Friday, July 10, 2009

6 Strategies for Switching Career Tracks

If you’re thinking of changing careers, you’re not alone. Many people change careers several times in their working life.

Although unhappiness with one’s current career is a common reason for wanting to switch tracks, not everyone who seeks a career change is unhappy with his or her current job. Maybe you’ve discovered that your real passion lies elsewhere. Maybe you find that your current job doesn’t give you a sense of personal achievement or satisfaction. Or maybe you want a less stressful job so you can take better care of your family. Make sure to take all these factors into account to ensure you pick the right opportunities.

Before you make your move, you should evaluate your options carefully. Here are some strategies to help you make a smoother transition from your current career into a different one:

Look for opportunities closer to home
If you’re not ready to make a big leap to another company in another industry, find out if there might be opportunities to learn different skills in the organisation in which you currently work. You’ll already know the culture, will be able to use the organisational knowledge that you already have, and will learn new skills that you can take with you when you decide to leave for greener pastures in the future.

Go back to school
Take courses that are related to the new field to both increase your qualification and to get a feel for the field. Plenty of colleges and universities offer “open” courses, where you can study for certification, a diploma or even a degree in the comfort of your home. (Be sure to check their accreditations first.)

Retrofit your resume
Write a good resume to highlight skills you already have that will be useful in your new career. Study job advertisements for the career you plan to change to, and note which of your current skills can match up with the "wish list" of recruiters for those jobs. Project management, problem solving, effective leadership, hiring and training are all skills that can be successfully transferred. Shift the focus of your accomplishments to give credibility to those skills and prove your ability to cross industry or occupational lines. Needless to say, don’t be tempted to list skills or experience that you don’t actually have. Lying can be disastrous for your career change and can be all too easily exposed with a simple reference check.

See a career counselor
Career counseling may sound like something only college students would need, but counseling is available for experienced workers of all levels. Do not be intimidated to meet with a counselor, even if you are forty years old. In fact, career counselors are used to dealing with older clients.They exist for one reason: to help you identify your ideal career. While counseling may not help you pinpoint a new career path, it will help you gain more insight about your interests and what you can accomplish from there.

Go moonlighting
Get a feel of the industry you plan to join by “moonlighting” in that industry on a part-time or volunteer basis, just to get to know the culture and the people. For example, if you are an architect who is eager to become a travel writer, start out by volunteering to write for your organization’s newsletter and slowly but surely make the transition into travel writing. You will then have a better idea if this is the right move for you, and also add solid experience points to your resume.

Have a safety net just in case
Are you willing to earn less just because you want to try something new? Are you willing to relocate? Make sure you’re financially set up to take care of bills, rent and basic necessities if the new position doesn’t work out for some reason. If you find yourself in a desperate position, you may be forced to take the first offer that comes along – and find yourself right back at square one.


Changing careers may seem like a daunting task. Your friends and family may advise you that you’ve lost your mind; employers in your new field may question your lack of experience; and you may find yourself doubting your own ability to make the change. But if you truly feel that you could flourish in a different field, don’t be discouraged! The field that you chose when you first entered the working world does not have to be the one you retire from.