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Surviving Career Transition
By Linda Ginac, Career Counselor
Keep these thoughts in mind when you're in the midst of a bumpy ride.

For years it's been the same routine -- spend 50-60 hours a week at work and then another 10 hours thinking about how you hate your work. Everyday you ask yourself, "Why did I choose this career?"

Like many people unhappy in their careers, your answer probably falls into one of three categories:

1. You chose the same career path as one or both of your parents.

2. Someone told you that you were good at X (i.e. math), therefore you should become Y (i.e., engineer or accountant).

3. You were undecided in college, so you selected a degree that appeared somewhat interesting.

Let's face it, career change is one of the most difficult challenges you will encounter during your lifetime. Your problem is complex -- you dislike what you do, you don't know what you want to do, you'll crash and burn if something doesn't change, and yet you are paralyzed by fear of the unknown and continue to stagnate.

This article is for people who chose the wrong career path and have spent countless hours wondering how to make positive career changes.

Career transition shouldn't happen in one big leap

Many view career change as an all or nothing event instead of a continuous process.

People are under the misconception that you must cease doing your current work to achieve what you want in the future. This line of thinking is flawed and can cause a lot of undue stress.

John is a good example of someone who leaped too soon. He left a terrific sales job at a leading service company to market and sell prime land in a popular international vacation spot.

He underestimated the time, resources and commitment it would take to be successful in his new work. As a result of inadequate due diligence, he put his family at risk and is now looking for another "traditional" job in a very tight job market.

Career change doesn't need to happen in one big leap. It could take months or years to make a successful career change. Switching careers is not easy as picking a new line of work, updating your resume, networking with people and hoping for the best outcome.

First, you need to explore why you feel unfulfilled. Is it the work, the environment, the industry or a combination of all three?

Each of these variables can have a dramatic impact on your career direction. Gaining self-awareness in these areas, will give you the foundation you need to explore all of your career possibilities, investigate various career paths, and trial new work prior to making a long-term commitment.

If this process is something you feel you can't do adequately, call a career counselor in your area. Making a major life decision is intimidating, and a career counselor can lead you through a formal process to help you achieve your desired goal. Our role is to ensure that you don't end up in our office in a year with the same issues.

Time is on your hands

Give yourself permission to explore about all of the things that interest you. If you like working with metals, write down all of the things you could do with metals such as creating artistic sculptures, making jewelry or crafting unique frames.

Experiment with different ideas until you find the one thing that excites you. Refrain from putting a time limit on how long this should take. Some people can make decisions quickly while others take weeks or months to crystallize their thoughts.

Investigate Your Options

Once you clarify what you want to do (and can do), begin to investigate specific options and learn what steps are required to kick-start your career transition. During this phase, your goal is to get a better idea of the work, industries and fields that interest you. You can go about this using a variety of methods including:

  • Learning about specific occupations by using the Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook at www.bls.gov/oco
  • Finding a mentor in your area of interest
  • Conducting informational interviews with people in your desired field
  • Attending professional associations
  • Networking in your local community

It is important to crystallize the specific requirements that will enable you to have a successful outcome. Take your time doing the necessary research required to make an informative decision. Be sure to seek the following information:

  • The required credentials to become proficient in your new area of expertise
  • The types and number of companies in your area that hire people in your field
  • The minimum investment required to kick-start your transition
  • Opportunities to work part-time or as a volunteer
  • An understanding of new skills, knowledge or abilities needed to successful

Try the New Role

Don't just leap into a whole new career. Try the work to learn more about it before you make the final transition. This will give you the opportunity to understand thoroughly if this new career is right for you before jumping in with two feet. For example:

  • To learn more about product marketing, ask a friend if you can job shadow him for a few days
  • To become a metals artist, volunteer in a metals studio part-time on the weekends
  • If engineering is on your radar, attend a training session or pick up a book and write code for an application
  • Volunteer your time and talents at a non-profit if you are trying to break into web design, or create web sites for family members

Perseverance is a necessity for success

Career change is scary and can make your feel overwhelmed, thrown off balance and even angry with yourself and others.

When these feelings emerge, ask yourself why. If, for example, you had a date set to job shadow a metals artist and she didn't show up, remind yourself that it's not personal or intentional. Use the power of thoughts and words to balance your insecurity about the unknown with positive praise for taking on such a life-changing event.

Career change should affect your life positively, in meaningful and significant ways. Believe in yourself and you can achieve your career goals. It won't happen overnight. The most successful career changers start by taking small steps toward their professional goals.

So stop wondering about the life you could have and start leading the life you want to live. Commit to yourself and begin your journey today. I look forward to hearing your success stories.


Linda Ginac is a certified coach and career counselor. With more than 13 years experience in career counseling, marketing and staff development, Ginac owns and directs a private practice, The Ginac Group, Inc located in Austin, TX. Ginac offers a variety of career management services to businesses and individuals, including individual and group coaching, career change and job transition, individual and group assessment and diversity career planning.