You can’t hit the target if you can’t see it.
What do you want to be when you grow up? It seems like such a simple question, doesn’t it? When we’re growing up, the answers are typically doctor, lawyer, police officer, fire fighter, astronaut, and teacher. Then reality sets in (like educational requirements) and what was once crystal clear, is no longer.
This same thought process holds true if you are a career changer. You had one idea of what you wanted to do and took a position in that chosen field. Now, due to burn out, stress, unrealistic expectations, corporate downsizing, company relocation or just a general lack of opportunity in that field, you are trying to figure out what you want to be when you grow up. Here are a few ideas to help you find your target.
Know thyself: What skills do you have
To figure out what skills you bring to the table, create a list of job related skills, not duties and responsibilities. Duties and responsibilities talk about what you did, not how you did it and the end results. By starting off at looking at what you bring to the table, you can talk about the how’s clearly and relate those skills to the particular opportunity. It is your chance to draw a bridge between what you did and what you can do. The knowledge of the relationship between your skill set and that required of a job is yours to present.
There are two sets of skills worth explaining, hard skills (like computer programs used) and soft skills (communication skills). The hard skills deal with what you used to accomplish tasks. The soft skills are those you use when dealing with others. The soft skills are sometimes harder to quantify, but are more important because they deal with your ability to be part of a team and to work effectively with others.
What skills are required for the opening?
Next is good, Old-Fashioned research with a twist. Use the Internet to look up careers. Take an online career assessment, to see what fields fit your skill set. Now, you have valuable information that can help you target your search. Find out what skills are necessary for success, prove you have them, and build the bridge of relating what you’ve done in the past to the new opportunity that is in front of you.
One area where people make a mistake is when they say they want to be a nurse. Great choice, however, if you have never worked in health care and do not possess the necessary education, you are not going to walk into a hospital and be a nurse. There are other positions in health care where you can help people without the degree.
Be aware of the fact that without the proper credentials, this could be a dead end career choice; know what is required to grow and develop your talents so you can take advantage of the next opportunity that comes along. And if it means going back to school, get off your best intentions and get yourself in the classroom. Don’t use it as an excuse; use it as a reason to earn your degree (or certificate).
You spent three years working in security, now you want to work with children in a school setting. Is it a stretch? Depends on how you look at it. If you just go by what security is, watching what’s going on, you will be limited. But when you look at the problem solving that the job requires, the people skills involving communications and customer service, the record keeping and organizational aspects of securing an area, you have talking points.
Relate those skills to the classroom and what a teacher does besides teach. A teacher has to keep a grade book (accurate record keeping), present a lesson (communication skills), create lesson plans (goals with results and a way to measure effectiveness), problem solve (conflict resolution). Don’t look at yourself in only one dimension.
The hardest part of all this is accepting change. Change in where you work. A change in your self identity (since most people take their sense of self from what they accomplish at work), look beyond what you seek. A change in how you look at who you are.
So there it is, plain and simple. Identify the skills you have, identify the skills necessary for success in your new field, and show how they transfer. Once you take the blinders off your search, you’ll be amazed at who you are and what you can bring to the table.