Career Change – Are You Ready?

by Howard M. Cohen

Recently, I changed careers from banking to mental health therapist. Why would I do that? Crazy, you say? I actually met a long-term psychologist while I was getting my degree who said to me, “Why would you want to go from finance to psychology? There's no money in this!” My mouth almost hit the floor. My partner said to me, “What kind of a psychologist would poke a hole in your dreams?” I agreed with him.


First, from a mental health perspective, she wasn’t being very supportive of my decision. Second, I thought she must be pretty unhappy in her career. Third, I felt bad for her clients since she was only thinking of how much money she wasn’t making, and that she may not be the best choice as a therapist!

Well, her expression of dismay hardly halted my efforts (it reinforced them) and I am happily in private practice in Wilton Manors with a growing number of clients. It’s exactly where I want to be right now, and I am very content with my decision. I still feel that even though it wasn’t the best time to open a new business (when is it ever, really?), my services are the very thing that many people could use right now. Counseling can provide the lift you need, a safe place to share, and a way to find the tools to turn your life around.

And now that I mentioned it, a career change can have a similar effect on your personal outlook for the future. So, I say make a change now, while the economy is in such a state of…gulp…uncertainty? Why not? Not only is our economic future in question, but so is your future happiness as well. I believe part of our current economic issue is that the U.S. has gradually been shifting from an agricultural and manufacturing of goods status to a people-centered and technology-based economy. It takes less manpower to accomplish what people did 25 years ago. I am a firm believer that one of the few things we can depend on is change and, usually, change is for the good.

Here are some steps, written by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., career educator and founder of Quintessential, that I support you take if you are ready for the plunge:

 Step 1: Assessment of Likes and Dislikes A lot of people change careers because they dislike their job, their boss, their company. So, identifying the dislikes is often the easier part of this step; however, you will not know what direction to change your career unless you examine your likes. What do you really like doing when you're at work, when you're at home — in your spare time? What excites you and energizes you? What's your passion?

 Step 2: Research New Careers Once you've discovered (or rediscovered) your passion, spend some time researching the types of careers that center on your passion. Don't worry if you're feeling a bit unsure or insecure — it's a natural part of the career change process. How much research you do also partly depends on how much of a change you're making; for example, changing from a teacher to a corporate trainer versus switching from a nurse to a Web designer.

 Step 3: Transferable Skills Leverage some of your current skills and experiences to your new career. There are many skills (e.g. communications, leadership, planning) that are transferable and applicable to what you want to do in your new career. You may be surprised to see that you already have a solid amount of experience for your new career.

Step 4: Training and Education You may find it necessary to update your skills and broaden your knowledge. Take it slowly. If the skill you need to learn is one you could use in your current job, see if your current employer would be willing to pick up the tab. And start slowly. Take a course or two to ensure you really like the subject matter. If you are going for a new degree or certification, make sure you check the accreditation of the school and get some information about placement successes.

 Step 5: Networking One of the real keys to successfully changing careers will be your networking abilities. People in your network may be able to give you job leads, offer you advice and information about a particular company or industry, and introduce you to others so that you can expand your network. Even if you don't think you already have a network, you probably do — consider colleagues, friends and family members. You can broaden your network through joining professional organizations in your new field and contacting alumni from your college who are working in the field you want to enter.

 Step 6: Gaining Experience
Remember that, in a sense, you are starting your career again from square one. Obtaining a part-time job or volunteering in your new career field not only can solidify your decision, but give you much needed experience in your new career. You might also want to consider temping in your new field. Work weekends, nights, whatever it takes to gain the experience.

 Step 7: Find a Mentor Changing careers is a major life decision that can get overwhelming at times. Find a mentor who can help you through the rough patches. Your mentor may also be able to help you by taking advantage of his or her network. A mentor doesn't have to be a highly placed individual, though the more powerful the mentor, the more success you may have in using that power to your advantage.

 Step 8: Changing In or Out Some people change careers, but never change employers. Unfortunately, only the very progressive employers recognize that once happy employees can be happy and productive again — in a different capacity. It's more than likely that you will need to switch employers to change fields, but don't overlook your current employer. Remember not to start asking about a job switch until you are completely ready to do so.

 Step 9: Job-Hunting Basics If it has been a while since you've had to use your job-hunting tools and skills, now is the time for a refresher course. Consider spending some time learning about creating a resume, interviewing skills and salary negotiation techniques.

 Step 10: Be Flexible You'll need to be flexible about nearly everything — from your employment status to relocation and salary. Set positive goals for yourself, but expect setbacks and change, and don't let these things get you down. Besides totally new career, you might also consider a lateral move that could serve as a springboard for a bigger career change. You might also consider starting your own business or consulting as other avenues.

 Step 11: Make an appointment at Cohen Counseling If you are happy in your current job and are near retirement, please do not consider career change, unless, when you retire, you want to keep working — then we can talk about some new options!

You can tell by my article, I specialize in working with people that are ready to make a career change. I also have a passion for finding some light with people who are depressed and may be dealing with grief and loss in their lives. I have also had success in guiding clients who have battled addictions and want to start their journey anew with joy and discovery.

Yours in personal change and growth, Howard M. Cohen, Registered Mental Health Counseling Intern, 954-980-9628. See ad page 55.

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