Switching Paths
Submitted by Aníbal Valentín-Acevedo on Fri, 2017-06-30 14:49
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Having a job is an essential part of our adult life, and it is definitely something we need in order to survive. It is something we depend on. 

If we think about it, most of us will spend most of our productive life working, so looking for a job or staying at a job that we are unhappy about might not be the smartest idea. 

Finding a job, whether it is in our field of training or completely unrelated to it, is not an easy task, and once we have a job, holding on to it doesn't come any easier. In an ideal world, we should do something that drives us, something that inspires us, but how and where (if possible at all) can we find a job like that? What can we do if the job we currently have can’t be farther from that description?

When people think about switching careers, most of them might feel a bit uneasy (or shockingly terrified if you ask me), especially in the times we are living in. Although many experts agree that the economy is looking much better than it did five years ago, it is still fragile and at times uncertain. 

Is it a smart decision to look for another job if we already have one? Can we afford to risk our stability by switching careers? 

A colleague of mine who is actually a recruiter told me once that the best time to look for a job is while we have a job, and I have to say that her words stuck in my head. If you can’t find motivation or passion in what you do, it might be time to consider switching paths. 

So, where can we start? How do we change careers? Well, if you ask me, it is like anything else, you just have to prepare and plan for it.

Find a mentor and always ask for advice

I truly believe that one of the best things to do before you even consider switching careers is to find someone in the field you want to get into, and ask him or her to be your mentor. The information you will get from him or her you won’t find it anywhere else. 

A good mentor will paint you a clear picture of what it is to go into that field. He or she will give you the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have been lucky enough to have many exceptional mentors throughout my career, and without a doubt I can say that has been a key factor in my success. Plus, if you do succeed at switching careers, having a mentor in the field will make your transition much smoother. So do not be afraid to practice your networking skills and ask for advice.

Have a plan that can help you get to your new job

If you are thinking about getting a new job or switching careers you need to start by identifying where you would like to go. What field do you want to go into? What skills or requirements do you need? Do you need to get another degree or some sort of training? Once you know the answers to these questions, you can start thinking about how to tackle each one of them.Work with one at a time, as otherwise it will be too overwhelming. Remember to work at a steady pace and never take your mind’s eye off your goal.

Many of your current skills are transferable, you just have to market them the right way.

When we think about switching careers, we might think that it is going to be too hard mainly because we won't have any of the basic skills that are needed for the new job. 

Let’s say you have been in academia your whole career, and you want to move into industry. You might think that most of your skills won’t be used or needed in a job like that. Well, if you are thinking that way, let me explain why you could be wrong.

You might not think about it, but many of the skills that we develop in our jobs are transferable to other jobs, even if we move to a completely different field. For instance, let’s say you are very good at presenting your research data at lab meetings every month or even at conferences. Some of your colleagues might say that you have a “gift” for engaging people when you talk. 

Well, that right there is a transferable skill. If you ask me, you are not just good at presentations, you are a good communicator and a good public speaker as well. That is a great skill to have if you want to go into any training or business job. 

What about your people skills? Being sociable, a team player and a leader are skills that you will use in every job, so if you spent the time developing those skills in your current job, make sure that you take them with you, but most importantly make sure that you use them to “sell” yourself.

If you need to develop new skills, work on it!

If your new career requires skills that you don't have, start working on it. A good place to start might be by enrolling in an online class. Also, depending on what you need to learn, you could even do some volunteer work at a place similar to the job you are looking for. That way, you can develop the skills you need, plus you will get hands on experience!

Finding a new job or switching careers won’t be easy, and it will not happen overnight. This is a process that takes time and a lot of patience. It is important that you prepare for it, so that when an opportunity comes knocking on your door you are the strongest candidate. 

Your goal is to show that hiring person that you are exactly the one they need. Set your goals, work hard and follow them and remember, it is very likely that you will get that next job through a second or third degree professional connection, so don’t forget to network, network, network while you are preparing for your transition. Good luck! 



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