Evaluating Your Career Options. Part 1

Last week we examined how to tell if it’s time to change jobs. We looked at ways to assess whether your interests, skills, values and personality style are a good fit for the kind of work you do. If you’ve now come to the realization that you may in fact need a career change, the next challenge is investigating all of the options and deciding among them.

The good news is that the timing has never been better for switching jobs. The economy is thriving, unemployment is at an all-time low, and employers are scrambling to hire enough people to keep up with their growing businesses. Many job hunters are in the enviable position of being wooed by multiple companies offering stock options, sign-on bonuses and extra paid vacation.

This remarkable job market offers a huge advantage for career changers. The tight labor pool forces hiring managers to forgo some of their traditional requirements and consider candidates with high potential who want to learn a new field or industry. So if you have been considering a career switch, now is the time to do it. But with all of this freedom comes confusion. If you have lots of options, how do you decide among them?

What you need most is information. Maybe people have always told you that you would be good at advertising because you are creative and witty. But somehow you got stuck in internal audit and you are not sure anyone will ever give you the chance to get out. You need to investigate several factors:

What do people in advertising really do? Would you be best off as an account executive, a copywriter or an art director?

Would you rather be on the agency or client side? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

How do most people enter the field? Is it difficult to make a transition from something totally unrelated?

Where are most of the openings? How do you get in front of the right people?

The best way to find answers to these questions is to ask people who are already in the field. As with most things in life, making connections is extremely helpful. You may be thinking that you don’t know the right people, but your network is wider than you think. Make a list of everyone you know in the field you’re considering, even if you only met them once. If you can’t come up with enough resources, think of friends or colleagues who are well-networked. Ask them if they know anyone in your field of choice. Try to get a list of at least five different people to speak to. This way you will get a range of experiences to draw from.

Next, you need to make a list of the questions you have about your potential career. (If you are considering more than one option, pursue this strategy for each potential direction.) Here are some things you may want to find out:
What do people in the field find most rewarding as well as most aggravating about their jobs?

What advice would a veteran give to someone entering the field?

What niches within the field are growing? Where are the hot opportunities?

How much can you expect to earn as a neophyte? What is your earning potential with experience?

Which of your skills are most transferable to this field? Where would you have the steepest learning curve?

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