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Career Transitions - Setting Yourself Up for Success in Pursuing a Career Change


By:   |   Last Updated: 2014-10-01   |   Comments   |   Related Tips: More > Professional Development Career Planning

Problem

Sometimes, professionals feel "stuck" in a job they're no longer passionate about, and are unsure how they can go about transitioning into a new type of role, or expand upon their responsibilities. Especially when you've been doing the same type of job for so long, it can be a challenge. However, your career path is within your control!

Solution

There are several ways you can set yourself up for success to move forward in your career, and/or transition into a new field!

Express your interests to your current boss

It's amazing what can result when you simply communicate that you'd be interested in working with a new technology, or in taking on additional responsibilities! For example, if you've started playing around with a new SQL Server technology at home, you can always go to your boss and say something along the lines of "I've been learning … technology at home, and attended some training sessions at local user group meetings on it. It's a great technology, and I'd love to get an opportunity to use it professionally. Do you have any plans to implement or utilize it? If so, would it be possible for me to participate in some way?"

Join a steering committee

Many companies have a variety of internal steering committees/boards that are involved in the strategy and implementation of best practices. Many clients I work with have Technology Committees, or are in the process of building them out. Determine if your organization has one related to your target career path and express an interest in joining!

Inquire about training your company offers

Most organizations offer some sort of training to their employees. Search your company's intranet, talk to your Manager and/or reach out to someone within your Training and Development department about training. As an exercise, we did some research on our own company's intranet, and learned about 2 programs neither of us were aware of.

Invest your own time to learn the skills you'll need for the job you want

Our Director of Training and Development recommends that professionals invest at least 1 hour of time a week in training/professional development. Keep a list of the technologies you want to learn, skills you want to enhance, etc. and then invest time each week in developing one of those areas. You can block off 1 hour a week to read relevant articles from sources like MSSQLTips.com, SkillSoft, Plural Sight, Microsoft Learning, and other online technical communities, blogs, etc.  I personally like LinkedIn's channels, which you can subscribe to. User Group meetings, Code Camps and SQL Saturday events are another great way to learn the newest technologies, best practices, approaches, etc. In addition to expanding your "technical repertoire," attending technical community events is a great way to network, contribute and re-enforce your brand!

Participate in skills-based volunteering initiatives

We're huge proponents of furthering your skill set through helping others. Not only can you learn new skills and technologies, but you're using your technical skills to help someone within your community. There are numerous technical volunteer opportunities out there, including charity hackathons where you can "code it forward." Some examples include GiveCamp events, which happen in about 20 cities each year and the recent Fishackathon which was put on at 5 aquariums across the country. If you're interested in finding a skills-based volunteer opportunity, do some online searches, consult with your network and/or reach out to some nonprofits you're familiar with to see if they need any database help.

Shadow the person doing the job now

There's a lot you can learn through observation! Therefore, see if there's an opportunity to work alongside and shadow an individual who's doing a job you're interested in. For example, if you're interested in a leadership role, or project management, ask if it'd be possible to sit in on a relevant meeting.

Focus on finding a company that supports growth

If you're looking to change careers or move into a leadership role, often times your best move would be to identify a company that supports internal growth, and therefore does a lot of internal promotions. When interviewing with a company, you can get a gauge of this by asking questions such as:

  • "What sort of training programs do you offer your employees?"
  • "Does your group ever do any sort of ‘Lunch n' Learns?"
  • "Do you offer tuition reimbursement or any discounts on technical certifications?"
  • "Do you ever pay for employees to go to technology conferences?"
  • "When you open a new position, do you usually look to hire internally first?"

You can also identify people within your network that work at that organization, and inquire with them. There are a lot of companies out there that don't pigeonhole their employees into the role they're hired for. Finding these companies and getting in the door with one is a great first move in transitioning into your dream career!

Network

Networking is important for any job seeker, but it's even more critical for those looking to make a career change. You've probably accumulated quite a few contacts in your career, so now it's time to put those to use. Your network is a powerful resource that is immediately at your disposal. Let your network know that you are thinking of making a career change and connect with the contacts that are in the job / company / location you're targeting. Your contacts are extremely important as they can offer advice and information on a certain industry / company / skill set, as well as steer you in the right direction by offering job leads or introducing you to others so you can expand your network even further.

Using social media tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Facebook is a great way to connect with old and new contacts. If you don't have anyone in your network that you feel comfortable reaching out to, try other avenues like user groups, skills-based volunteering opportunities, community involvement, job fairs, etc. When you meet a new contact, ensure they understand what you're trying to achieve and why you're a good fit for the career change you want. Even if you have just one advocate / coach, that can be a huge advantage when switching careers!

Next Steps

Keep in mind that you can influence whether you are successful in achieving your career goals. Try some of these suggestions:

  • Map out your motivators and goals
    • What do you like doing?
    • What don't you like doing?
  • Determine skills needed for the new set of responsibilities, or the new role, you're interested in.
  • Draft a personal development plan for gaining those skills, with clear cut realistic goals. Incorporate action items based on the above 8 suggestions into your development plan. For example, talk to Manager, 1-2 peers, and Corporate Trainer's by November 1st about what opportunities exist internally to help build skills you're looking to acquire.
  • Consult with others who do the type of role you're interested in, and see if they have any suggestions for your project plan.
  • Schedule time periodically to evaluate how you're doing against your development plan.
About the author
Cate Murray is responsible for managing the nationally-based talent acquisition strategies of the Apex Systems PMO and Business Analysis Practice.


Last Updated: 2014-10-01


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About the author
MSSQLTips author Erica Woods Erica Woods has nearly a decade in the IT staffing world, an MBA, and is a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.

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