Thursday, May 20, 2010

Career Change

Mid-life crises manifest themselves differently for everyone. Probably some people are able to avoid them altogether, while others have them regularly throughout their lives. The classical example is a middle-age person (whatever that means) that begins to re-evaluate their life and comes to the conclusion that one or more of their major decisions was mistaken. For one person this crisis may be related to career/employment, for another their spouse (hass v’shalom), or on the lighter side even the mode of transportation (50-year old buys Harley Davidson).

Here in this article, employment is the focus. And to further delve into the driver for this career re-evaluation, sometimes the cause is external, such as a person that is laid-off or feels lack of job security and is forced into an employment search.

Career evaluation can lead a person to consider a different career(s), examine the possibility of opening a business, or deciding to remain in the profession they have been doing until this point.

Except for the most adventurous (fool-hardy?), people have some level of trepidation when considering a career move or starting a business, no matter what their motivations. Some of these are listed here:

  • Risk in leaving current job - For those that are employed, leaving the stability of their company is a risk by definition, including the financial considerations that may be involved in such a move. One thing that might be possible for some is to investigate whether there is the possibility to change roles within the structure of your current employer in order to have a safe and secure starting point for a different type of job.
  • Doubt about finding a suitable position in new career - There is not much doubt that the role that one can make themselves most attractive for is almost always the one in which the candidate has the most recent and extensive previous work experience and/or education. Change can make the process more difficult, and this can be even truer when a person arrives to their 40s/50s/60s. Targeting a job for which you don’t have recent work experience and/or provable skills requires creativity, tenacity, and confidence. Research and networking will help you understand better your options.
  • Don’t like current job, but don’t know what other job to do - There are many people that are not satisfied with the work they are doing, but have no idea what they would prefer. Here is an article that addresses the issue of identifying new professions:
  • Financial risk with starting a business – Starting a business typically requires an initial investment/loan, sometimes substantial, as well as uncertain incoming cash flow.
On the other hand, you often hear about someone that was previously laid-off, and they say that this event was the best thing that ever happened to them, as it forced them to move out of their area of comfort and find a new and much better opportunity. And as you may have heard, our friend in the White House (and this week announced as the third most influential Jew in the world by the Jerusalem Post) Rahm Emanuel said: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” Take a look at this film trailer to see more evidence of how others used an unexpected work dismissal to their advantage:

And certainly many people are regularly evaluating, or at least considering, whether the way that they are spending their 8+ waking hours a day earning money is in sync with their current values and lifestyle. Initial career choice, oftentimes done many years prior and with a less than mature set of experience and perspective, is easy to overemphasize when moving forward in the present. Already at the tender age of 18, people typically choose a university major or trade; what are the chances that decision will match their future self, 20-30 years down the road? When a mismatch does occur, tension arises and decisions have to be made (postponing such decisions can lead to visits to the doctor for physical ailments).

Many times people seeking to change careers have told me that the main way they decided upon their new target career was based upon what they preceived were the demands of the market, taking their self-defined skills into account as a secondary measure, and finally considering their interests. Mabye not surprisingly, employment advisors can operate in the same way, which I view as being similar to the military approach. What seems to happen in the army in many cases is that the 18 year old will take a battery of apptitude tests, be asked about their interests in a variety of jobs - then the recruiter disregards all of that and assigns the inductee to the military police or infantry because that is what is needed at the time. Sometimes employment advisors are not so different, with the laudable goal of being realistic, pointing job seekers towards jobs in demand and stifling/ignoring interests or considering transferrable skills. In Israel that might mean guiding new immigrants to jobs in demand, such as an English Teacher, Telephone Sales/Support, or a hairdresser. Yet according to Figler & Bolles in the book: The Career Counselor’s Handbook, “Motivation and determination are more important indicator of success than skills”.

So, don’t be afraid to dream. Allow yourself to think about careers that are different than your previous jobs. In many cases the main limitation to achieving a new employment ideal is the freedom that you give yourself to consider new options. Certainly “reality” and financial considerations are factors in how you ultimately decide to act, but if these are the first ingredients in your analysis, then you may not be giving yourself the chance to envision a new and most suitable career.

Click here to listen to Chaim Emmett of Israemploy talking about career change.

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