When she was in college, Chattanooga resident Erin Rankin thought she would graduate and work in journalism.
"However, when I really started to hit the job market after college, it hit back," she said via email. "I became aware of the harsh reality that the magazine industry was shrinking and that the days of 'staff writers' and full-time journalistic jobs were dwindling."
She was a new graduate and needed full-time work with benefits, but she wasn't finding that in the industry she had been preparing for.
So she re-examined herself. And she said that's what anyone who is looking to make a career change should do.
"Take a good, hard look at what your true passions are in life," she said. "Get a sheet of paper, and split it in two columns. On one side, list your passions and interests (not just professional but recreational, too). On the other side, list your skills—especially any professional abilities you have honed in current or past careers. Then, sit back and take a long look at both sides of the paper—watch for places where the two intersect."
The reflection activity pointed Rankin toward event planning, marketing and jobs that allowed her to be social, creative and use verbal skills.
Now, she's employed at The Johnson Group.
There is an array of reasons why a person might want or need a career change. Mashable.com had an article this week about ways to reinvent a career, and Nooga.com asked a local staffing professional for additional tips.
Be prepared to take a step back.
Some career shifts may require taking a cut in pay or rank, Kevin Green with Chattanooga's Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a division of staffing agency Robert Half International, said.
It's important to be flexible and see the long-term goal and be prepared for the possibility of not being able to make a lateral move.
Take a skills inventory.
Green also suggested that people who want a change do exactly what Rankin did—examine their skills.
Figure out what skills are transferrable to other industries, and know how to explain how the skillset is applicable in another industry.
"The trick, then, is to be able to sell those skills," Green said. "That's where the networking piece really has to come into place."
Join professional organizations and network.
Making a career shift isn't likely to be easy, so you must be proactive, Green also said.
"It's inevitable that anybody making a career change is going to have to work harder to get a position than somebody who is already in that field," he said.
Join professional organizations that are connected to industries of interest.
Networking can help job searchers connect with potential employers and provide opportunities to sell yourself and your skills, he said.
Be prepared to explain the change.
If the change comes midcareer, potential employers may wonder, "Why is this person leaving what they've worked at for so long? Will they leave this job soon, too?"
So Green said that it's important to be able to explain why you made the change to assure prospective employers that you are reliable and to communicate your potential.
Test out the field you want to move to.
One problem people who change careers may face is that they don't know exactly what they want to do. They just know they don't want to do what they are doing. And that can make employers feel like you may "try" something new and then move on again.
Employers don't want to waste time and money training and grooming someone who may leave.
So Green suggested that people test out the industry they want to move into. He suggested that people take online courses, join those professional networks, work part time or do temporary work in the field to confirm that you like it and to prove to an employer you're committed.
Sign up for our email list to get your morning news delivered directly to your inbox. All we need is your email address.