By Christine H.
It’s a familiar story to us all: once you begin working, you look for any old job that will give you a paycheck. Later, you want to grow and expand into a different field, maybe find your passion. However, you need experience to get a good job, and the only companies that want you are in the industry that you are trying to leave.
There might be other reasons for you to be making a major career change. Perhaps you’re going back to work after a long period of time as a homemaker, or after a period of time when you were sick or had personal challenges that made you unable to work. Often, you need a fresh start, but doing so means leaving the old life behind… a job easier said than done.
One of the most difficult impediments to overcome is learning how to “re-brand” yourself as you enter a new field. Moving past the person you used to be can seem impossible, and you don’t want to feel like you really are starting over from nothing.
Which is why, instead, you need to break down your experience to its essential parts and emphasize the skills that are valuable in any field, no matter what. Perhaps in the past, you were a homemaker. That includes time management, multitasking, and leadership. It requires dedication and flexibility. Think of specific instances where you’ve had to rely on or develop skills that will be useful in a workplace. This can work the same way if you came from, say, a construction management company, and now you’re looking to break into advertising. There were surely times when you had to work as a team in order to accomplish a goal. This applied to your old career, and will apply to your new one as well. Allow yourself the privilege of renewing your identity and learning to see yourself in a new way. Only then will others see it too. This article has some great tips for translating the past into something that will serve your future.
Educate Yourself… But Be Smart
Often a new field will require us to learn something new, sometimes at our own cost of money and time. Sure, if you want to start working somewhere that will require you to do a lot of office organization and bookkeeping, take a class in QuickBooks, or perhaps one that will enable you to use Excel like a wizard.
However, there’s a huge industry out there that takes advantage of people looking to break into a new field. Often, it requires a large amount of money for a course that should help funnel you into your dream job. Some of them are legitimate and will truly teach you skills you’ll need. However, others are just time-wasters that want your check. If you’re looking into taking some new classes or going back to school, or signing up for a course, make sure that you research the program or class first. Make sure that it has authority, references, and clout in the field. If there’s some accreditation that you’re working towards, make sure that it’s applicable to jobs that you’ll be applying for. If you’re not sure what future jobs will want, look closely at job descriptions, or even place a few calls. It’s always best to go straight to the field you want to work for to see which education, background knowledge, and accreditations are worth your time.
One of the best ways to break into a new area is through volunteering. There are always venues looking for volunteers. Whether it’s a community garden, an arts council, a family resource center, or a writing conference, there’s an organization that pertains to your field that takes volunteers. Sure, it will require you to work for free much of the time, but it’s also an excellent opportunity to learn more about the field, develop skills that will apply, and make contacts that will be able to hook you up with a job that you want. If nothing else, supervisors can work as references that will hold more clout than the others on your list.
Start at the Bottom of the Ladder
Building a career is a process. It takes more than showing up fresh and shiny and ready to get to work to really make a difference and distinguish yourself in the field. It’s a series of small steps where you prove yourself worthy of each small challenge that comes your way, and then embrace new opportunities.
That’s why it’s okay for you to look at entry-level jobs in the field that you want to be a part of. It might require humbling yourself to be at the same level as people who just seem like kids, fresh out of school. But your added experience and maturity will help you move forward quickly in the right company. So go ahead and start small, but look for a place that will give you opportunities for growth in the area you want to go. After all, if you’re on a ladder that you hate, who cares if you’re at the top or bottom?