Career Counseling for Change – Five Important Keys to a Successful Direction and Transition

Are you unsatisfied with your career and want to make a change? Do you feel like you are not achieving your full career potential? Do you want to make a change, but want to make sure it is the right career this time? Don’t know what you want to do, but know its not what you do now?

People are most fulfilled and successful when they find work they love to do and that suits their talents and abilities. This article shares five important keys to making a successful career change. Some concepts may be new to you, some may not. I encourage you to read through them either way, and let them stimulate your thinking. The exercises included are optional, but you are invited to reap
the full benefits by participating in them.

Key #1: Establish a career direction based on excellent self-understanding.

The first stages of a career change involve thinking, self-assessment, exploring, and planning. You can embark on these steps now–without disrupting your current employment situation. After you know more about your new direction, you can decide when to make your move. A career-direction goal should always aim for the ideal career and job fit for yourself. The first steps to identifying the ideal career involve self-assessment and generating insights into what career will make you most satisfied while meeting your needs. Research shows that people who are most satisfied and motivated in their careers are people who have a career that reflects their values, interests, skills, and talents plus their ideal work environment.

How can you clarify these kinds of self-understanding insights? You can do this first of all through a process of reflection on your favorite passions, skills, and interests as well as preferences. Career tests or assessments can also provide help here, and lend some objectivity to the exploration. There are a number of reliable and valid career-oriented tests that are widely available through career counselors and coaches.

Career counseling is geared exactly for this purpose. You may enjoy and benefit from the guidance of a counselor or coach to facilitate the development of a career direction based on who you are. This kind of self-understanding then translates into identifying specific careers that match up with who you are, and are likely to bring you the most satisfaction and motivation.

Here are some tips:

* Think ideally. What do you really want?

* Listen to your longings and desires.

* Pay attention to what attracts you.

* Stay away from things that repel you.

* Understand fully your unique style.

As you go about a career change, it is important to realize you cannot do everything well. You must choose a career direction and a job based on your best abilities and strengths. There are businesses that very much need the capabilities that you are able to provide.

Key #2 to a successful career change is to take stock of your skills, natural talents, competencies, and strengths, and to be able to articulate these well to potential employers as well as others.

Go with your strengths, and be able to communicate them impressively.If you think you have already identified your skills, talents, and strengths, and are looking for work that emphasizes these, great.

Take this opportunity to ask yourself, “Am I successfully saying no to careers and jobs that do not focus on my favorite skills, talents, and strengths?”

Focus your career direction into a career and job for which you are especially equipped. Each person has natural talent and intelligence in one or more areas. The idea is to be very clear on what you are naturally gifted at and let your talents guide you to your next career.

To further discover or clarify where your strengths and talents fall, think back on your life and previous work experience. What tasks and projects came easiest to you? What were the most important accomplishments in your life? What have you received the most recognition for?

You may want to ask several friends what they see as your greatest professional strengths. Career assessment can also yield good information. Take stock. Write down a list now. What themes emerge as you reflect on this?

This is a valuable exercise for self-understanding and career direction, but also when it comes to getting a job. The better you can articulate who you are and the talents and skills you bring to a business, the better impression you make on a potential employer.

There are a number of variables to consider in choosing a career or a job, including the market realities. This brings us to another concept that is necessary to be successful in your transition.

Key #3 is to identify a career that involves what you love to do, can be the best at, and for which you can be well compensated.

Imagine a Ven diagram consisting of three overlapping circles. One circle represents those activities, tasks, functions, and roles that you love to do. All of us at one time or another have experienced doing work that really did not seem like work because we enjoyed doing it. That’s what I mean by work that you love to do.

The second circle represents work that you have the potential to be best at–work that you can do better than most others. This means tasks and projects that you have the right skills and natural talent for, and excel at. Work that you will be highly competitive at and perhaps (potentially) better than anyone else.

The third circle represents work that you will be paid well for. If there is work that you love to do and are great at, it will not matter unless someone will compensate you what you need. It is important to understand and take into account the realities of the job market.

Now, in this Ven diagram, the three circles overlap with each other equally. In the center is an area where the three circles converge and all three circles are overlapping. This is the area that represents the right career(s) for you. You want to consider careers or jobs that align with these three areas–work that you love to do, can do best, and will be well- compensated for.

By the way, if this sounds similar to Jim Collin’s Hedgehog Concept in his book “Good to Great”, it is. It is an adaptation of his model for business success applied to career success. I highly recommend his book.

So now, I suggest you take a few minutes and apply this to yourself. Where is the convergence of these three circles for you? If you cannot discover this, how will you find out? When all is said and done, one of the biggest factors in a career transition is money. Although you may love the idea of quitting your job and jumping into your next career, financial realities are in play.

Key #4: To transition smoothly into your next career, plan the best
way to juggle the finances to support you along the way.

I know from my work as a career counselor and coach that the money issue can cause significant angst and difficulty. Here are some ideas for managing it well.

1. Use your current income wisely. If you have a job, keep it. There’s a saying that its easier to get a job when you have one. Before initiating a move: increase your savings, reduce your expenses, live within, or better, below your means for a while.

2. Build cash reserves through supplementing your full-time job with other work. You can get a part-time job, do contract work, etc.

3. Add a part-time business to your full-time job. If you must let go of your full-time job, then do what you can to produce an income while you are in transition.

4. Get an interim full-time or part-time job.

5. Do contract or freelance work.

6. Have a well-paying part-time job while you work on starting a business, if that will be your next career.

7. Use consulting gigs to generate income. Put your key strengths and capabilities to good use to generate income as a consultant while in transition.

8. Work full-time or part-time while attending school to prepare for your next career, if that is your plan.

A number of these options also have fringe benefits. While providing income, you can hopefully put yourself in positions where you can develop skills, experience, or contacts for your next career. How will you make the finances work during your career transition? Take a few minutes and jot down your thoughts.

Key #5: Network, network, network.

People who are most successful at career change and job-hunting use methods that require more effort. People who are less successful do the usual: passive methods such as sending out resumes, going through agencies, looking at the ads, and using the Internet. There is nothing wrong with these methods; in a strong job market they may be sufficient.

More active approaches include researching organizations in detail, doing informational interviewing, and building a network of contacts. These methods involve more work, but they are also the most effective.

Despite the fact that we are in the age of the Internet (it is estimated that about 5 to 10% of jobs are filled by on-line job boards–not bad, but what about the other 90%?), networking is still the best strategy.

So, to be successful in making a career change, it really pays to build a strong list of contacts and reconnect with them. If you don’t know how to network effectively or your skills could be better, it is a good time to work on this. Consider utilizing the help of a career counselor or coach.

Never underestimate who your friends and associates know. Keep track of your contacts as your list grows, and revitalize old relationships.

Your contacts may be the key to getting job leads, crucial inside information, getting the attention of whoever is hiring for the position you want, and many other valuable benefits. Many, many people have a job they love because they knew someone who knew someone.

Now comes the end of this article on keys to a successful career change.

Key #1: Establish a career direction based on excellent self-understanding.

Key #2: Take stock of your skills, natural talents, competencies, and strengths, and be able to articulate these well.

Key #3: Identify a career that involves what you love to do, can be the best at, and for which you can be well compensated.

Key #4 Plan the best way to juggle the finances to support you along the way.

Key #5: Network, network, network.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and are now taking steps to make a great career change. What was the biggest thing you will take away from this? What questions remain unanswered? Where will you go from here? Write out your thoughts.

Leave a Comment