Changing career lanes

Carlo Atienza-Sui Generis

DURING the pandemic, many people were laid off and had to take odd jobs here and there just to make ends meet. Others put their focus and energies on their hobbies, consequently making a decent, if not better, source of income for themselves. And with the possibility of a fully remote work force, some have started to consider looking for better work opportunities outside the familiarity of their industries.

There are many reasons why people shift careers aside from the flexibility of a remote work arrangement. One is the lack of opportunities within their industry because it is too saturated, and the lack of professional growth due to steep competition for promotion.

Or the working conditions are such that their work-life balance is compromised. Others have lost interest in their own industry, so they shift careers to be challenged and improve themselves. Meanwhile, others want to shift careers for better compensation and a generally better work environment where they can pursue both their personal and professional aspirations.

If you are planning to shift to another career, or if current circumstances force you to look for work outside your industry, there are several considerations you need to keep in mind. The most important is identifying your reasons for changing careers. You need to pinpoint the most compelling reason for you to shift careers, so you do not end up jumping from one industry after another. It will help you narrow down industries which can meet your needs and at the same time, this helps you focus on a goal for your professional development.

After that, create an inventory of your skills set so you have a better understanding of where you are at the moment. If possible, ask someone to rate your level of skill in each so you can identify your strengths and weaknesses.

You need to highlight your strength in your resume and focus on transferable skills like verbal and written communication, leadership, or research and analytical skills. Knowing your capabilities is a crucial step in identifying which industries are fit for your skills set.

In looking for these industries, focus on those industries that employ people with the same skillset as you do, but still manage your expectations. When I transferred from the academe into corporate training, I thought they would be similar since both involved teaching. When I started training corporate employees, I discovered that the teaching principles I followed could not be used the same way in a corporate setting. So be careful that you do not generalize and be as familiar as you can with the new industry you are joining.

One way to get to know the industry better is to take free online courses to understand the field better. There are tons of materials online which can help you become familiar with the industry you are interested in. Take the time to read or watch videos about the field you are looking into and gauge your interest. Sometimes, reading more about a field will help you get an overall picture of what to expect when you shift to that industry. Chances are, if you are really interested, you will take it seriously and take certification courses on the field.

If you want to get a leg up on the competition, take certification courses to improve your skills and augment your formal training. This assures prospective employers that you are serious in shifting to a new career, and that you have invested time and effort into improving your skills to fit the position. More often than not, people do not find the time to upgrade themselves because they are too busy doing their work. Getting a certification in your chosen field gives you an advantage even over people in that field. There might even be the possibility that what you have learned will be far more advanced than what they know.

Also, take your time and understand that not everything can be learned overnight. Set realistic expectations for yourself and do what you can to understand the field better. You can also create a professional development plan for yourself, so you have a checklist of what you need to learn and accomplish at certain checkpoints in your new career. You can look at course outlines and syllabi to get an overview of major topics you need to learn. But all in all, do not be too hard on yourself and learn as much as you can.

If you know someone in the same field, ask if you can observe them at their workplace. Nothing beats application of theory into practice. By shadowing, you get to see how people use concepts in their work, and you also get to see the relationship dynamics of the different roles in your new career. If shadowing is not possible, try to volunteer so you can have firsthand experience and see for yourself how it is to be immersed in the new field. By doing so, you get a sense if the prospective industry is right up your alley. If you do not know anyone who can show you what the work is, this would be a good opportunity to expand your network.

And when you apply for a position in your preferred industry, edit your resume to highlight your skills set based on the significant requirements they are considering for the position. To help your future employer understand how you can become a valuable member of the team, focus on projects you handled before which highlights a relevant skill they need for the position. This assures the interviewer that even if you come from a different field, your skills are significantly needed by the team.

Changing careers can become the spark you need to pursue what you are truly passionate about, or it can become an endless cycle of missed exits and wrong turns. If given the opportunity to change careers, take the time to carefully deliberate what field to go to and relentlessly follow that direction.

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