You've hit a turning point in your career. Whether it's because your job has slowly become less satisfying over the years, or you woke up one morning and realized you hated going to work, you've decided it's time for a change.
If only you knew what you wanted to do next. Details.
The "I don't know what I want to do, but I know it's not this" predicament is confusing at best. Besides the issue of figuring out what you want to do, there's also reality to consider. You might think you'd make a great marriage counselor, but do you really have the time, energy and means to get the necessary training? Will your career change require you to relocate? How will you convince potential employers that, after 10 years in one career, you have the necessary experience for a new one?
Because the career-change process is complicated, it's important not to rush into anything. Take time to explore your options and answer all of the questions you have about the career paths you're considering. Or, as "What Color is Your Parachute?" – the best-selling career guide – puts it:
"Good career choice or career planning postpones the 'narrowing down' until it has first broadened your horizons and expanded the number of options you are thinking about. For example, you're in the newspaper business, but have you ever thought of teaching, or drawing or doing fashion? You first expand your mental horizons, to see all the possibilities, and only then do you start to narrow them down to the particular two or three that interest you the most."
Once you've got a short list of potential careers, it's time to begin your job search. Mark C.D. Newall, senior vice president at Keystone Associates, a career transition and management firm in Boston, offers the following quick tips for job searching in a new field.
1. Play the game. As newbie, you're going to have to put in a lot of footwork. "Intensively networking, utilizing technology, honing your interviewing skills -- all of these things are important and need to be done," Newall says.
2. Identify your edge. Since you won't be able to rest on your experience, it's important to identify other selling points that will make you stand out to employers. "Everybody is smart, everybody works hard, everybody has a good degree -- differentiate yourself from all of the others by having an edge," Newall advises. "If you have global expertise, call it out. If you have outstanding and demonstrated interpersonal skills, let interviewers know that you will connect with and take care of their clients."
3. Be willing to move. Flexibility can go a long way when breaking into a new career. "Expanding your geography will also expand your opportunities," Newall says.
4. Speak to your passion. "Know what is important to you -- what really gives you that sense of accomplishment -- what gets you out of bed in the morning. Hiring managers will see your passion and how it relates to their business, and they want to hire that," Newall says. Given the amount of self-reflection career change usually requires, rattling off a list of things that make you tick shouldn't be too hard.
5. Have a solid methodology. Like in any job search, you'll need a game plan, Newall says. "Organize your time, your contacts, your approach, and conduct your job search in a planned and thoughtful manner. Then be ready to toss aside your plan, and be able to react to that last minute call."