Striking out in an entirely new direction after years in the same job or industry is undeniably not something for the faint of heart. But unless you are among the fortunate few who found happiness and success the very first time you entered the employment market, such a step could well be the most exhilarating and renewing experience of your lifetime. Pursued methodically and with a realistic sense of who you are and what you can do, it can also be a lot less risky than at first it may appear. After all, do you really want to retire wondering how things might have been had you only had the courage to follow your dreams?
Here are five steps to help you get started:
- Conduct a self-audit. Before you head off in an entirely new direction, know who you are. What unique skills and experiences do you bring to the table? What is it you value more than anything else? Unless and until you know for certain what it is that will get you to jump out of bed in the morning you haven’t done the necessary spadework to determine where you should focus your search for a new career.
- Research the opportunities in the fields that most interest you. Once you know what it is that stokes the fire in your belly, research the opportunities in the field. What is the outlook for careers in that field? Do those trends temper your enthusiasm for pursuing your ambitions, or do they fire you up? More importantly, is there a bona fide business opportunity in it for you, or is it simply “pie-in-the-sky?”
- Validate your research by conducting interviews with professionals in your target market. Before you leap, make certain your impressions of the opportunities you see are shared by others in your chosen market. What may seem to you like a terrific chance to go boldly where no one has ever gone before, may, in fact, be a trail that has actually been well traveled – and so far at least, to no great avail. What fresh new perspective can or will you bring to this opportunity? Without a workable strategy, all the passion in the world won’t do you a great deal of good.
- Map out your plan of attack. Decide how you will go about sizing up the opportunities in your new career. Are you looking for an opportunity in a big company or a small one? Does the entrepreneurial flame burn brightly within you? If so, do you have what it takes to ride out the lean paydays and inevitable fits and starts of launching a new business? Do you have a network of individuals to whom you can turn for advice, referrals, and perhaps most importantly, financing? Map your strategy before you begin contacting the individuals critical to making your plan work.
- Put together a compelling story. Everybody’s got a story, so what’s yours going to be? Sure You’re disenchanted with the way things have gone in your career. Who isn’t every once in a while? The bigger question is, is it enough to chuck everything you’ve ever done and start over? Put together your “commercial” – your advertisement of what makes you tick and gets you going in the morning. Assemble your database of contacts so that once your search begins you have a ready means of identifying the people with whom you’ve been meeting and are able to keep in frequent contact with. Finally, project by the way you look and communicate that yours truly is a search that reflects the real you. It’s easy for others to assume that a search for a new career is actually a last-ditch attempt to find employment doing anything other than what you’ve always done. By how you come across, how you dress and what you say, you can convey more powerfully than by any other means that your pursuit of a new opportunity actually represents the caged animal in you that has been yearning to be set free.
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