Strategy # 1: Know yourself
Start by figuring out what you really want to do. Don’t worry about being a wanderer. Most of us choose our first jobs without any clue of what work life is all about and without considering our long-term goals (If a low-paying but emotionally satisfying job that involves working with children or in an NGO seems far more appealing, weigh the pros and cons and go for it). You have nothing to lose but your hesitation.
Do a reality check. Don’t be vague about why you are contemplating a career change. Also, don’t confuse looking for a job change with a career change. If a simple job switch can do the trick to get you out of your ennui why undertake a major tectonic career shift?
If your present work is confining, why not look at another organisation with a flatter hierarchy that will give you both responsibility and freedom to execute the project? By the same virtue, don’t presume that opting for your own venture spells unlimited freedom to do as you please. In many ways, going solo can be far more demanding. You may not be answerable to a “boss” but there are a hundred others you’ll be answerable to: your employees, your financiers, your clients, and last but not the least, your family. So don’t fall for simplistic excuses or reasons for wanting a change. If what you want at this stage is to slow down and take it easy, don’t look at a different field altogether. The grass always looks greener on the other side! Whatever be the motivation, its best to be brutally honest with yourself. Only then will you be able to take the right decision.
Strategy # 2: Assess your skills
If you are not sure of what exactly you would like to do, assess your skills to see what suits you at this stage. Some self-analysis and speaking to a senior colleague or friend, whose judgment you trust, would help. If your company has an annual appraisal system, you’ll be told your strengths and weaknesses anyway.
Strategy # 3: Research the field
Investigate the market potential of your dream option before you take the plunge. What does it entail — in terms of hours, travel, additional additional qualifications etc. Is it prone to seasonal swings, is it paying in the long-term?
Speak to those who are already in the field to get the necessary insights and a first-hand feel of what it will demand from you. Don’t fall for the obvious. Often the ‘glamour’ associated with certain careers turns out to be a mirage when looked at from up close.
Strategy # 4: Look at related fields
Use your current position to learn from about opportunities in connected fields your contacts. See where you can leverage your experience and domain expertise. What does the work entail, what is a typical workday like? If you can ideally build a bridge between your present and new career, you will be more likely to get a position that is on par or better than your present one because your experience will be valued. If the thought of moving bag and baggage from a secure and familiar career to a completely new untested one scares you, do it in stages. First move to something in between your present and desired field, then once you’ve gained the necessary confidence, make the final move.
Strategy # 5: Network till you drop
Today it’s not what you know, but who you know that counts. All other thing being equal, it’s the person with the best networking savvy that gets to the top. So do make it a point to keep your diary updated. Keep in touch with people you meet at seminars, exchange relevant information and meet up occasionally.
Surprisingly, even today, a hefty 40 per cent of jobs worldwide are filled not through placement agencies or job notifications, but through good old networking! Employers always feel ‘safer’ and more comfortable taking on someone who is tried and tested and who comes with a recommendation. And there’s nothing derogatory about it. The world is a global village and we need each others help to access the right openings. Once you’ve got your foot in the door, it’s up to you to prove your worth.
Strategy # 6: Evaluate the price
While a career change may turn out to be a good thing in the end, it often requires a great deal of sacrifice. So calculate the odds and make sure you are going into it with your eyes open. A risk minus purpose spells trouble right from the start.
If for instance, you’re fed up of the 24/7 routine you’ve been juggling and are looking at easing up to “smell the roses”, don’t opt for something new that will be equally if not more demanding on your time and resources. Be prepared to put in a great deal of time and effort before you are familiar and comfortable in your new job.
Strategy # 7: Beef up your qualifications
Be prepared to burn the midnight oil to equip yourself for the new job; more so if you are foraying into an unrelated field. Sign up for an appropriate part-time/distance learning course. It will always stand you in good stead.
Strategy # 8: Start right where you are
Before you look elsewhere, try finding a similar opportunity in your present establishment. Many corporates encourage cross-functional movement. Offer to pitch in on a part-time assignment or volunteer to work after-hours in another department. This will give you an opportunity to test the waters, without having to risk quitting altogether. If you like the work, you can decide to add on the necessary qualifications so that you can canvas for a transfer. For all you know, you may have been looking for a change out of mere boredom. After the break, you may happily want to revert to your own job. Or try opting for a tougher assignment to jumpstart your career. Try a different facet of the same job instead. If you are in direct sales, try institutional sales for a while.
Strategy # 9: Craft your Resume cunningly
If you are pursuing a career change‚ make sure your resume is carefully crafted. Before developing your resume‚ research your target field. Speak with people in the industry‚ research positions‚ and get a good feel of the value you offer. Then incorporate your transferable skills and experience into your resume while downplaying your unrelated credentials.
After you have assessed the pros and cons, and discussed the pitfalls and strategies with a mentor, you would like to take the plunge. Don’t get into analysis paralysis. You’ll never be hundred per cent sure. There will always be a downside, the timing will never be just perfect. But put an end to those endless voices in your head and ACT.