How to Start a New Career

The pandemic may have cost you your job. Now you might be looking to change careers and wondering how to begin…

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Many thousands of Californians lost their jobs during the pandemic. Retail and the service industry were hit hardest, but it resonated in a variety of industries; as well, minorities and women bore the brunt of “pandemic job pain,” as these Reuters articles from February and March, citing the New York Fed, explain.

If that sounds like you, you’re probably coming out of this time seeking more stability in your career; according to Pew Research Center (from February, 2021), two-thirds of jobless Americans are considering changing their career, so know that you aren’t alone in your thoughts. But the question becomes: how do I start a new career? How does that process actually begin? It starts here and now, with this blog.

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One: Decide that You Need a Change

In some cases, we're not even aware we need a change. We're bored or tired or simply don’t feel like going to work. We use every excuse we can think of to take time off, and cringe at the thought of going back to work. Even worse, we simply don’t like our job and would rather be anywhere else than at the office. That can happen to anyone. 

Signs that it's time for a new career...

When it does, these warning signs should be an indicator that it’s time for a change. If you can describe yourself in the following ways, it’s a sign that it’s time for a new career: 

  • Burned out
  • Tired
  • Not interested in the job
  • Will take any excuse not to go to work
  • Unable to stay focused on tasks
  • Unproductive
  • Performing poorly
  • Stressed

Tip: We can all make a change if we want to. The timing needs to be right, and the foundation for making a move needs to be set, but it can be done. The hardest part is convincing yourself that you’re ready to do it.

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TWO: Itemize Your Career Interests & Values

Do you like working outdoors with your hands? Hate to get dirty? Prefer when things are quiet or loud and rambunctious? These are important questions to consider when looking for a job anyway, but extra important when you aim to change careers. Personality tests can help you roadmap yourself, which can then help you determine what career might be right for you.

 Start with these three:

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THREE: Consider Career Options, Create a Short-list of Possibilities & Research!

Consider what career suits you. Study the fields themselves. You don’t have to pick right away and stick with it. Dr. Paolo Varquez, Coastline’s Career Services Specialist, recommends conducting career research and plan backwards. Identify what the end goal might be, then figure out the pathways that will get you there. Where do your strengths lie? What subjects naturally feel easy for you? Don’t shortchange yourself. People are capable of far more than they realize.

What are some examples of industries to consider?

The industries seeing growth and that are expected to see continued growth include the medical field; jobs in nursing and physical and occupational therapy rank high on the Bureau of Labor Statistics "Fastest Growing Occupations" list from April, 2021. This makes sense, considering the pandemic we’ve all been going through. Another field with strong growth is technology; more specifically, IT Professionals and cybersecurity specialists.

We’ve talked about cybersecurity before on the blog. And it’s been in the news a lot recently; the most recent example being the hacking of Colonial Pipeline and the subsequent ransom and shortage of gasoline on the East Coast. Cybersecurity is all about protecting companies and country and offers high starting salaries to boot. I recommend reading this feature we did on Professor Tobi West, one of the foremost experts on this subject in California.

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FOUR: Develop the Skills You Need to Make a Change

This could be in a variety of ways. You may be able to hone new skills with an entry-level position in a new career. Or, you may find that in order to break into certain fields you need to return to school, for at least some amount of time. This could take the form of a certificate, an Associates, a Bachelors, and beyond. What’s important is getting started; as you go along, you can decide when the moment is right to take your education to the next level or to pivot into exclusively professional opportunities.

Take some time to determine if you have experience on your resume to move into your new field…

If you’re shifting to a new type of job within the same field, then you may find sufficient resume experience to get started. For example, if you were a print journalist and looking to transition to web writing you may have to start with freelancing gigs for smaller companies or even free work in order to learn on the job. However, if you’re transitioning into a whole new career, from marketing to botany, for example, then that means heading back to school.

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FIVE: Set Short- & Long-term Career Goals & Start Searching

Now you’ve put in lots of work: discovering, researching, training, developing. This is where you start to reap the rewards of that time, labor, and effort. Put yourself out there for jobs, network with people in your new field, and always be ready to ask questions or volunteer for opportunities. Our blog on landing your first internship offers good advice, even what you're looking for is a job, not an internship!

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Wrappin' It Up

None of this is easy. But you aren’t alone in thinking about it. That’s why picking a direction to start and then taking a class about it is good; it offers you a way to begin and immediately puts you in contact with professors in the field. Within a few weeks or months you’ll know whether you want to continue or not; if you do, talk to your professors. Ask them for advice and help. If you don’t, most colleges have people you can turn to for career advice. They want to help their students excel and this situation is no different.

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