Switching Gears: When to say when

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If you’ve been out of work for a long stretch, with few prospects on the horizon, have you considered a new career path? “It’s devastating to be out of work for any length of time, but it’s even more stressful when a job seeker realizes that he may never find a comparable position in his chosen field,” says Jerry Weinger, chairman of Bernard Haldane Associates, an international career management firm. Here are some tips about when to say when to your career:

• When networking, recruiters and job fairs haven’t brought results.
• When you haven’t had a job offer throughout your search.
• When positions in your field are going overseas.
• When industry is down in your area and you’re unwilling to move.
• When your financial situation requires that you find a job immediately.

Once you’ve made the decision to switch gears, heed these hints:

• Throw away your resume.
• Throw away any preconceptions.
• Look at new possibilities.
• List the core skills of your past experiences.
• Identify the personality traits that apply to your work style—for instance, detail-oriented versus big picture, fast paced versus slow and steady.

“It is often beneficial to work with an objective career adviser who can help you figure out what to do next in terms of finding work that is financially and emotionally satisfying, with the prospect of long-term opportunity,” says Weinger.

Be Prepared: The Times They Are A-Changin’

The recent recession has taught employees one valuable lesson: Be prepared for change. Some 56 percent of workers polled by OfficeTeam, a staffing service, felt this way. Being organized ranked a distant second with 15 percent.

“Few people were untouched by the recession,” says Diane Domeyer, the company’s executive director. “While no one wants to repeat the difficulties of the downturn, there are opportunities to learn from them and use this knowledge to prepare for the future.” Managers, she says, want to hire and promote workers who are flexible, versatile and quick on the uptake. Some tips:

• Think through the what-ifs. What would happen if you got a new boss tomorrow, were offered a  promotion or asked to assume an expanded role?
• Observe someone who is rarely caught off guard. Study and copy this grace under pressure.
• Stay in the loop. Develop new sources of information, and share this knowledge with others.
• Get organized. Keep your files current and your boss informed of your activity in case you’re called away because of an emergency.

Body Language Red Flags

Many job seekers fret about what to say in a job interview. But it may be the unspoken parts that can do them in. “Do not flunk in the unspoken part of the first five minutes,” says John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. “There may be no resurrecting your candidacy.”

Challenger mentions some red flags:

“If the job seeker is late, that is a first impression, even without a word being said. Second, how did the job seeker enter the office—head up, smiling, neatly dressed, with some urgency to his or her step? That is another positive, unspoken impression of a ‘ready-to-go-to-work’ attitude. The job seeker in the same five minutes should be able to tell if the right impression is being made,” Challenger says. How so? “Is the interviewer distracted, twirling a pen or looking at the phone instead of the job candidate, hoping it will ring and provide the excuse to end the interview?” Not a good sign.