Melanie is tired of celebrating Fridays and dreading Monday mornings. At work, she is spending large chunks of time checking online job boards and calculating how many years left before retirement. She is toying with the idea of hiring a career counselor or coach, but cannot afford the additional strain on her budget.
I would advise Melanie and anyone else contemplating a career change to begin a process of self-discovery. DIY career counseling can be very rewarding and economical.
- Invest in a journal or create an online personal blog. Each morning or evening set aside at least 20 minutes and write about your day. What caught your attention? What brought you joy? Frustration? Write quickly and do not linger over each page. Do not worry about proper grammar and sentence structure.
- Visit the nearest college or university and obtain the latest calendar. Carefully read each page and highlight any courses that appeal to you. Do not think too long or analyze any of your choices. At the end, go back and look for patterns. Why do these courses appeal to you? Have you resurrected an old dream or discovered a new passion? Devote a few pages of your journal to your findings.
- Flip through your favourite magazines. Cut out any pictures that appeal to you. Set them aside for at least one evening. Later, sort the pictures into categories. For example, you may sort into travel, work, hobbies, and family. Position them on a large board. You have created a vision board. Display the board in a prominent area and look at it daily.
- Take some time to make connections between your journal entries, course selections, and vision board. Are there any patterns? Can you list any career areas that would incorporate your findings? Visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics online for the latest version of the Occupational Outlook Handbook and search for clusters of jobs that match your interests.
- Examine specific careers within the selected clusters. The Handbook provides a comprehensive description of the duties, requirements, training, and future outlook of each career. Select at least ten careers that appeal to you, regardless of your present qualifications.
- Examine your own skill set. List all the full-time and part-time jobs you have held. If you are a recent graduate or have limited work experience, focus on hobbies and volunteer activities. Create two lists. One will contain the positive aspects of each position while the other contains the negative aspects. Review the list of careers from Step 5 and eliminate any that contain many of the less favorable aspects of past and present positions.
- Focus on the remaining careers. Reread the job descriptions, keeping track of your feelings. Do you feel energized or apprehensive? In your journal, rank these careers and start visualizing yourself in those workplaces.
- Arrange informational interviews with human resource personnel or other professionals in your top five careers. Bring a copy of your resume and a list of questions to each of these interviews. Test the fit of each workplace. Does it feel comfortable? Will your skill set be valued? Do you need additional training? Use your journal to record these answers.
- Develop a personal action plan for the new career that best meets your needs, desires, and priorities. Establish specific, measurable, and achievable goals and a realistic time frame for achieving them. For example, you could take a course, join a professional organization, apply for an internship, or volunteer. Continue to journal and evaluate your progress on a daily basis.
It may take a few months or longer to find a new career. Along the way, you may also find yourself altering or changing career direction. Do not be afraid to restart the process for the second, third, or tenth career on your list. Keep in mind that you probably spent thousands of dollars and several years of your life pursing your present career. Be patient and persistent. And, maintain a positive attitude. A fulfilling new career is within your grasp.