The inevitable has arrived: you’re going through a career change. Whether you dislike, have outgrown, or been laid off of your current job, finding a new career that feels like the right fit can be daunting. The fact is though, most people will experience multiple career shifts in their lifetime.
As a college student, I’ve built a brief professional portfolio from a variety of jobs. Seemingly unrelated, I worked my first job as a camp counselor, then as a restaurant hostess, and now right here as an intern at the entrepreneurship startup Ideamix.
Counter to the misconception that a career change means a complete reset button, starting a new profession can be a way to build upon your prior opportunities and learned skills. From high school summer jobs to the more corporate positions that lie in my future, certain pieces of advice have been advantageous in my employment pursuits.
While the transition period between jobs may feel overwhelming, these three steps outlined below have helped me approach the process with clarity, ambition, and an open mind.
1. Be proactive.
Before you are thrown in the midst of a job search, it is fundamental to put together a toolkit of resources. This practice is all about building and maintaining your own personal network.
When I first started searching for jobs, I felt that this word, network, got thrown around a lot and even possessed an air of mysticism. However, the importance of a strong network cannot be overlooked as some estimate that networking is responsible for up to 85% of successful new job placements.
A simple first-step you can take in creating your toolkit is activating a LinkedIn account. The platform will easily help you maintain contact with connections, allow you to explore prospective employers, and present yourself as prepared and engaged.
Creating a spreadsheet of important networking meetings is another tip I’ve received that’s helped me immensely. The spreadsheet includes the names, contact information, dates and summaries of most professional meetings I’ve arranged. Whenever I want to reconnect with someone or think back to details from a conversation, that spreadsheet always comes in handy.
Additionally, always have an updated resume ready to go. If you are a college or high school student, chances are your school’s career resource center offers resume writing workshops or academic advisors that can specifically guide you. The internet is incredibly valuable as well: an abundance of resume examples and customizable templates are there at the tips of your fingers.
2. Determine your interests and skills.
Now is the time to ask yourself the important questions. Do you want to work at a small or large company? What kind of work environment and employee atmosphere suits you best? Be sure to also acknowledge potential deal-breakers, which will help you narrow your search. Being honest with yourself and others is one of the most crucial components of a job search, so keep your personal values and goals in mind at all times.
Circling back to the importance of networking, don’t be afraid to reach out to a friend or connection to politely request an informational interview. If someone you know works at a specific company or job similar to your aspirations, talking to them about what their job is like can be incredibly insightful.
Pause and take a moment to reflect on significant projects you’ve contributed to, achievements you’ve reached, or leadership positions you’ve held. Are there advantageous personality traits that stand out as intrinsic in each situation? These prevailing traits are called soft skills and are just as important to identify and improve as hard skills are. Hard skills are more technical to particular fields of work, such as marketing, computer, or analytical knowledge.
Employers will most likely evaluate job candidates with a combination of soft and hard skills in mind. According to a CareerBuilder survey, 77% of employers agree that soft skills are equally as important as hard skills, and as many as 16% of employers argue that soft skills can be even more necessary than hard skills.
If you are having trouble identifying your soft skills, plenty of online skill assessment surveys are available for free consultation and immediate feedback. Hard skills can be upgraded throughout your job search period by taking online classes, completing training programs, or finding a mentor.
Remember, both soft and hard skills require lots of practice, but if you keep at it there’s a chance that these refined attributes can be the reason someone decides to hire you.
Take a deep breath and take the leap of faith. You will never know if that company will hire you or not if you let your inner critic get in the way of giving the application your best shot. Instead of worrying about what may make you unqualified, spend your time and energy improving and focusing on your strengths.
Even if you do get rejected from a job you were seeking, know that this is normal. Keeping an open mind is key when this happens, as well as keeping your momentum going. Although you may have been highly qualified, put things into perspective by referencing this rejection as a step closer to succeeding.
At the end of the day, all that dedication you are pouring into your job search will eventually pay off. Surveys conducted by JobList show that after a career change, 77% of people are happier, 75% feel more satisfied, 69% feel more fulfilled, and 65% notice being less stressed.
A mere few decades ago, remaining at a single company for one’s entire career was not uncommon. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics though, on average people nowadays have 12 jobs in their lifetimes, with most employment periods lasting under five years.
Whether you are currently looking for your first job or your 12th, you are taking positive steps to building a successful and dynamic career that you can be proud to call your own. With that said, get organized, get networking, and go get that next dream job of yours – you know what to do!
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