Working like a dog? A job switch might be in order

Everyone has difficult days on the job. Yet if you find yourself constantly miserable at work, it might be time to consider a change.

But be warned: experts say in today’s economy, switching careers can be a challenge.

“If you want to change careers, the current economic climate means you’ll need to be more prepared this year than ever before,” said Tag Goulet, who co-founded the career guide web site with her sister Catherine Goulet.

How difficult is career change? “That’s a very big question, and the answer is it depends,” said Ian Christie, president and head career strategist of BoldCareer, an online career planning and career coaching firm based in Vancouver, British Columbia. “It depends on what stage you are at in your career. It depends on demand in the market. And it depends on the gap between your background and what you want to do next.”

Tag Goulet said that you should do your homework first. Learn about a new career by arranging information interviews with people working in the field, attending meetings of professional associations, taking courses and reading books. “By learning as much as you can about the career before you apply for a job, employers are much more likely to see you as skilled, knowledgeable, experienced and someone they want to hire.

“One of the best ways to get started in a new career, without risking your current job or financial security, is to start part-time,” she added. “For example, get a part-time job or start a part-time home business.” These strategies should work anywhere with almost any line of work.Many people have mid-life career changes, but making the shift later rather than sooner can be difficult. “I wish age didn’t matter, but it does,” said
Christie. “The reality is it gets harder to convince ‘buyers’ to take a chance on you. However, I see examples all the time of people making career changes in their 40s and 50s and doing so very successfully.

“Another factor is to what degree your career change involves relying on others to make a buying decision on you,” he said. “If you want to start making and selling pottery part-time, I don’t think your age matters much. Getting into an assistant marketing manager role at age 57 is going to be more problematic.”
If you’re older, you have to become an expert in sales, with the product being you. “Your ability to sell yourself into your new role is the key factor — and articulate how your experience is a plus, not a minus,” Christie said. “Also that you aren’t a risk, rather an asset.”

No matter what your age, networking is one of the most important parts of the process. “Meeting people and having conversations and expanding your network are absolutely essential,” he said. “I get my people to read ‘Never Eat Alone’ by Keith Ferrazzi [$25, Broadway Business]. He nailed it in terms of how to network authentically and professionally.” For those with Internet access, LinkedIn can be a useful tool.

Realistically, tough economic times also mean more employees are staying put. “During times of economic uncertainty, there are likely to be fewer ‘job leavers’ — a term used by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to describe workers who quit their job voluntarily,” Catherine Goulet said.

A fear of quitting may be even greater among workers at companies doing business in areas that have been especially hard hit by the economic downturn. “What this means to you, if your are considering a career change, is there may be fewer job opportunities in the coming year as other workers hang onto their jobs in an effort to maintain some financial security,” she added.

“Simply put, we’re not saying you should stay in a job you’re not happy with,” Tag Goulet said. “Just that it’s best to avoid saying goodbye to your boss until you have landed a new job.”

Copyright 2009 CNS