Season of Change: Guide to Successfully Changing Your Career in 2016

Business.com / Careers / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Is it time for a change? Career pivots are tough, but not impossible. Here's how others have successfully transitioned their path.

Changing careers can be challenging.

But, a good percentage of my clients are looking for a change in direction, which inspired me to write this piece. To be successful in changing careers, let’s get philosophical and start by defining terms, what is career change?

In theory, it means when someone decides to change either their industry or function.

To me, it also implies moving to a different country and retiring from the military. In summary, it integrates two things: a) anything that requires “translating or transferring” the skills that you already have into a new setting or b) using newly acquired skills into a setting that is already familiar to you.

Related Article: Ready For a Career Change? Your Prep Guide to Jumpstart Your New Life

The Story of Sam 

Sam was a very successful international politician and UN officer, with ten years of experience in the public sector. He got to open the first embassy of his country abroad. A fascinating person who I have been lucky to work with, and with the exception of the first time I read his resume and heard his career goals, I honestly doubted I could help. He wanted to leave the public life and start to work for the financial sector in NY.

He made it in approximately three months, which is record time for anybody making a career change, regardless of their background. The secret of his success? Simple. He had two things for his career change:

  1. Knowledge of the area he was going back into because he had been an investor banking for 15 before going into politics, and
  2. The contacts due to his political career. 

The Story of Marie

Marie was a production line engineer for one of the biggest consumer product companies in the world. When she first approached me, she was having a career crisis; although she liked engineering, she wanted to do something more creative like packaging design or marketing. The origin of the crisis came from an MBA she was studying at the time, so the academic part was there.

We worked together on a functional resume, which highlighted her accomplishments based on her skills rather than on her chronological experience and it worked! She got a regional position for the competition as a member of the marketing/packaging team. After that, she continued to specialize in marketing and her career has only skyrocketed from there. She clearly did two things:

  1. Adapted her job search technique to her career change goal
  2. Acquired/learned new skills.

The Story of George

George was an entrepreneur who told me over and over again he needed to come back to work. When I asked why, he said it was mainly due to financial reasons. This is very common, but it does not always work, and I will explain why.

In the career world, there are usually two types of people, the ones that prefer to be employed by and work for other people and entrepreneurs. None is better than the other, these are simply two routes. People who prefer to be employed tend to look for “security” in their lives while entrepreneurs enjoy taking risks.

When a risk taker gets employed, he/she can easily get bored and leave the job, therefore, becoming extremely unstable. When someone who has a tendency to be a security lover tries a business, he/she could fail because they might not be able to take the risks needed to make the business work. This is a major aspect to take into consideration when it comes to considering a career change.

There are tests that will help you determine whether your personality is more entrepreneurial or not. My favorite one is the Myers-Briggs.

Related Article: 5 Things to Say to Advance Your Career Right Now

The Story of Julio

Julio was executive moving from Latin America to the US. Julio needed not only to know the job market but also to translate every aspect of his career, so it was understandable in this new market. Although his background was in finance and he had over 25 years of experience, he needed to learn and upgrade his skills to the country of destination, ensure he knew the terminology in the target language and learn all the search methods in his target country.

Julio was able to enter the job market after six months, in a more junior position than he had previously. This is a really for many people who come from abroad, but it is OK. You need to take advantage of that open door.

Summarizing, the things you want to have in mind when changing careers are:

  • Have a strong network to be successful in finding the right opportunity.
  • Go for retraining or additional education in the area of expertise you are targeting.
  • Adapt your search strategy to be more successful, and you will need to invest extra time during your search.
  • Know your personality tendencies, are you more of a risk taker or do you prefer to keep your salary coming securely in every two weeks?
  • Sometimes you will have to accept a lower level position. It is OK and normal. Take it.
  • If you are migrating from a different country or you are immigrating to a different country, do you know everything you need to know to be successful?

Related Article: Are These Bad Habits Preventing Your Career Success?

Career change is one of the most difficult things you can go through when it comes to your professional life but if you are unhappy at the moment, it might be your best move. I highly encourage you not to take this step blindly, find counseling/coaching because you don’t want to end worse than you were. It is worth the change, after all you spend more than half of your life working, you better be happy while at it.

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