The Challenge of Being a Career Changer

Dr. Purushothaman
December 2, 2013


It has always been challenging to be a career changer. It perhaps means needing to go back to school for additional training. In presenting yourself to others, they may often find it difficult getting past seeing you in your previous position whether that is if they have known you or are seeing you through the words of a resume. There is the acceptance factor of those already in the field. Frankly you are not considered an insider to them. You don't have experiences to share that show you know how to handle the difficult things which may come up in your new profession. And, while you have the desire to get the experience, it is difficult to get anyone to hire you into your newly chosen field.

The challenge of changing careers becomes more exasperating in a difficult job market as presently exists. Recently one of my clients was pursuing positions based on her recently acquired educational requirements. While she could see how her former skills and new training were natural fits in the new industry she was pursuing, those in the industry were frank in their feedback that they felt she did not have the technical background to enter the industry, or at least in the positions she was seeking. Ultimately she began receiving her best response in a discipline she had done for many years in her past work life even though she had taken some time away from the role to raise her family and further her education.

Does that mean that individuals should not consider changing careers? Quite the opposite is true. With different job types both shrinking and growing in our work world of today, it is anticipated that a person starting out may very well have 12 to 13 different job positions and 4 to 5 careers in their lifetime. So, how does one manage the fact that changing a career focus may very much be necessary during their work life, but at the same time face an employment picture that is not always receptive to the career changer?

Career changing takes planning. Ideally, the best time to consider a career change is while you are still working in your present career or at least have a stream of income to support you. It is also beneficial to consider breaking into your new career slowly. Perhaps volunteer opportunities exist in the profession or low paying part-time positions. Apprenticing under someone already established in the career may help. Beginning to attend conventions, association meetings or trade shows of the new profession you are seeking begins to melt some of that viewpoint of not being seen as an insider. Additionally, those venues may expose you to opportunities to make inroads into your newly chosen profession.

A career change may mean having to take an adjustment in salary for awhile. While that may not be desirable or even always possible, it is difficult to expect that you may be paid at the same level and standard you were in your previous profession. Therefore, if you are truly passionate about the new career field, part of ones strategy may be to put away funds on which to live off of, or determine if there is a way to supplement the income they are giving up while they move into their newly chosen field.

As my client is learning, it may mean postponing your transition for the time being while your need for income may best be served by the skill sets and career training you already have. Fortunately for my client, she actually liked those skill sets and has found them still in desire in other professions, just not the industry in which she hoped to break in. Others may not be so fortunate, and therefore, may need to stay in the field they have been in for the time being while stepping back and building a longer range set of steps to break into their newly targeted field.

Again remember, career changing has always been challenging, whether good economy or bad. However, many have gone before you and done it. They likely may have taken some of the steps mentioned here or even others not outlined. Those individuals are also a resource to you in terms of understanding what it may take to move into your new field of choice. Above all try to make such a change when it is advantageous to you, when you control the timing and the steps if at all possible. To try to do so under the duress of needing to find an income may likely turn you off to a concept that not only may be right for you, but one which frankly is becoming more and more of a reality for those in today and tomorrows workforce.

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