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Finding a New Career in the New Year

Finding a New Career in the New Year

New Year’s resolutions often fall by the wayside come January 2nd, but if you’ve decided it’s time for a new career in 2014, we’d encourage you to stick with it a few days (or months or years) longer. If you’ve been feeling stagnated, frustrated, bored, or simply like you’ve risen as far as you want to (or can) go, a new career might be just what you need to regain your passion, creativity and joy — all very good things for your personal life as well.

That said, a successful career shift isn’t done overnight, and you’ll want to make sure you’ve really taken the time and effort to discover what it is you want and need before you make the leap. Doing so does mean more work upfront, but it’s bound to pay off as you find yourself more fulfilled and creatively challenged. Here are a few great ways to get started.

1. Go Through Pros and Cons

Before you make any big changes, it’s important to pinpoint what it is that you don’t like about your current role and what you might want to change. This is crucial, because, presumably, you picked your current career path for a reason, so it’s important to know whether or not your dissatisfaction lies in a deep dislike of what you do on a daily basis or if it has to do with something more circumstantial, like a bad boss, no life-work balance or the instability of the industry. The last thing you want is to make this huge life change, only to realize you’re back to feeling just like you do now.

Start with a basic pros and cons list for your current role. If you’ve got a dream career path in mind, make one for that as well, and even one for your transitional period, so you can really see what’s on the horizon and determine whether or not a change is worth it.

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2. Take a Career Aptitude Test

If you’re like most people, you probably have some sense of what you’re good at and like doing, but your affinities and abilities are either too broad or you simply don’t know to what kind of careers they might be relevant. You may also have hobbies or more “side capabilities” (i.e. organizational skills, decision making, etc.) that could actually take center stage in the right context. If you see yourself in this description, you may want to start with a career aptitude test.

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    Click image to open interactive version (via Rasmussen College).

    This will give you a baseline for your research, so you can see just where your skills might map and what you can expect salary-wise should you head that way — especially important as you get down to the more practical matter of determining how much of an investment you can make in this change in order for it quite literally to pay off.

    3. Connect on Social Media and Start Networking

    LinkedIn is a great place to start your career search for many reasons. First, use the platform simply to see what former classmates and colleagues are doing, as they might be up to something you find inspiring. Then, start connecting or rekindling relationships with both on LinkedIn and beyond with a simple reach out email. If they seem willing, take contacts out to coffee for an informational interview so you can learn all about their field, their job and what they do on a daily basis.

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    As you start to narrow your targets, scour MeetUp, LinkedIn and Facebook groups and professional groups to learn about and attend networking events. Keep your approach casual as you simply learn about what’s out there, find more people to take out to coffee, and always follow-up with a nice thank-you.

    4. Start Taking Courses

    Sometimes, changing your career means heading back to school for a four-year degree, while other times, you’ll just need a certificate course. Even if not required, community college classes can look great on your resume if you haven’t worked in your new chosen field before, and they’ll give you a great introduction to the work so you can determine whether or not it’s something you’d like to do.

    5. Work With Your Role Models

    You’d be surprised how many people in your network will be open to job shadowing. Whether you go for a day or a week, this can be a great way to see what a job looks like in real time. Alternatively, if there is a particular leading figure in your field, you might reach out to them to let them know you love what they do and offer your skills as an assistant at a low rate. While this can easily slip into an exploitative situation, if you’re careful this can be a great way to get your foot in the door with someone powerful in your new industry and to learn firsthand from the person whose career you want to emulate. It’s also still a relatively rare tactic, and if your reach-out email is well crafted, you’d be surprised how many people will take you up on the offer.

    6. Explore and Network With Volunteering

    When we think of volunteering our time with a nonprofit, we naturally focus on the charitable nature of the work. But nonprofits, which are always in need of skilled people, are also a great way to network with other talented people and to give your skills and capabilities a test run in a lower pressure situation. For example, this is something I’ve personally seen a lot of new copywriters do to build up their resumes and demonstrate what they can do in a real setting amongst some of the most motivated and connected people in their communities.

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    Volunteering also brings you into contact with a wide range of people, some of whom might show you an entirely different way of working that you may never have encountered had you simply carried on in your current role. This can be a great way to broaden your horizons about what’s possible for your career.

    7. Be Strategic About Framing Your Story

    Both as you network and definitely as you start to apply to jobs, it’s important that you think carefully about how you frame your past career experiences. While you may feel that you’re still in exploratory mode, the best approach is to tell your story almost like it’s an adventure that’s bringing you to this culminating point. That doesn’t mean lying about your past; it means tying everything together with tight threads, rather than saying something like, “First I tried this but didn’t like it, so now I’m trying this.”

    Not sure what this means? Let’s say you’re currently a lab tech who used to be a waitress and now wants to be a web designer. In cover letters and pitches, you might discuss how you love the detail-oriented nature of your lab work, but you miss the human-to-human interactions you had as a waitress and the time you had then to work on your art, which, naturally, has lead you to an artistic role that has serving clients at its core (web design). See what I mean? Take a look at the character traits that will serve you well in your desired role, see if you can find examples of you using similar traits in the past, and frame them accordingly.

    8. Be Prepared to Make a Few Adjustments

    So you’ve begun to transition into your new ideal career, but it doesn’t feel as fantastic as you thought it would. Hang in there. There are learning curves for everything, and even if you love the work, it’s still incredibly draining and stressful to swap one ingrained pattern for another, even if you hated the original. Hopefully at this point you’ve set a goal in mind, which should help spur you past all of those less than ideal, lower-level hurdles to get you going where you want to go. Remember, even if you began at the greatest heights in your old career, starting anew means really starting from the bottom. But don’t worry; if you’ve taken the time to really figure out what you want and you’re willing to work hard, you’ll most likely get there much faster than if you were right out of college and only half-heartedly pursuing your goal.

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    A Few Job Hunting Resources

    Your local professional or alumni association. Both are great ways to connect with people with whom you have a natural affinity and who might have connections and educational resources to help get you on your way. They also often have job boards.
    Wage websites. Websites like Glassdoor give you a great glimpse into what people earn where and how they feel about their jobs. Career One Stop provides a similar and even more extensive service. Sites like Career Bliss focus more on the overall happiness expressed within a career, with the clear goal of getting you situated in a job that makes you grin.
    Interview help sites. Sites like Big Interview provide an extensive amount of coaching for the big day.

    Final Thoughts

    Changing your career can feel intimidating, but with a little work, it’s well within your grasp. How would you change your career if you had the chance? Let us know in the comments below.

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    Last Updated on March 25, 2020

    How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)

    How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)

    Taking your work to the next level means setting and keeping career goals. A career goal is a targeted objective that explains what you want your ultimate profession to be.

    Defining career goals is a critical step to achieving success. You need to know where you’re going in order to get there. Knowing what your career goals are isn’t just important for you–it’s important for potential employers too. The relationship between an employer and an employee works best when your goals for the future and their goals align. Saying, “Oh, I don’t know. I’ll do anything,” makes you seem indecisive, and opens you up to taking on ill-fitting tasks that won’t lead you to your dream life.

    Career goal templates’ one-size-fits-all approach won’t consider your unique goals and experiences. They won’t help you stand out, and they may not reflect your full potential.

    In this article, I’ll help you to define your career goals with SMART goal framework, and will provide you with a list of examples goals for work and career.

    How to Define Your Career Goal with SMART

    Instead of relying on a generalized framework to explain your vision, use a tried-and-true goal-setting model. SMART is an acronym for “Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic with Timelines.”[1] The SMART framework demystifies goals by breaking them into smaller steps.

    Helpful hints when setting SMART career goals:

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    • Start with short-term goals first. Work on your short-term goals, and then progress the long-term interests.[2] Short-term goals are those things which take 1-3 years to complete. Long-term goals take 3-5 years to do. As you succeed in your short-term goals, that success should feed into accomplishing your long-term goals.
    • Be specific, but don’t overdo it. You need to define your career goals, but if you make them too specific, then they become unattainable. Instead of saying, “I want to be the next CEO of Apple, where I’ll create a billion-dollar product,” try something like, “My goal is to be the CEO of a successful company.”
    • Get clear on how you’re going to reach your goals. You should be able to explain the actions you’ll take to advance your career. If you can’t explain the steps, then you need to break your goal down into more manageable chunks.
    • Don’t be self-centered. Your work should not only help you advance, but it should also support the goals of your employer. If your goals differ too much, then it might be a sign that the job you’ve taken isn’t a good fit.

    If you want to learn more about setting SMART Goals, watch the video below to learn how you can set SMART career goals.

    After you’re clear on how to set SMART goals, you can use this framework to tackle other aspects of your work. For instance, you might set SMART goals to improve your performance review, look for a new job, or shift your focus to a different career.

    We’ll cover examples of ways to use SMART goals to meet short-term career goals in the next section.

    Why You Need an Individual Development Plan

    Setting goals is one part of the larger formula for success. You may know what you want to do, but you also have to figure out what skills you have, what you lack, and where your greatest strengths and weaknesses are.

    One of the best ways to understand your capabilities is by using the Science Careers Individual Development Plan skills assessment. It’s free, and all you need to do is register an account and take a few assessments.

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    These assessments will help you determine if your career goals are realistic. You’ll come away with a better understanding of your unique talents and skill-sets. You may decide to change some of your career goals or alter your timeline based on what you learn.

    40 Examples of Goals for Work & Career

    All this talk of goal-setting and self-assessment may sound great in theory, but perhaps you need some inspiration to figure out what your goals should be.

    For Changing a Job

    1. Attend more networking events and make new contacts.
    2. Achieve a promotion to __________ position.
    3. Get a raise.
    4. Plan and take a vacation this year.
    5. Agree to take on new responsibilities.
    6. Develop meaningful relationships with your coworkers and clients.
    7. Ask for feedback on a regular basis.
    8. Learn how to say, “No,” when you are asked to take on too much.
    9. Delegate tasks that you no longer need to be responsible for.
    10. Strive to be in a leadership role in __ number of years.

    For Switching Career Path

    1. Pick up and learn a new skill.
    2. Find a mentor.
    3. Become a volunteer in the field that interests you.
    4. Commit to getting training or going back to school.
    5. Read the most recent books related to your field.
    6. Decide whether you are happy with your work-life balance and make changes if necessary. [3]
    7. Plan what steps you need to take to change careers.[4]
    8. Compile a list of people who could be character references or submit recommendations.
    9. Commit to making __ number of new contacts in the field this year.
    10. Create a financial plan.

    For Getting a Promotion

    1. Reduce business expenses by a certain percentage.
    2. Stop micromanaging your team members.
    3. Become a mentor.
    4. Brainstorm ways that you could improve your productivity and efficiency at work
    5. Seek a new training opportunity to address a weakness.[5]
    6. Find a way to organize your work space.[6]
    7. Seek feedback from a boss or trusted coworker every week/ month/ quarter.
    8. Become a better communicator.
    9. Find new ways to be a team player.
    10. Learn how to reduce work hours without compromising productivity.

    For Acing a Job Interview

    1. Identify personal boundaries at work and know what you should do to make your day more productive and manageable.
    2. Identify steps to create a professional image for yourself.
    3. Go after the career of your dreams to find work that does not feel like a job.
    4. Look for a place to pursue your interest and apply your knowledge and skills.
    5. Find a new way to collaborate with experts in your field.
    6. Identify opportunities to observe others working in the career you want.
    7. Become more creative and break out of your comfort zone.
    8. Ask to be trained more relevant skills for your work.
    9. Ask for opportunities to explore the field and widen your horizon
    10. Set your eye on a specific award at work and go for it.

    Career Goal Setting FAQs

    I’m sure you still have some questions about setting your own career goals, so here I’m listing out the most commonly asked questions about career goals.

    1. What if I’m not sure what I want my career to be?

    If you’re uncertain, be honest about it. Let the employer know as much as you know about what you want to do. Express your willingness to use your strengths to contribute to the company. When you take this approach, back up your claim with some examples.

    If you’re not even sure where to begin with your career, check out this guide:

    How to Find Your Ideal Career Path Without Wasting Time on Jobs Not Suitable for You

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    2. Is it okay to lie about my career goals?

    Lying to potential employers is bound to end in disaster. In the interview, a lie can make you look foolish because you won’t know how to answer follow up questions.

    Even if you think your career goal may not precisely align with the employer’s expectations for a long-term hire, be open and honest. There’s probably more common ground than they realize, and it’s up to you to bridge any gaps in expectations.

    Being honest and explaining these connections shows your employer that you’ve put a lot of thought into this application. You aren’t just telling them what they want to hear.

    3. Is it better to have an ambitious goal, or should I play it safe?

    You should have a goal that challenges you, but SMART goals are always reasonable. If you put forth a goal that is way beyond your capabilities, you will seem naive. Making your goals too easy shows a lack of motivation.

    Employers want new hires who are able to self-reflect and are willing to take on challenges.

    4. Can I have several career goals?

    It’s best to have one clearly-defined career goal and stick with it. (Of course, you can still have goals in other areas of your life.) Having a single career goal shows that you’re capable of focusing, and it shows that you like to accomplish what you set out to do.

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    On the other hand, you might have multiple related career goals. This could mean that you have short-term goals that dovetail into your ultimate long-term career goal. You might also have several smaller goals that feed into a single purpose.

    For example, if you want to become a lawyer, you might become a paralegal and attend law school at the same time. If you want to be a school administrator, you might have initial goals of being a classroom teacher and studying education policy. In both cases, these temporary jobs and the extra education help you reach your ultimate goal.

    Summary

    You’ll have to devote some time to setting career goals, but you’ll be so much more successful with some direction. Remember to:

    • Set SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, and Realistic with Timelines. When you set goals with these things in mind, you are likely to achieve the outcomes you want.
    • Have short-term and long-term goals. Short-term career goals can be completed in 1-3 years, while long-term goals will take 3-5 years to finish. Your short-term goals should set you up to accomplish your long-term goals.
    • Assess your capabilities by coming up with an Individual Development Plan. Knowing how to set goals won’t help you if you don’t know yourself. Understand what your strengths and weaknesses are by taking some self-assessments.
    • Choose goals that are appropriate to your ultimate aims. Your career goals should be relevant to one another. If they aren’t, then you may need to narrow your focus. Your goals should match the type of job that you want and the quality of life that you want to lead.
    • Be clear about your goals with potential employers. Always be honest with potential employers about what you want to do with your life. If your goals differ from the company’s objectives, find a way bridge the gap between what you want for yourself and what your employer expects.

    By doing goal-setting work now, you’ll be able to make conscious choices on your career path. You can always adjust your plan if things change for you, but the key is to give yourself a road map for success.

    More Tips About Setting Work Goals

    Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

    Reference

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