Feb. 13, 2013 – Even though the U.S. economy has added an average of about 180,000 jobs per month for the past two years, the unemployment rate rose in January. One reason the unemployment rate has been going up or remained unchanged, despite more jobs being created, is because many job-seekers are not finding work in their careers and do not know how to properly switch fields.
“One of the factors behind the unemployment rate going up to 7.9% is that more people were looking for work. However, since many were not able to find positions in their usual careers, they remain unemployed,” said Patty Prosser, chair of OI Partners, a leading global coaching and leadership development/consulting firm.
Instead of holding out for an exact fit, job-seekers and those looking to start a new career should use the skills and experience they already have and transfer that to another career, Prosser added.
OI Partners offers these tips for transferring your skills and experience to another or second career:
- Identify the skills you already have. Think of your career as a compilation of skills and competencies in which you have expertise and which may be attractive to another employer. Break these down into specific individual skills – administrative, marketing, sales, information technology, and customer relations, for example. If possible, use career assessments to best identify your competencies and interests.
- Put the highest emphasis on skills in which you excel. “Employers are looking for people who stand out in their skill areas and who have a record of achievement and making a difference when using them. Focus on the things in which you excel and who would benefit from you doing it for them,” said Prosser.
- Concentrate on those skills in which you have quantifiable achievements and success stories to tell potential employers. You need to reassure the hiring person that you can readily transfer your skills to the new position and you have a track record in these areas and have been able to make a difference when using them. You will need a highly focused resume that will highlight your transferrable skills and achievements for your new career direction.
- Determine the current demand for these skills. Follow the monthly job reports that the federal government issues for the country and your state to discover which careers are creating the most jobs and where demand for your skills would be greatest. “Review major job boards, compile a list of jobs you like, and review job by job which deliverables they are looking for that you already have. Note which requirements predominate and make sure those terms show up on your resume and cover letter,” said Prosser.
- Transfer your skills to another industry. One of the easiest ways to change careers is to remain in the same function, or work you perform, but switch the industry in which you do it. It is particularly important for those in industries that have been contracting, such as real estate and manufacturing, to switch to industries that are expanding such as health care, construction, hospitality and tourism, education, information technology, insurance, retail and banking. “Often, people do not know which industries to target other than their own and how to effectively position themselves as viable candidates. Also, search in industries that are closely related to the ones where you have the most experience, such as all related financial services industries, including brokerage firms, credit unions, banks, mortgage companies, and financial planning,” said Prosser.
- Acquire the necessary education and training. One of the biggest mistakes people who want to change careers make is not becoming fully qualified for their new job. “They think that just because they have an interest in a field, they can compete. They are at a major disadvantage without appropriate education and training or experience. Explore making a career change where training is provided. If it’s a new field to you, volunteer at an organization that does what you think you would like to do. Find out if it’s for you and start to gain practical experience in that field,” added Prosser.
- Learn the language of your new second career. You need to learn the terms and trends of your new career. Read trade-related publications, websites, and blogs to learn to “talk the talk.”
- Talk with others about your new career. Form your own personal board of directors with family, friends, co-workers, and others who will provide support, honest feedback, and strategies to move forward and vital information. Seek out a professional career coach who can serve as your mentor and guide you through these volatile times. A career coach will also assist you with the right format for your new resume. Inform your career network that you are looking at opportunities in other fields and you are interested in learning more about these areas. Find out if they know anyone in the new careers and could arrange a meeting or provide referrals.