Unhappy with your job? Want to find work that's more fulfilling, better paying, or more family-friendly?
More people than ever, it seems, want to change jobs or switch industries. That's partly a result of the lifting of the recession; as the economy improves, employees who have long wanted an out now feel more confident about finding a new position. It might also have to do with our constant quest to find the perfect career. We increasingly expect our jobs to not only pay the bills, but also offer fulfillment, which, ironically, can leave us forever dissatisfied.
"There's a pent-up demand [for new jobs]," says Nancy Collamer, a career coach who focuses on lifestyle-friendly careers. "There are a lot of people out there who are now unhappy, [who] are feeling overworked and under-appreciated."
Take Alison Hoffman, for example, who worked in the corporate world for more than 25 years, most recently in mergers and acquisitions. When the company she worked for was sold in 2007, she was squeezed out of a job. At first she looked for other opportunities, but few firms were hiring. "That made me think, do I really want to be doing this?" says Hoffman, who lives outside Chicago.
After consulting for a few years to pay the bills, Hoffman started her own garden design business, Every Green Plant, turning her hobby into a job. "It's not like I'm replacing the income I had before," she says, "but I'm totally turned on by what I'm doing."
Not everyone changes jobs because they want to. Some workers find their skills simply aren't needed anymore, and that their industry has changed, likely because of advances in technology, and they need to transition to earn a paycheck. According to a CareerBuilder survey, 60 percent of workers who were laid off during the last year and found a new job are working in a new field. "[That] reflect[s] a growing trend where workers are re-educating and/or re-packaging skill sets to appeal to a broader set of employers," according to CareerBuilder's survey summary.
If you're considering changing careers, the first step is to figure out what you want to do—and for some job seekers, that's the hardest part. Once you have a vision for your next career, here are some smart ways to position yourself to make the transition:
Introduce yourself with where you're going, not where you've been. When someone asks you what you do, tell them what you're passionate about and the job you're looking to transition into—then tell them where you work now, says Jodi Glickman, communications expert and author of Great on the Job. Start with what you want them to remember you for, so when a relevant opportunity arises, they'll think of you.
Focus on your transferable skills. Your expertise may be in one industry, but the skills you've gained there likely are applicable to other fields. So rather than focusing on your knowledge, which may or may not transfer, showcase the skills you used in that industry and how they'll benefit you—and the company that hires you—in your sequel career. You're more likely to succeed at this if you think outside of the box. What are your strengths, and how can they be applied elsewhere?
Tailor your resume for the job you want, not the job you have. Your resume should tell the story you want to tell; don't make the mistake of thinking it has to be an all-inclusive employment history. Once you've identified your transferable skills and experiences, weave that into a document that markets you to the industry you want to work in. That may mean leaving out an experience simply because it's not relevant. Figure out how your background and experience makes you qualified for the job you're applying for, and emphasize those pieces on your resume.
Find ways to showcase (and improve) the skills you'll use in your ideal job. Volunteer for an organization that needs someone with those skills, then feature that position prominently on your resume. Also look to showcase your skills virtually; consider blogging or tweeting about topics you want to be considered an expert on, which will help you establish credibility.
Raise your visibility. Becoming known or at least find-able in your industry applies not only to looking for a job, it's also "useful just for keeping a job," says Laurence Shatkin, a career-information expert and author of the book The Sequel: How to Change Your Career Without Starting Over. It's easier than ever to do this online, but don't overlook old-school methods like public speaking, writing a book, or getting quoted as an expert by media outlets. If you blog or tweet in a way that showcases your skills, you'll simultaneously raise your visibility. And if you don't want to blog, visit other people's blogs about your industry and leave thoughtful comments, Shatkin says. Make sure to use your real name. The more people who know about you, the more offers will come your way. Visibility can also be appealing to employers who want you to bring your network to the company
Network in the field you want to work in. Networking is arguably the best move you can make to prepare yourself to change careers. Attend conferences and force yourself to branch out rather than sticking with people you already know. Invite people you meet to connect with you on LinkedIn, giving you access to their network—people who, of course, work in the industry you want to work. Use your blog to connect with like-minded people. Seek out industry experts on Twitter, and build relationships with them. Once you make connections online, you can bring them off-line, turning them into in-person contacts by attending Meetups and other industry get-togethers.
Stay on top of your target industry. Take a class, attend a conference, or simply do your daily due diligence on the Internet. Identify your industry's leading blogs, and read them every day. "A daily dose of information [will] help you become better informed, better connected for your targeted career," says Collamer, the career coach. Twitter's also a great tool for this; follow thought leaders in your industry. "They're going to be tweeting links to articles, almost like your personal niche librarian," Collamer says.
Find a mentor. Or two. Or an entire personal advisory board, preferably made up of people who have experience in the industry where you're seeking work. Look for "people who will tell you the truth, even if it hurts," says Hoffman. Not sure how to go about this? Check out our 13 tips for finding a mentor.
Fill your gaps. Figure out what else you need to make your leap, and fill those gaps. They're likely in three areas, Collamer says: skills and knowledge, accomplishments and experience, and network. Your needs in those areas will vary depending on which industry you want to move into, so knowing that industry well and understanding how workers thrive there is key to figuring out your next steps.
[Need more education for your dream career? Consider an online degree.]
Project a positive attitude. Especially if you're not changing careers by choice, this can be easier said than done. But hiring managers will sense resentment. "People don't want to hire soreheads," Shatkin says. "They want to hire people who have a positive outlook." So focus on your strengths, reminding yourself regularly that you're a catch—and you'll be more likely to come across as someone who is.