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Today's economy has many people rethinking retirement. Shrinking 401Ks and dwindling savings accounts, coupled with the rising cost of living and long-term care concerns, are keeping people in the workplace longer than they thought they'd be. As a result, the job they have may no longer be meeting their physical, financial or personal needs. Other folks, unfortunately, find themselves thrust out of the workplace before they were ready to go, and are having difficulty getting back in. Either scenario may mean the time is right for a career makeover.
Many baby boom generation workers were brought up to expect long careers in exchange for employer loyalty. They have typically worked in similar positions over a long period of time, building and honing a very strong, but specific skills set. In contrast, young people are entering the workforce today prepared to change jobs every 3-10 years. They have been taught that the only job security is what you give yourself by remaining flexible and building a highly transferable skills set.
No matter your age, the first step to a career makeover is to determine what you want to do. Do you want to stay in the same or related field, but in a different capacity? Are you willing and able to develop an entirely new set of skills for a completely different type of job? Or, are you one of many folks who really don't know what you want to do, but know it has to be something different? If so, start by researching jobs that are similar to what you have been doing. Then, look for jobs that are similar to those and so on, until you have a sizeable list of options.
Once you know what you want to do, you need to examine your ability to do it. Start with transferable skills. Which skills in your current or most recent job, volunteer work, hobbies, sports and other interests are transferable - that is, what other types of jobs can you do with the skills you have? Some examples of transferable skills are the ability to plan events, motivate others, repair equipment, keep records, build or construct, research and train others. Online job search sites or your local employment and training one-stop center can help you assess both your job interests and your transferable skills.
Once you have a target job in mind, you need a financial plan to handle your living expenses while you look for new work. How long will you need to build the skills necessary to change jobs? Will you still be able to work during this period? Can you work part-time or take a leave from work while you prepare for your new career? Do you have enough in savings or unemployment benefits to support yourself? Will you be able to pay for medical care?
Give yourself a target date to return to work or change jobs. Then, evaluate your progress at regular intervals within that time span. Your evaluation should look at how you are progressing toward your employment goal, as well as how your finances are holding up. At each evaluation, you should adjust your plan and timeline if necessary.
Most important to the success of your career change is that you treat the project like a job itself. Set aside time every day to devote to your makeover - and not just an hour or two here and there. If you are looking for a full-time job, then you need to devote 5-8 hours per day to finding it. This time can be spent researching market and job information, generating leads, enhancing your skills, making cold calls to employers or following up on résumé submissions and interviews. Change your routine up, but try to devote the same amount of time to your search every day.
With the proper assessment, planning, evaluation and sustained effort, your career makeover can give you the job satisfaction and security you need, especially in these tough times.