Sunday, April 14, 2013

10 Quick Tips for Career Change Success


Career.change.successWhen you’re thinking about a career change or already in a job transition, you’re probably too busy to read a 300-page book on career development. These ten short and sweet pieces of expert advice will set you on the fast track to career change success. 

1. See the Big Picture
To get somewhere new, start by mapping out where you are right now. Make a quick list of what you’ve been up to over the past year, including professional projects, accomplishments, and challenges. Then, follow entrepreneur Greg McKeown’s suggestion to take a wide-angle view: “Think like a journalist and ask yourself: Why does this matter? What are the trends here?” Your goal: quickly pinpoint what’s working and what isn’t, so you can make the smartest plan for your next step.
2. Budget for Good and Bad Days
“Debt is a dream killer,” states career and financial expert Kerry Hannon. So before you begin a major transition, figure out if you can afford it. Start by calculating how much money you’ll need to survive time off for retraining and job hunting. If you can’t afford a career change right now, determine if you can reroute or expand your current income to save up 6-12 months of living expenses. Remember, a few hours spent doing the math right now will save you loads of time and stress later on. 
3.  Start with a Fresh Mind
“It’s easy to beat yourself up and use your failures as an excuse for not picking yourself up and moving on,” writes career coach Christine Schaap. “But as long as you live in the past, you’re denying yourself the future that could be yours.” If you can stop lingering over mistake and could-have-beens, you’ll find a new reservoir of energy that can help make your career transition a faster—and happier—project.
4. Learn to Love SMART Goals
To stay on schedule during a career change, break your work into SMART goals. “SMART is an acronym for the five steps of specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based goals,” writes small business expert Darrell Zahorsky. “It’s a simple tool to go beyond the realm of fuzzy goal-setting into an actionable plan for results.”
5. Lend a Helping Hand
A recent University of Chicago study revealed that the happiest workers are in careers that involve helping other people. Even if you’re not switching into a job that’s specifically about service—like education or nursing—you can incorporate helping others into your day-to-day life. Whether you share tips with other career changers or use the “how can I help you?” mindset to strengthen your network, challenge yourself to give back. You may be rewarded with a fast-acting attitude boost.
6. Balance the Two P’s
Pursuing a passion can be an invigorating reason to change careers—but you can also waste a lot of time (and money!) searching for your one true calling. “Forget that. It’s absurd,” writes entrepreneur Penelope Trunk in one of her most popular blog posts, Bad Career Advice. “Just do something that caters to your strengths.” One the other hand, if you have no fire in your belly for your new career area, you won’t be willing to put in the effort to make a strong start. Bottom line: find a way to balance passion and practicality. 
7. Get Your Hands Dirty
Hands-on experience is a quick teacher. As career changer Jennifer Turliuk writes: “I realized…although I could predict and pontificate about a career path that might make me happier, I could never actually know until I was into the thick of it.” Even if you’re crunched for time, there are stills ways to test the waters of a new career: find someone you admire and ask to shadow them for a day, do a short-term volunteer stint, or schedule a half-hour informational interview
8. Research Your Training 
Most career changes require some new training—ranging from a single class at your local community college to a whole new degree. And the key to success (a.k.a. avoiding huge student loan debt) is research. What education do you really need for your new career field? Will your anticipated salary be enough to cover student loan payments? Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of and, offers this general rule of thumb for investing in career-change education: don't borrow more money than you can pay back in 10 years. 
9. Find Your Measure of Success
Money. Fame. Power. These are the traditional measures of success in the world of work. While there’s nothing wrong with any of those metrics, they don’t capture the whole picture. Figure out your personal definition of success and then go after a career—and a lifestyle—that lets you get what you want. 
10. Take a Time Out
Career transitions take a huge amount of energy and focus—but running yourself ragged is a bad move in the long term. Yes, you’ve got to hustle, but be sure to carve out time to truly switched off. Focus on the other parts of your life (like family, friendship, health, and hobbies) that make you feel happy, well rested, and ready to take on the next challenge.


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