Careers change on a dime, and for many reasons.
One day you might wake up and lose interest, or worse, lose your job. Maybe you took a break to spend more time with family or care-giving is a new priority. Oftentimes you relocate, disagree with your boss or suddenly realize a new (or previously dormant) calling.
When her husband’s job relocated them across continents, Maya K had to let go of her business and start anew in a new country. Once her son started middle school, Zoe C gave up her demanding corporate career to pursue her lifelong passion for Social service which also allowed her to be home when he returned from school.
The reasons vary, but one thing is clear. As women, our careers rarely have a linear trajectory.
We evolve, pause, reconsider, track-back or sprout new. And through all this, we think, reflect, collaborate and accumulate.
Collaborate and Accumulate – two very important words to recognize and capitalize on.
Every day that you step out, you meet people and you build connections. New bonds are formed each time you car-pool ( think Ride-sharing, school drop-offs), volunteer, meet clients, help someone online, get involved in a cause, go out for a drink with your colleagues or simply step out of your comfort zone and say/text hi to a stranger.
And through every experience, you acquire a new career facet. Mom skills, People skills, Networking skills, Efficiency skills, Fundraising skills. Hard and Soft Skills that you never paused to consider but add up slowly to your career repertoire.
Your life experiences can easily be tailor-made to adjust to every new role that you decide to undertake. Things start to really progress when you understand your strengths and take ownership of the decision for a career change and work with clear goals and objectives.
Here are 9 ways on how to Plan your next Career Path.
Assess Your Passions & Strengths
While this first exercise sounds obvious, what’s important is to self-analyze which one of your passions is marketable. Reid Hoffman talks about the market reality in his book “The Startup of You.”
“Skills that can’t earn money, won’t get you very far.”
Rita J is an avid teacup collector with an entire wall in her kitchen dedicated to cups of varying sizes and designs. This alone was not sufficient to quit her job at a law firm. So she studied pottery for two years before giving up her job and starting an online custom ceramic art boutique. Now her teacup passion is a great source for Instagram traffic, while her store is where she capitalizes on it.
Depends on your skills and aptitude, there are a large number of options and avenues available for online freelance work. To help you analyze your skills, here’s a handy and fun Mad Libs exercise or use these Career Assessment Tools.
If you are digitally savvy, with a limited budget, but an I-can-DIY attitude, then you can also explore these Top 35+ FREE online courses for your business in 2021!
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Research for Purposeful Action
The data and answers are all there. Are you looking?
Today, what is needed and what is on offer is now visible to anybody who cares to look.
Put your desired work title in job sites and Linkedin to see what are companies looking for. Then type your skills and see what kind of jobs (and titles) are on offer.
Another smart trick – Sift through online profiles and resumes of successes that you admire or aspire towards. Pick parallels in your chosen field to see what specific skills are they highlighting or bragging about.
To exploit her love for plants and gardening, Sheila M’s simple search for the word Gardening in the job site Indeed.com, turned up some interesting titles – Green Infrastructure Gardener, Garden Center Merchandiser, Garden Educator, etc. Going through the requirements led her to pursue a certificate program offered by the New York Botanical garden.
A Linkedin search for Real Estate Copywriters showed the various examples of Linkedin headlines that content creators and entrepreneurs use. It helped Teresa S with cherry picking the right keywords to update her Linkedin Profile headline, including adding an emoji for grabbing attention.
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Wide Start, Narrow Focus
After assessing your passions and strengths, sometimes we are still unable to settle on just one choice. Why not combine interests or use complementary ideas for a job search or an entrepreneurial venture?
Shayna B turned her requirement for Gluten and Paleo-friendly food and the love of photography into a top Food Blog, promoting her hashtags on Twitter. Today, she’s even a spokesperson for a specialized restaurant chain in her area.
What if you don’t have the right experience? Getting a job with limited experience is hard. Trying to find work in a lean job market is a huge task, and one that often seems impossible. But it is always possible to overcome the lack of work history and showcase your job-ready skills the right way.
Another exercise is to list various job opportunities and titles within an industry to gain a deeper understanding of the possibilities. Check out this fantastic resource on job titles & descriptions and see what fits you.
This gives you an idea of ancillary and non-obvious jobs or needs within an industry that might not be apparent to all or fulfilled adequately. That’s what is a niche business or job opportunity.
Leena F tried to use her love for fashion to break unsuccessfully into the saturated personal stylist industry, but instead changed tracks to work as an Image Consultant for her uncle’s firm where she not only advised employees on professional dressing but also devised programs for improving overall etiquette and communication style.
After all, we all know that people who sold picks to the would-be miners during the gold rush are the ones who made profits.
Are you a stay at home mom wondering where to start? Also read 7 Ways to Maximize your Career Break
Update yourself/ Know what’s happening
Knowledge is strength and portrays you as well informed. But even more, for your own sake, do your homework and keep yourself constantly updated in changes in the work world.
Intuitive, easy to use, visually appealing Content aggregators like FlipBoard or specialized tab extensions like zest.is or UsePanda can be easily customized to bring you the dibs on your chosen topics.
Here’s a snapshot of some of my chosen topics on Flipboard. It’s easy to guess my passion.
In today’s digital world, there is literally #noexcuse for not knowing.
Check out new avenues to learn on the go like Podcasts and TED talks. Invest ( without investing ) in free resources to help you grow.
Also Read 5 Ways to Learn New Skills for Free
Leverage your Advantages
Contemplate the relative advantages you may have accrued over the course of your professional career – Contacts, Money & Soft Skills. Singularly or cumulatively, these will give you a greater edge in your career.
Contacts– Time spent in any previous career gives you inside knowledge and professional contacts within that industry. Your personal contacts ( think PTO, coffee friends, book club members) can lead to a wide network of introductions by simply asking. Friends, who are subject matter experts in a successful career, can be approached as Mentors.
Also read Mentors matter: How to Seek, Meet & grow with a Mentor
Money– Maybe you have accumulated a nest egg to rely on, while you pause to re-figure your next career move or have a supportive partner or family members who are there to help you financially. This is a fantastic advantage as it takes the pressure off and instead gives one time to tread with thought and planning.
Soft Skills – Ever heard of a term called Staying Sticky? Technology, new tools or an altogether new industry choice may make your specialty outdated, but your soft skills aka people skills are sticky skills. Soft skills like time-management, organization, communication or teamwork to name a few, are highly desired traits at every workplace, so remember to list and own your interpersonal skills.
Sarah Jane offered up space in her fledgling dance studio to host meetings for women’s business groups which led to increased foot traffic and a tax break. Her warmth, ability to remember names and people-centric outlook helped her make a ton of connections. The result – a good number of signups and referrals for her Zumba and fitness classes.
Network to Build new relationships
In a digital-first world, online networking is a vital tool to supercharge your business or career. Use free online collaborative networks like Maroon Oak or thematic social networking portals like MeetUp to connect with like-minded people and learn about what’s new across industries and figure out ways to collaborate. Harness the power of informational interviews to gain a better understanding of your chosen field.
While she looked for a full- time job opportunity, Dani Butler found several part-time gigs as a Social Media Strategist, by staying connected and engaged on online platforms, and answering questions from other Members.
Also Read e-Networking Tips for every Professional
Meet Members and Find your Tribe on Maroon Oak!
Volunteer or Intern
Hosts of non-profit companies like Taproot Foundation will happily accept your services pro-bono and this gives you a chance to practice your skills, build connections and add to your career resume.
When choosing to intern – look smart, not hard.
Start-ups are hungry for talent at low or no cost, so seek out Start-up events, recruiters or job sites.
Both these options offer an opportunity to start playing in your chosen field right away, while you look for more permanent choices.
Carol Luongo connected with many influential people during her volunteer stint at a non-profit for women’s advocacy. Even better, the agency offered her a full-time job fund-raising, after seeing first-hand how good she was at PR (though she had no prior experience).
Why not explore Volunteering & Internships!
Know thy Digital Media
Social media is not optional anymore.
Your online presence is Googled and across industries, you are expected to know how to leverage Social Media for everything from branding, sales, networking, media and connectivity with a younger generation.
Read and familiarize yourself with the top social networks. Go the extra mile and create an account. Why not use email effectively for jobs and prospecting. Incorporate a signature (a link to your work, portfolio or Linkedin) as well as thoughtful and catchy subject lines.
Get to know your Social Media with really awesome tools and freebies from the pros.
Also Read 10 Powerful Reasons to Build Your Professional Brand
Be Vocal – Ask and then again
Spread the news to anyone who cares to listen. I’m looking out or trying to start anew.
This gives you two clear advantages. First, you never know who knows whom and can connect you just because they got to know of your intentions.
Plus, and importantly, it allows you to capitalize on people’s natural instincts to share their opinions on what they think you should do.
A smart individual takes feedback and filters it to their advantage.
Thoughts, Ideas and Research only get you so far. Commit to action – little steps that add up.
Busy life? Read How I make Time for Learning and You can too!
Use online tools to start crafting and sharing the message that you love within your chosen field. If writing is not hard for you, why not start a blog on Linkedin. It could be a simple round-up from subject experts in your chosen area.
If yours is a visual field, then use Youtube or Facebook Live to demonstrate how-to videos. Or display your work in an online portfolio or even a beautifully curated Instagram feed.
Hopefully some of these ideas will help plant the seeds for your next professional innings. Good luck with nurturing them!
You can’t use up creativity. The more you create, the more you have.
A Designer and Entrepreneur, Aditi graduated from a top design school and subsequently started her own design and merchandising business. Co-founder at Maroon Oak, she has over 17 years of business experience with Two Dotts, her design consulting company and an Etsy store which serves as an outlet for her gifts and patented product designs.
A mother to a teen and a tween, she enjoys running, dancing and raising her newest baby, a Bichon named Miltie.
Download her FREE Mini e-Book on Design that gives you some of the best, easy to use Free design tools available to you today to create great design for your needs without hiring professionals.
This was a very informative blog.
With precise information, when needed.
These are such good tips! I think your right when you say that this is something to think about if you lose your job or decided you’ve lost interest. In the past people stayed in the same industry their whole life whereas now we can change our career many times and always find something new that will inspire us to continue changing and adapting.
Great post, I am terrified to leave my job. I’ve thought time and time again, but I always run into the fear of where to start and what to do if I did leave. I’m use to job security. Great encouragement !
I’ve never been without a job, I guess some people are just more employable. I am lucky in that sense, I do know. And I’m always willing to do anything that comes along, doesn’t matter what it is, even if it’s juts a stop gap. I guess that makes me seem to be committed, always a good thing for employers to see!
Great list of things to consider when changing a career path. I’m currently in a situation where I have way too many possible career path options and making the decision (or trying to) is driving me insane!
Good luck Celia! I firmly believe Action is what will define direction!
These are excellent tips. I’ve been thinking alot lately about my career path. I’ve been in advertising for almost 15 years now, and the grind has been weighing on me more and more, especially since having a family. These are great things to think about to maybe start moving my life in a new direction.
Glad it helps Carrie and good luck with your next move!
Truly great piece of content. I loved the pragmatic approach 🙂
Thanks a ton for mentioning Zest. I’ll be happy to personally assist anyone who wants to give it a try.
Co-Founder & CMO
Very excited that you stopped by Yam. I am an avid user of Zest and so had to share its benefits.
This is good information and encouragement. It’s so important to be open to different options and follow what you love.
I definitely need to work on being more vocal. Rejection is a scary thing, so I shy away from many opportunities due to that fear. I also need to work on my networking skills. I have to be put myself out there to see what’s out there.
I wish you luck with that! You’ll never know if the prize is behind the door unless you open it first.
I enjoyed this a lot. Job loss and just the normal stress of life happens. It’s great knowing of the other options that we have,
Thank you Gloria! Yes, todays digital landscape offers a lot of advantages.
This article was so inspiring. I’ve been debating a career change for a bit but haven’t been brave enough to take the leap yet! This is such a practical guide for thinking about all the important elements to consider when searching for a new job. Thanks so much for sharing!
Thank you Jaime and good luck with your career change!
Thank you for such great advice! Over the last few years after graduating college my career path has been less than linear and I often struggle with that, feeling like I must have missed a step somewhere. I have recently found a job I love and started my blog. It’s crazy how much easier work gets once you are passionate about what you are doing. I love what you say about committing to action. Thoughts don’t get us very far!
Thank you! and yes you are right! Actions, Not Plans!