logo_changejobnow1Exploring Career Change

Exploring & Evaluating Career Choice: Exploring Career Change

What does a career change mean to you?

Typically a career change is a significant shift within your current occupation or industry (accountant to financial operations manager, for example) or a radical change into a new occupation (from accountant to communications director). 

A career change means doing work that is different than the work you are doing now. Why are you motivated to make a change? What is important to you for career satisfaction? How will you find a new path?

  1. Review the material and complete the worksheets in Decision-Making/Goal-Setting to make a well-informed decision about your next steps.

Identifying First Options
Motivators for Change
Start with a solid foundation; be clear about why you are making a career change. Some common motivators are:

  • Reaching a plateau at your current job, but knowing you can build on your work accomplishments.
  • Wanting to finally realize a deferred dream or a new dream.
  • Applying new knowledge or targeting new expertise to develop.
  • Career growth that will bring tangible and intangible rewards (e.g., more money, more challenge, more responsibility, a nicer office, travel or no travel, a chance to use your education more fully).
  • New awareness of a field of interest that you want to put into action.

What Is Important to You?
What factors do you need for satisfying work and a fulfilling career path? Many would say good money, good people to work with, regular working hours and a sense that their work is important. Many factors go into the profile of what will make you happy, and as you look at current satisfactions and frustrations, take the time to know you'll be making a move to a genuinely better place.

  1. Complete the Priorities for Career Satisfaction (PDF) exercise to identify Must-Have, Important-to-Have and Nice-to-Have factors for career satisfaction.
  2. Complete the Prioritizing Values in Your Career Planning (PDF) worksheet to include important work values for your satisfaction.

List the pros and cons for:

  • Staying at your present job in your present company, and perhaps adding new projects and responsibilities.
  • Finding a new job in your present company (maybe designing a new job).
  • Finding a new job in a new company (similar but with more satisfaction).
  • Determining a new career field of interest and paths within that field.
  • Staying at your present company and beginning education to transition to a new field.
  • Leaving the workforce to pursue education/training full time.
  • Any other possibility you have identified.

Which options are you most willing to pursue? In what priority order?

Questions to Consider

How big a change are you willing to make?
If It’s A New Career… 

  • Be open to possibilities presented to you by those who know you and your work. Sometimes those possibilities resonate with thoughts you've abandoned but may be willing to reconsider, and sometimes those possibilities become valuable “eureka moments” well worth exploring
  • If you have some ideas that are based on your interests use O*Net, an online occupational research tool, to lead you to lists of occupations that may help identify satisfying work. The six interest-theme codes listed below sort occupations in the O*Net job classification system. How would you rate your interest in each of these themes? Which two or three would be your highest interest areas? Search occupations in O*Net, starting with your highest interest theme, to begin prioritizing your place(s) in the world of work. (Select “Interests” from the menu on the “Find Occupations” page.)

Realistic: work using mainly mechanical skills, to get tangible results and solve practical, hands-on problems. Traditional values, working on your own, perhaps outdoors, not so much paperwork.
Investigative: working with ideas and solving abstract problems. Often involved with science and high-level math. Research-type activities.
Artistic: working with forms, designs and patterns. Often involves self-expression, as well as working without following a clear set of rules. Music and performance as well as visual arts.
Social: often helping people, providing service, or teaching. Involves working with teams.
Enterprising: working with others, often in a leadership position. May be competitive, involve taking risks or starting up a project or business.
Conventional: working with facts and figures, and with procedures and routines, to solve fiscal and operational problems.

Prepare a research page for each career idea you are considering.

  • List the reasons that this career idea is appealing to you – take time to write about your interest in this work now and in the future. Look at the long view of options in this path.
  • Use online resources such as O*Net and the Occupational Outlook Handbook to prepare a profile that tells you more about skills, options and employment outlook.
  • Add information gathered from professional associations; use Associations on the Net to find associations that are relevant to you.
  • Conduct informational interviews to verify your research in today’s real-world perspective; begin with alumni you find in The Seminary Club Directory.
  1. Complete the Profile of My New Career Path (PDF) sheet to clarify your goal, the motivation, challenges and steps it will take to reach your goal, and how close you are to achieving a new career entry.
  2. Within the new career path, complete an Occupation Research Worksheet (PDF) for the occupation in which you can enter the path, and identify more specifically how you will transfer into the work of your new career.

What effort are you prepared to make?
If you need more education, identify certificates, online programs, and part-time programs that will meet your lifestyle goals while you more forward to a new career.

Find options for additional education at the Colorado Theological Seminary.

  1. Identify volunteer opportunities, shadowing opportunities, or possibly a part-time position to gain needed practical experience.
  2. As your ideas develop talk with people who are doing the work you want to do, to identify possible options for transitioning into a new role and/or industry using current qualifications, as you consider a more radical, long-term transition. Start with The Seminary Club online directory and members of professional associations. Refer to business calendars in your local newspapers to learn of professional meetings that will give you a chance to network with new people – expanding your network is even more important when thinking about changing careers. Be prepared with your sound byte, your targeted goals and your enthusiasm.

How long will it take?

  • With your education, skills and experience, you can perhaps make a career shift in a few months.
  • A more radical career change may take longer – maybe several years if you need more training or education.
  1. Use the Carrying Out Career Options timeline (PDF) to draw out your career plans and plans for other life roles for the next ten years (and beyond).
  2. Review the material and complete the worksheets in Decision-Making/Goal-Setting to understand more about your decision-making style and to make a well-informed decision about your next steps.
  3. Review the tips in Designing Your Own Long-Term Career Plan to add to your self-knowledge and recognize the continuing nature of career planning and career development.

Action Steps You Can Take

  • If you usually talk to people to gather information, spend at least an hour this week conducting your research by reading.
  • If you usually read to gather information, attend at least one networking meeting this month, and make at least three phone calls this week to set up informational interviews.
  • If the details seem overwhelming, decide which details need to be taken care of this week and pay attention only to those.
  • If you're worried about finding a career you'll like, identify the principal source of your anxiety, set a very brief time limit on worrying (five minutes will do) and then gather more information about options, and continue to assess and pursue factors that will make you happy in your work – don't speculate.

If everyone has ideas for you but none of them seems to fit, take a break, reflect and take time to again focus on the goals you have for yourself.

Online Resources

  • IdeaList – Job search service for positions in the nonprofit or community sector; internships also searchable.
  • Metaindex for Nonprofit Organizations– A vast index to nonprofit organizations and information.
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook – Details about the nature of work, the environments, typical earnings and trends for a range of occupations that represent 91 percent of U.S. jobs.

Book Recommendations

Browse your local library for:

  • Careers for… A series of more than 80 titles with topics in interest areas and personality traits through which you can approach your work. Published by McGraw-Hill.
  • Great Jobs for… Presents job options and job search tips categorized by major. Published by McGraw-Hill.