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Five keys to finding a new career

By Kate Lorenz

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Have you been feeling like it's time for a big change lately?

Do you get the sense that your career is not the right fit for you?

If you're feeling frustrated, unchallenged and unfulfilled in your work, the time might be right for you to make a major change. Changing professions, however, is not something to do without some serious thought and consideration, says Robin Ryan, Seattle-based career counselor and author of "What to Do with the Rest of Your Life" (Fireside, 2002).

Ryan offered these five keys to help you weigh your career options and make a decision:

Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater: Ryan says it is important to think about what your true feelings are about your current job and career.

"You always need to consider if you really want a career change, or just a job change," she said. "Is it the job you hate, or just the company?" Give some thought to what is making you unhappy and whether or not you could be happy in the same career if you were in a different environment.

Focus on your talents and strengths: "The No. 1 key is to build a career on your strengths," Ryan said.

Consider your natural talents or abilities, or those things that come easily to you. Do you find it easy to persuade others? Do you have a knack for working with numbers? Do you communicate better through the written word than you do in person? Think of your personal traits and use them to steer you in the right direction.

Highlight your transferable skills: Ryan said that when switching careers, you must pinpoint and highlight your transferable skills. These are the talents and experiences that can be utilized in many different careers and are not those things that are industry-specific.

For example, if you have managerial experience, this is something that is useful in any industry. The same goes for communications savvy, computer know-how, writing proficiency, sales knack and event planning. Some experience may seem to be industry-specific at first, but can be turned into a transferable skill. Just make sure you portray your background in a way that is attractive to any hiring manager.

Know the requirements: Ryan said you need to know what qualifications are required for the field that interests you and also consider if you are willing to do what it takes.

For example, someone interested in social work or nursing will likely need to pursue further education in order to be qualified. Entering a new industry might mean you need a certification or a license. Make sure you are willing to take these steps.

Network and do your research: It will be impossible for you to move into a new career if you know nothing about that field. Ryan suggested interviewing people who are doing the job you are interested in to find out if it is really what you want to do.

She pointed out that networking is a great way to find out what is going on in the industry you want to break into.

"You have to know the language," she said.

If you are making the switch from education to business or vice versa, there are vastly different terms and ways of speaking that you need to learn. In addition to interviewing others and networking, read trade journals or industry-specific books to help you develop your new language.

The most important thing about changing careers is finding something that works with your personality and who you really are.

Ryan said she tells people to ask three important questions: What are your interests, what are your values, and what are your strengths? Do this soul-searching first and you should be on your way to a rewarding new career.

Kate Lorenz is the article and advice editor for She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

© Copyright 2005. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority
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