By Jean C. Setzfand
If you’re making a career change—by choice or out of necessity—you can take steps to help ensure a smooth transition. AARP is here to help with a variety of resources at www.aarp.org/WorkResources. Help includes tips on networking, learning about job openings, researching employers and applying for positions.
Here are 10 tips to help you make a successful transition to a new career.
Tip #1: Inventory your skills.
Draw four columns on a sheet of paper. In the first column, make a list of all of your skills, including those learned on the job, acquired through volunteering or in school, and skills that are simply part of who you are. This will help you uncover skills you may otherwise overlook, either because you didn’t use them in your previous work, or you used them outside of work.
Tip #2: Match your skills to outcomes.
For each skill in your inventory, list in the second column how you’ve applied it. In the third column, list the results of applying that skill. For example, let’s say one of your skills is project management. You could list “producing an event,” for example, in the second column, and “came in under budget” in the third column. Now you have a document that defines you by a set of skills rather than just by your previous experience.
Tip #3: Identify jobs that need your skills.
In the fourth column, identify jobs that require the skills you possess. This will help you spot roles that may interest you and where you can capitalize on your skills. The stronger the connection between your skills and potential jobs, the higher the chance you’ll land an interview.
Tip #4: Create résumés based on your skills.
Once you’ve identified jobs that match your skills, create multiple résumés aimed at those jobs, so each one you send targets a specific opening.
- Include key words or industry-specific terminology from the job description in each résumé.
- Focus on your skills, how they have been applied and subsequent outcomes, rather than just a tally of your experience.
- Visit aarp.og/WorkResources for help creating résumés, cover letters and more.
Tip #5: Practice for interviews.
Practice expressing your background as a set of skills. Rehearse how you will convey your personal brand to help you sell your talents and skills. Check out AARP’s tip sheet on creating a personal brand at www.aarp.org/WorkResources.
Tip #6: Update your look.
Make sure your outward appearance reflects current styles. Consider buying a new interview suit or updating your hairstyle to ensure your appearance reflects someone who is ready to compete in today’s work environment.
Tip #7: Network.
Use in-person and social media networks like www.LifeReimagined.org/Work to find people you know who can help you identify positions that match your skills.
Tip #8: Manage your finances.
Reduce spending and monitor your cash flow in case the job search takes longer than expected or if you think you might experience a salary cut when you change careers. If you’re unemployed, consider taking part-time or freelance work to learn new skills, generate income and stay busy.
Tip #9: Exercise.
Stay active with your exercise of choice to stay fit and healthy and, importantly, to reduce stress. Changing careers is an excellent time to develop a healthier lifestyle—it will show in your outward appearance and energy level.
Tip #10: Join a support group.
When you have frustrations, vent them in a safe, confidential and supportive environment—not with your professional network and never online.
The Job Search Has Changed and So Can You
If it’s been awhile since your last job search, some aspects of the search and recruitment process have likely changed.
- The new human resources manager is It’s up to you to identify hiring managers and present yourself to them as uniquely qualified for the job at hand.
- Technology is now embedded in the job search and recruiting process. Recruiters use technology to search résumés for keywords, screen candidate profiles and for correspondence. Recruiters or hiring managers may use technology to provide status updates during the application process and communicate new jobs.
- Expect hiring managers to be younger and well versed in the latest technology. Presnt yourself as tech savvy. Having an email address and accounts on LinkedIn (LinkedIn.com) and Twitter (www.Twitter.com) can help.
If you’ve read this far, you’ve decided out of desire or necessity to reinvent your career. I’ve given you 10 tips, and now I’ll give you my personal advice: believe in yourself. You can do this. And AARP is here to help. Check out all the resources you’ll need at www.aarp.org/WorkResources. Now go forth, discover some real possibilities and reinvent!
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Jean C. Setzfand is Vice President of the Financial Security issues team in the Education and Outreach group at AARP. She leads AARP’s educational and outreach efforts aimed at helping Americans achieve financial ‘peace of mind’ in retirement. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .