Career change – Top tips for a successful transition

by Garver, Louise Thursday, February 02, 2012
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The facts are clear. Over the last decade, executives want a career change because they are dissatisfied with their job / industry, unhappy with salary, insecure about longevity of job, work in an obsolete industry, or a victim of corporate downsizing. Maybe you are among nearly 50% of job seekers rethinking their career path.

A recent Today show segment focused on Marla Romash, who after an amazing career in politics felt the urge to do something new. Today she is pursuing a career as a pastry chef.

Marla talks about moments in life when you know you want to do something different, have a sense of belonging and purpose and make a difference. A growing trend for the boomer generation is the urge to do something different when they turn 50+ and not have regrets that they didn’t follow their passion. It doesn’t always mean starting your own business; it can be just making a change in industries or role within an organization.

Now I know you are wondering “How do I do that?.” Before you hand in your resignation letter, take a look at the following points:

Statistics show that in the first three years, one-third of new businesses turn a profit, one-third break even and one-third lose money. If you are thinking about starting a company, you may need to keep your day job and try out your new business venture on the side (evenings and weekends) to find out if you can turn it into a profitable venture.

A good formula for success:

Passion

“Do something you love, and you will never work a day in your life.” (Confucius)

Do you look at your passion as an asset or hobby? You can turn your passion into a career. Of course you have to be realistic and look at all the factors that contribute to success and failure when starting a new business or changing career focus to a new job.

Research the viability of the industry or business you want to transition into. Part of that research could be volunteering on a board of directors to get an inside view of business challenges and successes, or joining associations or social groups to network with others in the industry. You can learn a lot by asking “informational interview” questions in the course of conversations. Don’t forget social media, checking company / people profiles on LinkedIn and Facebook. Groups and question sections in these social networking sites also have valuable information for career changers.

Money

Many executives have grown accustomed to living on a high salary and bonus structure. They need to take a hard look at what type of money / salary will be available for the first few years in a new business venture. If moving to a lower level job in another industry, the salary may be significantly less the first few years.

What are you willing to do to make this dream job a reality? Are there others in your family that need to be taken into consideration when making this decision? You may have to downsize your lifestyle in order to live on a smaller salary while the business builds and you build new skills and develop talents. Are you in a position to live off savings or obtain a loan to manage finances while the business gets off the ground? Will you need to work or consult on the side, or find other revenue streams to keep finances afloat?

One good resource for compensation analysis is PayScale.com that analyzed the 30 biggest industries to show how pay changes as you gain experience. Take a look at the industries where you have the best potential to make up for career change.

Skills & talent

How do your current skills and talents translate to the new career? Leverage your strongest skills that transfer across any business or industry. You may need to return to school or pursue certifications to update or build new skills. Take advantage of opportunities your current employer offers for professional development. Updating skills can be expensive if you are footing the entire cost of re-education.

A few examples of executives who have taken this next step: CFO turned hobby of gourmet cooking into new career as chef/restaurateur; cardiovascular surgeon used medical background to become a medical malpractice expert; marketing executive left corporate world to run statewide non-profit food share program.

These tips just tap the surface. Hopefully, it gives you a window into some challenges that need to be taken into consideration when contemplating a career change. Today’s hypercompetitive market is prime for executives to think out of the box and discover what opportunities might be the next best move.