How to Make a Big, Impractical Career Change

You will have to learn new things. You will have to do the grunt work.

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Suzanne Lucas
A reader writes:

I am a 35-year-old retail store manager realizing that I don't particularly like retailing. Its a little bit late in life to discover this now, particularly since the responsibilities of [being a] breadwinner to my wife and kids remains a given. If I could "swing a magic wand" I would love to do something completely different, like be a stockbroker, but how do I do practically make the transition from one career to the next?

Making a practical switch would be applying for a job in the corporate office of the retailer you work for, or for a competitor. But you really aren't interested in a practical switch because it would leave you right back where you began--retail.

[See the best careers for 2010.]

So, let's throw practicality right out the window. You want a big change, not a practical one. Let's see if we can get you on the path to being a stockbroker.

Close your eyes and think back to college. Pretend that you're there and you're sitting down with a career counselor. She says to you, "What do you want to do after graduation?" and you reply, "I want to be a stockbroker." What would she say to you?

[See why most managers need degrees.]

I don't, by the way, know the answer to that, because I know nothing about being a stockbroker. (Except, by the way, my foolproof system for making money in the stock market. I'll even share it with you for free: If you are thinking of buying a stock, ask me if I own it. If I own it, then you do not under any circumstances want to buy it because it will become worthless in a matter of weeks. It's a powerful position I'm in. All it takes is one little stock purchase for a company to tank.) Anyway, you need to find out about what it takes to be a stockbroker. Here are some things to think about:

  • Does it require a different or additional degree?
  • Is an internship possible?
  • Are you willing to take a cut in your pay, at least temporarily?
  • Are you willing to start at the bottom?

Google "stockbroker resume" and look through what comes up. The skills and experience these people list? You're going to need to gain those things.

[See why your blog could cause career trouble.]

The problem that a lot of people have with switching careers is that they expect to walk into the new career at the same level they were in the old career. While it's true that a lot of skills are transferable, many are not. You will have to learn new things. You will have to do the grunt work. You will have to be the person who does not know what is going on.

Retail is actually a good place to be if you want a career shift. You can schedule yourself to work the weekends or nights so you can take classes or do an internship.

All of this takes work, and none of it is practical when working full-time as well as having a family. But, if you want to achieve it, you just need to go out and do what it takes.

Suzanne Lucas has nine years of human resources experience, most of which have been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady.