Are You Ready for a Career Change?
BY SHERRY THOMPSON
Looking for a career change? Maybe you’re feeling frustrated, unchallenged or unfilled in your current job. Or perhaps you’ve entered a new stage of your life and are ready to pursue your dreams. Whatever the circumstance, there’s a lot to think about when considering such a move.
“We all have different stories and journeys,” says Amy Gubser, founder and president of CareerLaunch USA. “A woman could be looking for a career change if she steps out to deal with some personal issues like family and volunteering.” Others could be seeking a career change if they become frustrated with their job, boss or company.
Barbara Foster, lead economic development specialist with the U.S. Small Business Administration, says it’s not unusual for someone to have had a career in the corporate world and then start their own business after their children are grown. “We find the older generation has the experience, skills and a lot of times the funding to put into it themselves – they make really good business owners,” she says.
One in four Americans between the ages of 44 and 70 is interested in starting their own business, Foster says. The SBA has teamed up with AARP to provide information to Encore Entrepreneurs — persons ages 50 and over interested in starting a business — and many of the participants are women.
From 1992 to 2012, the number of women-owned firms in Nebraska increased by 35 percent, Foster noted. “The SBA is there with all of its resources to help these women start that business,” Foster says. The SBA website, sba.gov, includes online training, videos, chat lines, blogs and information on topics such as, “Is Entrepreneurship for You?” The SBA also partners with SCORE, a group of active and retired business professionals who provide counseling and training, and with the Nebraska Business Development Center, which can help with cash flow projections and market surveys.
“Finance is a huge need that many people have when they are starting a business,” she says. “Lack of capital has always been a problem, especially for women, in trying to start a business, and the SBA can provide bank guarantee loans.” Foster estimates some 23 to 24 percent of SBA loans in Nebraska are for women-owned firms.
It’s pretty likely that today’s college graduates will have more than one career. “Companies are not keeping employees 20 to 30 years,” Gubser says, citing factors such as technology and a global environment.
She suggests a person take an audit of their skills and experiences every five to 10 years. If they find a career change is in order, this could provide an opportunity for a second chance to do something meaningful.
Gubser shared 10 steps to help with career changes and/or reinventing oneself. First on the list is assessing your likes and dislikes. Gubser also suggests identifying your strengths.
Next is researching new careers to get an idea of what’s out there and what qualifications are needed. No. 3 on the list is to prove your transferable skills by using concrete examples of past successes, and No. 4 is to update your knowledge. This could include taking a class at a local college, getting certified or attending an industry conference. It’s important to have a wide range of skills for your career, Gubser says.
Gubser’s next tip is to tap into your network. She suggests making a list of people you know, prioritizing the list and then connecting with five to 10 contacts per week. No. 6 is to gain experience. If you are missing a few of the key skills for the job, try to fill the voids by volunteering and/or interning to gain real world experience. Also on the list is finding a mentor.
“Changing careers is a huge decision that can be scary and frightening at times,” Gubser says. “Find a mentor who can help you through the choppy waters. You can start by asking for a conversation with professionals who are in your industry.”
She also recommends getting involved – joining a professional organization or group that fits in your future career path. Step 9 is job search basics – getting up to speed on job search techniques. The final step is to stay current and be flexible. “The main thing to remember when reinventing yourself is to take things in stride,” Gubser says. “You’re bound to encounter setbacks and disappointments, but staying positive will help you stay focused so you can change careers with ease.”
Foster recommends women looking for a career change do their homework, take advantage of resources that are available, talk to other women, use social media and network.
It’s rewarding for Foster to see success stories following a career change. While some women wish they had made the move sooner, others say they are glad they waited until they had their career as they now have more experience and time and feel better prepared to take on a new challenge.