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Planning Your Next Move

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— 2 weeks ago

Planning Your Next Move

By Susan Johnston Taylor
  • Keep your career on track by always being open to change: Here's how.
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If you’ve ever felt the grass might be greener at another company or even another industry, you’re not alone.

About 21% of Millennials say they’ve changed jobs within the past year, according to a Gallup report—three times the number of people in other generations. Gallup also found that 60% of Millennials are open to changing jobs.  

This willingness to change course is due in part to new economic realities after the 2008 recession, says career and life coach Jenn DeWall.

“If anything goes wrong, [employers] aren’t necessarily going to honor their pensions and they’re not necessarily going to honor their benefits,” she explains. “There’s a change in trust, knowing that you can’t fully depend on them.” 

Technology has also changed how Millennials approach their careers.

“With remote opportunities and exposure to LinkedIn, we’re finding more opportunities that are outside our backyard,” DeWall adds. “Opportunities are more accessible than they were before.” 

We talked to career experts, and younger workers who’ve successfully changed industries, for tips on charting a new career path. 

Be Open to New Possibilities

Just because you studied—or even started a career in—one field doesn’t mean you have to continue in that field if your interests change or the work isn’t what you expected.

“You’re seeing people who are saying, ‘I graduated and I was supposed to go into marketing but I found I didn’t really like it at all,’” DeWall says. “Our parent’s generation felt that they had to stay. Now younger generations are recognizing, ‘I actually can change.’”

Many people seek meaningful work, so sticking with a job that doesn’t provide fulfillment or even feels misaligned with their values can cause burnout—or worse.

“When you are having trouble sleeping, when you are having a lot of anxiety, when you are starting to feel a lack of confidence in your worth, you have to leave,” DeWall says. 

Lexi Grafe, 25, studied psychology and criminology as an undergraduate. She planned to become a child psychologist and work in the foster care system but a part-time internship in marketing sparked a new interest.

What’s more, Grafe realized during a graduate school class on career counseling that becoming a therapist wasn’t for her. Her professors and classmates agreed, so she left the program the next day. 

Grafe took a year off to travel and studied SEO and marketing through online courses while on the road. Afterwards, she landed two part-time internships. Both companies offered her full-time jobs, and she ultimately chose a role at one of the companies as a data strategy and analytics consultant.

“It’s hard to admit to yourself that you’ve dedicated so much time to [something] but it’s never too late to make that transition,” Grafe says.

Research the New Industry

Before leaving a full-time job and leaping into something new, try to gather as much information about your intended field as you can.

Career expert Vicki Salemi recommends setting up informational interviews with people doing the kind of work you want. “Ask questions,” she says. “What was a challenge they faced in the industry? This way you can bridge that gap and talk intelligently in an interview.” 

You can further your knowledge by joining professional associations, reading industry news and attending conferences.

Look at job postings for the roles you want and identify the three key skills needed. If you don’t already have those skills, get them. Online platforms like LinkedIn Learning, Udemy.com and Coursera.org offer a variety of affordable on-demand courses in everything from computer coding to social media strategy to resume writing. 

Some industries also allow you to get hands-on experience with part-time internships or pro bono projects. For instance, if you’re interested in doing social media strategy, you might be able to build a portfolio by volunteering to help a nonprofit you care about or building a social media following for a friend’s business. 

After serving as an infantryman in the military, William Chin, 28, decided to pursue a career in digital marketing, so he immersed himself in that industry.

“It began with online tutorials and drinks with old friends I knew back in university who had entered the industry six years before me,” he says. “I then enrolled in a college that specialized in web development and received my diploma eight months later.” 

Create a Coherent Story

As you’re learning more about the industry, start crafting a clear explanation of what you can offer an employer.

Salemi stresses the importance of having a succinct elevator pitch ready. “When you meet someone at a networking event, you can state what you’ve done and pivot into what you want to do,” she says.

As part of the pitch, play up your transferrable skills.

“Let’s say you are an accountant and you want to switch into PR,” Salemi says. She suggests saying something like, “I’m good at managing a budget, crunching numbers and meeting deadlines.”

The idea, Salemi explains, is to “highlight what you want to do and what makes you the best candidate for that role based on your prior and current experiences.”

Using a functional resume rather than a chronological resume can help job-changers tell a more coherent story on paper, she adds.

“You can use keywords on your resume [based on] the jobs you’re pursuing,” Salemi says. “Even if you’re not looking to switch careers, incorporate some of those keywords into your resume. By doing so, you’re more readily searched” by companies scanning for jobseekers on the net.

Consider Entrepreneurship

Instead of searching for a new job, some people create their own.

Jamie Orr, 38, earned a PhD in theoretical physics and worked as a community college instructor. But when Orr and her husband moved from Silicon Valley to Lake Tahoe for a better quality of life, “it became clear pretty quickly that while the town didn’t have a coworking space, it certainly could use one,” she says. “Within four months of moving, we opened our first space.”

Orr and her husband started with 1,200 square feet as a proof-of-concept. After six months, they began the process of purchasing and renovating a 13,000-square foot building. On the second anniversary of launching Cowork Tahoe, they opened the new building. 

In addition, Orr founded Jellyswitch, a mobile app that helps coworking spaces run their businesses.

“I used to spend multiple hours on the freeway,” she says. “Now I spend that time with my daughters, usually hiking or on the ski slopes.”

Even if your business doesn’t sustain you full time, the skills and contacts you gain from that business could make you more attractive to a future employer and give you a feel for what you do or don’t want in your next job. 

Prepare for a Temporary Pay Cut

While you’re getting up to speed in a new industry, you may not earn as much as you did before. Still, a temporary pay cut can pay off over time if it means more career satisfaction or higher future earning potential. 

Grafe says of her two part-time internships, “I wasn’t paid that much hourly but I knew in the long run that experience from both jobs was going to make me a much more qualified candidate down the road.” 

Chin also did several internships.

“I worked at an unpaid internship for six months before I began to make minimum wage for the next six months after that,” he says. “This was an enlightening period, since I had to push myself aggressively to continue to learn and also motivate myself to keep growing. Finally, after those six months I was recognized at my place of work and finally given a living wage.” 

Some people move to a lower-cost area to make a career shift more doable, take on a side hustle or work for a few extra months at the old job to build up savings before making a change.

In some cases, a pay cut may not be necessary if you can articulate the value and transferrable skills you’ll bring to the role. “You can say, ‘This part is new but here are all the ways that my skills cross over,’” DeWall says. 

If you must take a pay cut, DeWall suggests negotiating a time to revisit compensation in a few months, as in, “I’m willing to take this lower level but I want to come back to the table at X time.” Get this agreement in writing.

Don’t Embellish

If you get asked about a skill you don’t have even after leveling up your skillset, avoid the temptation to lie. “An intuitive recruiter can tell if you’re not being transparent,” Salemi says.

To get past this hurdle, suggest that you could shadow someone to help you develop that skill or give an example of a time when you picked up a new skill quickly. “Become a continuous learner,” Salemi urges. 

While changing careers can be daunting, Salemi believes it’s worth making the leap.

“What I’ve seen is a lot of people either regretting not moving sooner or not fulfilling their dreams,” she says. “It’s important to pursue it.”

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