Evaluate Yourself Before Making Career Changes

Lauralee Bernstein and Carla Rabb

Most people change careers three to five times during their lives, according to Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger, authors of Do What You Are, a popular book on career development.

The reasons for changing careers usually fall into two categories. Perhaps you are feeling a lack of passion or excitement about your work. Or, you may be struggling to fit into an environment that doesn't use your natural abilities or fit with your personality. Career changes can be as slight as finding a specialty in your industry or as vast as retooling yourself for a different field altogether. Nevertheless, making a successful career change requires focus, research, and the discipline to carry out your plan.

FOCUS

The focus of your career change should start with you. Rather than initially looking externally at industry trends, the job market, or classified ads for ideas about a new career, try looking internally. Concentrate on what motivates you and what empassions you. This is your opportunity not only to excel, but also to do something you really love.

Once you have done self-assessment, doing testing with a professional career counselor can help sharpen your focus. Career testing assesses your interests, abilities, personality, and work values, all of which are key factors in choosing a career in which you can be successful and personally fulfilled. Your test results will generate career options that may be a good match based on the combination of your interests, abilities, personality, and work values. Keep in mind that career testing is not designed to pinpoint the perfect career for you; rather it gives you choices to explore.

RESEARCH

So now you know who you are and have identified some occupations you want to examine in depth. The next step is research. One-way research is gathering information in a non-interactive way. It mainly involves reading...books, professional journals, Internet web pages, or anything that shares information with you. Reference books, such as the Dictionary of Occupational Titles or Occupational Outlook Handbook, are a good starting place to generate ideas about different occupations.

Through one-way research, you can gather a lot of information in a short amount of time. This prepares you for two-way research which is interactive and includes techniques such as informational interviewing, networking through professional associations, and attending professional conferences or workshops.

The people you meet through two-way research are experts in their professions, and you can draw on their wealth of knowledge. Through this approach, you can get a first-hand account of how people break into an industry, the salary and compensation packages available, and companies and their competitors. Most importantly, the information is reliable and up-to-date because it is coming from people working in the field.

DISCIPLINE

Throughout your career search, one of the hardest things to do is to keep motivated. Some of the obstacles you may face include already having a full-time career that you are focused on, being overwhelmed by the number of new career options, and being fearful of giving up a stable career and embarking on something unknown.

Discipline and structure are the keys to overcoming these obstacles. Working with a career counselor throughout the process can ensure that you set and meet your weekly goals for gathering information. In addition, a counselor can help you create a step-by-step plan for exploring career opportunities, provide personal coaching to help you maintain direction in your search, and help evaluate your progress on a regular basis.

Every year, thousands of people decide that they are not fulfilled by their careers. However, only a small percentage of them initiate the career change process. If you are not satisfied with your career, now is the time do something about it. Waiting it out isn't likely to change anything. However, waiting will waste precious time you could spend on beginning a new career that lets you express who you are and be more successful than you've ever imagined.