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How to Transition to a New Career Field

If you're currently between jobs, and the prospects within your chosen field look dim, consider making a career change. In a bad economy, one of the best ways to find work is to seek out a recession-proof industry. Landing a job in a new field is possible with the right amount of research, networking and skill. Here are some time-tested tips for job-seekers who want to make a career switch.

Identify the career you want. If you don't have a clue where you'd like to work, start by examining what you liked most about your previous jobs. Did you enjoy sharing information with other people and helping them learn new skills? Did you like crunching numbers? If so, then perhaps a career as a math teacher or financial sales trainer would be a good fit.

It's also wise to consider positions that are in demand during a down economy. Time Magazine published an article recently describing several recession-proof jobs. Some examples include computer systems administrators, registered nurses and dental hygienists. These types of jobs could be prime targets for career-changers.

Ask other professionals for advice. Make a point to network with people who are already working in your targeted industry. Join trade associations, attend conferences, and participate in online forums to meet these contacts. Also, sign up for social media sites like LinkedIn. There is no cost to join, and when you're online, you can let all your contacts know at once that you're pursuing a career in a different field.

When networking, ask your contacts what they do in their job roles, how they found their positions, and if they have advice to offer. Inquire about possibly observing them at work. By shadowing other professionals, you can see a realistic picture of your dream job, and you can discover if a career change is something you truly want to pursue. For more tips on networking for employment, read our article on what to do after Losing Your Job.

Evaluate your existing skills. Create a list of the talents and abilities you've developed from your previous jobs that can be used in your new career. Can you speak another language? Do you have a specific sales certification? Can you manage a project from start to finish? These skills are often used across a number of industries.

Learn new requirements. Compare the skills you already have with the ones that are required for your goal job. Chances are you will find some gaps, so it's important to identify the type of training you will need to close those gaps. For some occupations, such as sales, you might receive on-the-job training. With other industries, such as insurance or cosmetology, you may have to obtain a special license before you can start work.

Many career positions require you to have a specialized college degree. If you decide to go back to school in order to switch careers, read our article on Simple Strategies to Help Pay for College to find ways to obtain a higher education without taking on too much debt. For tips on no-cost ways to boost job skills, read our article on the Top 7 Free Resources for Employment Skill Acquisition.

Know what your new career pays. Understand what you could realistically make in terms of salary, given your background. A good source for salary research is the Occupational Outlook Handbook website, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It highlights hundreds of jobs, and provides information about average compensation, job prospects, job descriptions, and the training required. Another way to learn salary information is to read industry-specific job boards and online forums, and to research job search engines, such as Indeed.com and Monster.com.

As part of your research, decide if you would accept temporary employment, part-time work, or even an internship in your new field. If you don't land a full-time job right away, a short-term position could help you gain experience, develop relevant job skills and build up your resume. These benefits would hopefully help you find a better full-time job in the future.

Even if you are fortunate enough to land a full-time position from the start, you may have to accept an entry level job if you don't have direct experience in the field you're targeting. The salary you're offered may be lower than what you've earned in the past. If that's the case, try to get an idea of what your chances are for advancement.

Write a polished resume. To increase your chances of getting hired, create a targeted resume that clearly states your career objective. Include your work history, but instead of focusing on previous job titles in other industries, highlight the results you achieved that would be important in your new line of work.

Check your resume for spelling and grammatical errors. Ask some seasoned contacts within your network to objectively review the document and give you feedback. After the resume has been revised, send it out! Hopefully, the interviews and job offers will start rolling in.

Before looking for work in a new industry, it's important to know your existing skills, match those skills to your dream job, and seek the advice of experienced contacts within your network. If you do these things, you could soon reap the benefits of a rewarding new career.

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