Shifting Gears

Among the issues I get to frequently talk to job seekers about is how to transition from one career to another.  For many shifting gears and their career focus, there is an almost natural progression that might emanate from the development of new skills or successfully tackling a progression of more difficult responsibilities.  For others, there is a radical shift in their career paths – leaving one area behind and pursuing something completely different.
One way some people pursue the natural transition is through additional education, to update existing skills, or get specialized training needed to qualify for a new position.   The core aspects of their work remain related and the heart of each of these transitions remains similar to the original career.
For example:

A licensed massage therapist who pursues a career in acupuncture goes after a nursing degree.
A nurse who returns to school to become a doctor.
A graphic designer who transitions to architecture, or becomes an art teacher.
A music journalist who decides to become a radio dj (or vice versa).
The still photographer who becomes a videographer or film maker.

But many job seekers, however, make career transitions that are more deliberate, pursuing paths unrelated to previous employment.  Some make the choice to do something completely different, and for others – for all kinds of reasons – the change in work direction is mandatory; they can no longer do what they previously did!  This isn’t to say there has been an abandonment of their skills or knowledge; it’s possible that their skill sets will be transferable, though not always.
Some examples of more extreme transitions:

The attorney who buys a restaurant and becomes the head chef.
The gardener who after 25 years becomes a lawyer.
The MD who gives up his practice to drive a delivery truck.
The professional studio drummer who becomes a CPA (certified public accountant).
The touring bass player who becomes a university professor of American History.

Taking that leap of faith required to go into previously unchartered territory can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. One method of entering a new field could be through volunteering to get your feet wet, and discovering how much affinity one really has for a particular kind of endeavor.  You can also take classes that give you both the new skills necessary for success, and provide a deeper understanding of what’s involved in that new career.  Many transitioners look for part-time entry level positions in their new chosen fields, so they learn from the ground up, and can build their new careers with a fuller perspective.
If you’re thinking about your own possible career transition, you needn’t proceed blindly.  There is a wealth of resources available to help you make an educated decision and build your confidence before you take that leap.  Check out related professional associations and organizations that represent the industries that interest you.  Talk to your local librarian or the career counselors at nearby universities, or make an appointment with an independent career advisor like me.  Visit a S.C.O.R.E. (Service Corps of Retired Executives) office where you might find someone with experience in your next career.
Another way to try on a new career is through a company called Vocation Vacation, a fee based service that helps people discover their next occupation.  Claiming to offer clients the chance to test-drive over 125 unique careers with the aid of about 300 expert mentors, those who have the financial resources to invest in their next endeavor, this company or others like it that may exist, may find this an advantageous method of next-career exploration.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you that whether you’re pursuing a natural career transition or making a more extreme move to a new vocation, a good bit of networking will serve you well.  Get out there, press the flesh, shake some hands, collect lots of contact info, and keep in touch. Whether via smart phone, professional social network. online video chatting, or meeting face-to-face over some food and beverages. And extend your reach by asking others who they know who may be able to help you with information or even more contacts.
Yes, I’ve covered some of this ground before; so feel free to read my entries entitled: It’s Never Too Late and Transitions for additional perspectives.
Change is inevitable, and it can also be good.  So if you want to make a major change in your career, you probably have more options than you realize.  Keep an open mind, do your research, and when you finally decide to make that leap, you’ll do so with confidence and promise.  I’m rooting for you!
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