. Overcoming other people’s stereotypes of what you are capable of achieving may be one of the biggest obstacles to be overcome by those attempting to move into new fields of endeavour.
Employers prefer to hire known qualtities. They may balk at hiring an accountant to sell real estate. An accountant may be well suited to an office environment and have a keen understanding of figures, finance and statistics. But will the accountant also have the necessary people-skills involved in selling properties? How will the accountant adapt to the pressures of working for commission, rather than a regular salary?
Ultimately, you must convince the potential employer that you can make the switch and be capable to handle the new job. What you do have going for you (in addition to your old skills) is a fresh perspective, enthusiasm and a determination to succeed, against the odds. Make sure you get this across to the new boss.
There is no substitute for thoroughly researching your new field of endeavour to ensure that you are as familiar with the field as those who have worked in the field for years. This research will require intensive involvement with the subject, attending seminars and lectures, reading extensively, enrolling in courses and networking with as many people as possible who are working in your desired field and picking their brains. One highly recommended strategy is to get on-the-job experience by observing how a seasoned professional operates. Gaining work experience may require a willingness to perform menial tasks at little or no pay, but the time spent during work experience periods can be a valuable investment in your future career. Not only will you gain hands-on experience and practical insights but the experience also sends out a message that you are very serious about the new career choice you have made. On the other hand, you may discover that, despite all your preconceptions, you are actually not suited to the work. Irrespective, it will have been a valuable experience.
Seriously consider retraining and upgrading your skills as preparation for your career change. If you are not already computer literate, then quickly become computer-literate or abandon all hope of returning to the work force. If you are computer literate, go straight out and become more so. In addition, polish up on your people skills, as well. Bear in mind that most of the growth in the job market is either technology-driven or people-oriented.
Do not be afraid to make a radical career change. A middle-aged professional recently quit his job as an architect after 26 years in the profession. The building industry was in a slump, design jobs were scarce and he felt burnt-out. As work was slow, he decided to use his downtime to fulfil a lifelong dream to study law. He started part-time for a couple of years and when he was later retrenched he put aside a proportion of his package to see him through the second half of the course, full-time. He graduated in the same year as his daughter and they plan to start a practice together in a few years, after they have decided who will be the senior partner.
Of course, before you embark upon that new career, make sure that there is enough consumer demand for your services out there in the market place now and in the foreseeable future. The changing nature of work, technological innovation and the growing impact of the global economy have all contributed towards greater volatility in the workforce. Trades and professions that were once in constant demand can now become virtually obsolete overnight as production is moved offshore and technological change renders specific skills redundant