Identifying Alternative Careers

by Mark Gleason

Q: What is the best way to identify careers in different fields that would share many of the characteristics of my past job description? —Jacqueline, the Netherlands

I always recommend starting with an assessment of your strengths, interests, historical achievements and resources (including financial reserves, time, energy level and friends and contacts who can help you). Once you have a good sense of your themes and patterns of career satisfaction and success, you want to explore business trends and alternative vehicles for your talents. There are three ways to think of career change: field (industry or business sector), function (profession, expertise, role and responsibilities) and geography. Generally, making a transition is easiest if you focus on shifting only one of these three elements.

So, if you are a senior marketing and program/event professional who enjoys those functions and you want to change the field (away from IT), your first initiative would entail learning about hot and emerging fields other than IT that need people who do what you do. In addition, you want to investigate what you would like to do more of or differently than you can in the IT world. What do you want to avoid? What do you want to expand, learn or build? You can learn all of these factors by carefully examining your achievements, preferred working environments, times you’ve experienced career satisfaction and high points of your work life.

Do Internet research on people who are successful examples for you and talk to others to learn about interesting and emerging fields, such as health care, education and environment/ecology.

Once you have a good sense of which fields are of interest, you can launch a series of information interviews to gain visibility, position yourself and round out your focus on specific organizations that may have a need for your background and talents. A targeted search would follow.

Of course you will need a search strategy, resume, pitch and interview practice. A career counselor can help with assessment, search techniques, negotiating and decision making. It is difficult to do this without a guide, mentor or advisor to keep you focused and motivated.

Sheryl Spanier coaches and advises international business leaders and their teams on executive  career management. After two decades working as a consultant and market leader for four career management companies, she started her own firm in 2004. With more than 25 years in the field, Spanier combines empathy and pragmatism to coach clients in maximizing the interpersonal side of their business strategies and to lead individual and organizational change. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, a founding member of the  Association for Career Professionals International and a Fellow certified by the Institute for Career Certification International.


by Mark Gleason | Monday, August 24, 2009 | Career Change

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