Job searching is challenging for everyone, but experienced job seekers, especially those who realize they want to change their career tracks, may face special challenges. Marc Miller, career design specialist with Career Pivot (careerpivot.com) and author of Repurpose Your Career—A Practical Guide for Baby Boomers, suggests these five key steps to follow when making a career change:
1. Decide what you want. "Know thyself" may sound like a cliché, but it's crucial if you want to make sure you find a role where you'll be happy. Avoid moving from one job or career to another before you narrow down how you want to spend your working hours. For example, ask yourself if autonomy is crucial, or if using your creativity is most important.
When you make a change, take the opportunity to focus on yourself and your needs. Don't skip this step; take the time to identify and evaluate what you want to do next.
Miller suggests that anyone who has trouble with this step can rely on career assessments, including The Birkman Method, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and DISC. The most comprehensive assessment is the Birkman, which measures interests and preferred work styles, organizational strengths, what your behavior communicates to others, and how you want to be treated. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the most commonly used personality assessment, helps match your personality type to jobs or careers. Lastly, DISC matches you to careers and jobs based on the emotional components of your personality. Miller notes: "Whichever you choose, you'll learn much more from it if you have someone trained in the assessment walk you through the report."
2. Once you narrow down what you want to do next, Miller suggests you craft an elevator pitch to highlight what you offer your target employer. The best pitches clearly explain how and why you're a good fit for your ideal job. Especially if you're transitioning to a new field or career, be sure you make a solid case for why you're well qualified. Use lingo specific to your new industry and be sure to describe how you can solve a problem for the organization where you want to work.
3. Build your team. Miller calls this your "tribe." These people are willing to help and support you during your career transition. Is there a friend or family member you can turn to when your spirits are low? Who might be willing to brainstorm next steps with you? Do you know someone who can act as a second pair of eyes to review your resume and other job application materials? "Build a team around you and keep in touch with them," Miller suggests.
4. Act on facts, not assumptions. We all get caught up in the popular myth that "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence." Miller reminds career changers: "Remember, sometimes, that greener grass turns out to be AstroTurf!"
Instead of assuming anything, make sure to use actual research and data to make your decisions and choices about your future. Use all of the resources available to learn about companies and positions, including online and social media tools. Use sites such as Glassdoor.com to find reviews of organizations written by people who work there, and comb through company websites and social media streams to get a sense of company culture.
5. Network strategically. Networking is important for all job seekers, but for people in career transition, it's even more crucial. You must connect with people who can introduce you to decision makers. When you meet new contacts, make sure they understand why you're a good fit for the type of job you want. Use social media tools such as LinkedIn and Twitter to find and target individuals who can be your allies and develop relationships with them. When you target your networking, you will find people willing to advocate for you, which makes all the difference for job seekers.
6. Learn to ask for help. Miller reminds career changers that it's tough (maybe impossible) to head into new territory and to succeed without help. He suggests you "set aside your pride in order to reach for something new. Career change is hard at first; but it gets easier."
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success and 100 Conversations for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to reach their goals.