Every five years workers change jobs according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Many make lateral moves, but more often workers choose to switch vocations entirely. The reasons for doing so vary, from dissatisfaction with the industry to wanting to make more money.
Whatever your reason for considering a change in career, it pays, sometimes quite literally, to do your homework.
Before leaving your current job, it is important to evaluate your finances and carefully assess your current abilities and skill sets. If you have not updated your resume in a while, take time to make some much needed adjustments.
You can learn about resume resources here. Quite a lot has changed in the world of resume formats and procedures so be prepared to do more than simply brush off the idea of updating your resume.
Consider working with a career coach who helps you define your own strengths and weaknesses.
Additionally, if you find you are lacking sufficient skills, training or ability in some area, take time to gain the additional knowledge. Seek out a mentor or bolster your experience by volunteering.
How to Assess Your Finances
Timing is everything when you consider changing careers. Failing to plan for your transition often leads to financial hardships you did not foresee.
If you know you need additional training, experience or certification to make your career change, then leaving before you have those firmly in hand may limit your ability to easily begin a new career.
Learn about things to consider when making a career change here.
Additionally, obtaining the training, certification or experience may come with a price tag.
If your new career requires a specific certification in a type of technology, you must take those courses to qualify. This takes money, which may be hard to come by if you are unemployed.
Carefully list out your current debts, expenses, savings and income.
If you quit your job tomorrow, could you survive on what you have for at least a few months while you pursued your career change?
Or is it a better strategy to continue to work at your current occupation while working part time toward your new career path, until such time as you have enough saved to leave your old job?
Starting in a new industry/vocation means you start at the bottom all over again. Can your finances handle a lower wage at first, at least until you grow into the new career?
Many times, when you cross over from one industry into an unrelated field, employers are typically going to start you at an entry-level position. Saving for a career change and its transition is one of the best strategies to ensure you, and your family, do not suffer.
You may be tempted to tap into your retirement savings to tide you over through the transition, but most experts agree this is a mistake.
Many nonprofit organizations exist to help promote financial literacy and assist you in learning how to best make this next move financially without destroying your retirement savings.
Learn Practical Resume, Cover Letter and Application Tips
If you have not performed a job hunt in the last five years you are in for a shock. Resumes have changed drastically.
This is because almost all resumes are produced and sent digitally these days. This means more than simply saving your old resume onto your computer’s desktop.
Most employers use a scanning software that sifts through hundreds of resumes submitted online and saves only those with the most relevant keywords.
Even if you are more qualified than other candidates, your resume may not be seen at all because you did not structure your resume to include important keywords to the employer.
Find keywords important to your employer or the company by reading the job description. Create a list of words from the job details to incorporate into your cover letter and resume.
If the job description states the company is looking for someone who is detail oriented, make sure to write down “detail oriented” as a keyword to work into your resume.
Assuming your resume makes it past the digital gatekeeper, the next person to view your resume is the interviewer who must read through each submission and try to narrow the field further.
This is where having your resume free of spelling and format errors is critical.
Do some quick online research to see other samples of resumes in your industry and select one that is not overly decorative or busy. Errors on a resume may convey your lack of commitment to details or quality work.
Since interviewers must read so many resumes, any resume that is easily scannable is likely to receive a closer look.
Avoid long detailed descriptions of your past work, as this is what the interview is for, and you can discuss specific details during that time.
Instead, use short, concise wording and phrases and incorporate numbers and results.
Bullet points are fine, as are bolded and underlined text, but use them sparingly. Simple fonts such as Helvetica or Times New Roman are considered standard.
If you are returning to the workforce after an absence, explain the gap in your work history instead of leaving it out.
Explain how you continued to add skills to your portfolio or experience you gained during the work gap. Many resumes are light on the successes and accomplishments sections, but this is a mistake.
The accomplishments are simply another way for you to provide examples of your skills, both soft and concrete, in action.
All references listed should be those you have already received permission from, so it comes as no shock to these individuals when receiving a call or email. Sometimes your references have changed addresses or no longer wish to be bothered with providing a reference.
Consider a Career Coach
Career coaches are worth approaching, even if you only attend one session with them. Coaches have insider’s information into how to make the transition from one occupation to another.
Additionally, they lay out several factors you may not have considered and help you focus your efforts efficiently.
Career coaches help you clarify what it is you want from your next career and offer golden advice concerning the best strategy for getting there.
The best career coaches belong to professional organizations such as the International Coaches Federation (ICF) and the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches (PARCC).