Many men and women entering middle age find that the crisis they are experiencing has less to do with life and more to do with their profession. After steadily climbing the career ladder, they may not be overly thrilled with the view—above or below. If you’ve been pondering a career change then here are a few ideas to help you get the ball rolling.
Develop a Plan: You may secretly fantasize about telling your boss off and then quitting, but switching careers means you’ll need to have a solid plan in place that doesn’t include burning bridges. Create a list of skills you will need and goals you must accomplish in order to transition from your current job to your dream career. Then start completing your tasks one by one.
Assess Your Strengths and Interests: Ask yourself, “What do I truly care about in life?” Think about what your goals are and consider your strengths, and then you’ll need to analyze how they may or may not intersect. You should also look to your present or previous jobs for answers. Which duties were you passionate about and which did you hate? Honest introspection should help you clarify a new career path.
Break Down Your Tasks: Many men and women who are facing a career transition can fail when they become overwhelmed by the tasks they need to accomplish. Rather than feeling weighed down by thinking of all of the tasks you’ll need to complete, break major tasks into small steps so that all of your goals will be easily achievable.
Make a Gradual Transition: One of the best ways to “test the waters” is to gradually transition out of your current job. Speak with your employer to see if there is a way to incorporate flex time into your position. With many companies now experiencing economic hardship, consider moving from full-time to part-time and using weekends along with accrued vacation to pursue your new career goals. If benefits such as health insurance are a concern, ask if you can cut your schedule to the minimum number of hours that will allow you to still maintain coverage.
Retool Your Education: A career switch may require some additional training. Ask about the skill sets that others in your new field have, and look for commonalities. If you need to go back to school, consider online programs for certificates or new degrees typically required in your new career endeavor.
Build Up Your Network: It can be easy to lose old friends from college, mentors and past associates from previous jobs. But if you are looking at making a career change, now is the time to reconnect. Since more than 80% of human resource professionals now scour social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook for talented professionals you should make certain that your profiles are readily accessible and can be networked through other friends and colleagues.
Do Your Homework: Learn as much as you can about your new career before jumping in. Take some time to interview people in the field whom you respect, and learn about benefits and potential drawbacks. Another way to gain valuable experience and contacts is to volunteer or intern in your newly chosen field. While volunteering may not initially bring in a paycheck, dedicated volunteers who are trained and who understand the office workflow are often the first ones tapped when positions open up.
Get Your Finances in Order: It may take several months for you to develop a steady income from your new career. Make sure your finances are in order before you make your career switch. Create a budget and set aside a financial “cushion” to get you through your first 8-12 months.
A midlife career is achievable but success begins when you believe in yourself and your goals. Assume that success is your only option, and you will be free to explore your greatest personal and professional potential. Your new career path may twist and turn and things may not initially go as expected, but if you brace yourself you’ll be in for a wild and wonderful ride!
Guest Tanya Baker earned her Bachelor’s in marketing online while her babies were young. Now she runs a business from home and recommends the The Best Degrees to learn all about the various educational opportunities you can achieve. And be sure to check out the best degrees for getting a job in today’s competitive market
Image: Shifting Gears by Paulo Ordoveza/flickr