Making a career change usually means investing both your time and money. As with any investment, it's important to be informed before you make it. Before you make a career change, here are steps you can take to increase your chances of success.

1. Decide If You Need a Career Change

Before you begin thinking about making a career change you have to decide whether you actually need one. You may just need to find a new job, not an easy task, but certainly simpler than an entire career makeover.

2. Assess Yourself

If you decide a career change is in order you will need to evaluate your values, skills, personality and interests using self assessment tools, often called career tests. Self assessment tools are used to generate a list of occupations that are deemed appropriate based on your answers to series of questions. Some people choose to have career counselors or other career development professionals administer them but many opt to use free career tests that are available on the Web.

3. Make a List of Occupations to Explore

Look over the lists of occupations generated through your use of the self assessment tools. They are probably rather lengthy. You want to come up with a much shorter list, consisting of between five and ten occupations. Circle occupations that appear on multiple lists. Circle occupations you may have considered previously and that you find appealing. Write these occupations down on a separate list titled "Occupations to Explore."

4. Explore the Occupations on Your List

For each occupation on your list, you will want to look at the job description, educational and other requirements, job outlook, advancement opportunities and earnings.

5. Continue Narrowing Down your List

Pare down your list of possible occupations based on what you learned from your research. For example, you may not be willing to put the time and energy into preparing for an occupation for which an advanced degree is required, or you may consider the earnings for a particular occupation inadequate.

6. Conduct Information Interviews

At this point you should only have a few occupations left on your list. You now need to gather more in-depth information. Your best source of this information is people who have firsthand knowledge of the occupations in which you are interested. Identify who they are and conduct informational interviews with them.

7. Set Your Goals

By now you should have decided on one occupation you want to pursue. It's time to put a plan in place so you can eventually find a job in that field, but first you will need to set some goals.

8. Write a Career Action Plan

Now that you have set your goals, you will need to decide how to reach them. A career action plan will help guide you as you pursue your long and short term goals.

9. Train for Your New Career

Changing your career may mean you have to undergo some train. That could take the form of earning a degree, doing an internship or taking courses to learn some new skills.

10. Say Goodbye to Your Current Career

Your decision to change careers may have been inspired by a job loss. In that case you don't have to worry about leaving your job. However, if you are currently employed, you will have to quit your job and deal with some issues related to that.

By Dawn Rosenberg McKay, Guide


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