Debunking Career Myths

You might be dreaming of a career change, but want to keep paying the bills and maintaining your standard of living. Workers have more freedom than ever before in creating a new career. Here are some commonly held myths that you need to reconsider:

A career change is a radical shift. NOT. Many new careers are seamless transitions because the new job is based on the skills and experience acquired during many years of work. An engineer who becomes a sales engineer has switched functions, but is still using many years of acquired knowledge.

Career changers need a clear direction. It’s not a straight-line process. Ideas come from friends, relatives, neighbors, hobbies, seminars and the media. The right idea could come from any source. There’s a lot to explore, and a variety of options should be tested before you take the plunge.

You have to start with a clean slate. Nothing is further from the truth. If you were Picasso starting a new painting, you might have a fresh canvas, but all your experience with color, texture and paints will be brought to bear in the new work of art. Think of a new career as a new portrait of you. Be loyal to the wonderful knowledge, education and experience you have acquired.

You have to quit working first, then prepare for a career change. There are many ways to explore a career change. Take a night school course, work part-time in another business or volunteer in an agency of interest to you. Go at it gradually. Let the path reveal itself to you.

You can network to a new career within your current company. A smaller firm might allow you to transition from sales to HR, but a larger firm is unlikely to see the potential and pay you while you learn the new job. Instead, try to connect with others in your desired area, and discover what skills you need. Join an association and begin to learn about the new function. Volunteer to get some experience to put on your resume. Interview successful people in the field that interests you.

A new career means losing benefits and my pension. There are fewer financial consequences now then ever before to changing careers. Most of us can easily move our 401K when we shift careers. Most jobs also have vesting in five years (or less), so you may even be eligible for pension benefits, as long as you are vested. Some government jobs will allow you to count military service in calculating your service years. Check into these options before you jump.

You have to be young to change careers. What’s too old? 40? 50? 60? You know workers who should have moved on long ago and are hanging on another 4, 5 or 6 years in a job they hate. Isn’t it better to make the switch now? In five years you will be five years older, regardless of where you are. The national media recently ran a story about a physician who started medical school at 50. He is still practicing medicine at 78, loving his life and his work.

Regardless of the switch you make, think Career Adjustment, not Career Change. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Make it an adventure!

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