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Feeling Trapped Professionally? Escape to a New Career

According to a nationwide survey conducted in 2005, only 45 percent of the 8,000 workers polled said they were satisfied with their jobs. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are unhappy with the way they spend the majority of their waking hours. Are you one of them? Whether your current career is a mismatch with your personality type, lifestyle, or personal aspirations and interests, a change in career might be the answer. Although it may be some consolation to know that you’re not alone, in the case of job satisfaction, wouldn’t you rather be in the minority?

From Agony to Action: Prepare for a Change
Instead of wasting time thinking about how much you dislike your job, think about how you can make changes for the better. Whether you’re a recent college graduate just get started in the working world or a mid-career professional with years of experience and education under your belt, it’s never too early–or too late–to try something new.

Terms to Know: Career Change – Using strategically-planned actions to move from one career to another.

The three steps outlined in this article can serve as a motivational roadmap to finding your way through the confusion and fear that often accompany career change.

Step One: Identify the Problem���and Commit to Solving It
In order to get to the heart of the matter, you may have to do some soul-searching. What is it about your current situation that is disagreeable? Frederick Herzberg’s well-known research identified six factors that most commonly lead to employee dissatisfaction:

��� Company policy
��� Supervision
��� Relationship with boss
��� Work conditions
��� Salary
��� Relationship with peers

If one or more of these elements is to blame for your unhappiness, changing career fields could be an unnecessarily drastic move. Simply finding a new job within your current profession may resolve the problem

Terms to Know: Job Satisfaction – A measure of one’s attitude about their work, taking into account feelings about the job itself; relationships with coworkers, supervisors, and employing organization; and compensation, among other things.

If you feel, however, there is a fundamental clash between your personality type and your current career, reaching a solution takes patience, perseverance, and undoubtedly some courage. The economic and professional uncertainties that come with career changes can be unnerving, but as motivational speaker Betty Bender once said, “Anything I’ve ever done that ultimately was worthwhile… initially scared me to death.” Look at your journey toward career change as an adventure, and have faith that it will, ultimately, lead to a better life.

Step Two: Research Your Options
It’s no accident that the classic job-seekers guide, What Color is Your Parachute, has sold over 8 million copies in the past 37 years. Confusion about finding the ‘right’ career torments people young and old, worldwide. While it may be obvious that you’re in the wrong field, the perfect alternative might not be as apparent. Fortunately, there are a few actions you can take to achieve clarity.

��� Personality Tests – From the famed Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator to lesser known evaluations available free online–Keirsey Temperament Sorter, the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator, and the EQSQ personality quiz that helps determine your empathizing and systemizing abilities–these tests can help you better understand yourself and, ultimately, consider a career that suits you.
��� Career Counseling – A few sessions with a career counselor can provide the directed self-exploration you need to help determine your professional destiny. Some college career centers offer this service free of charge to alumni so check with your alma mater before hiring a professional.
��� Research – Pretend you’re writing a term paper on your dream career and gather all the information you can find on fields of interest to you. Check out the educational requirements, employment outlook (the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is a terrific resource), and the range of duties involved. Include informational interviews with professionals in the careers you’re considering; not only can they offer a realistic view of the work, but they may be valuable contacts when you’re ready to find a job.
��� Job Shadowing – Take a day (or more) off from your current job to shadow one of the contacts in your field of choice. Use this time to learn about their job activities as well as the best and worst things about their job.

Terms to Know: Job Shadowing – Visits to a variety of workplaces during which job-seekers observe and ask questions of employees.

Step Three: Take Action!
If you’ve done your homework, you should have a clear map charted for yourself, including not only what you want to do but also how you plan to do it. More than likely, your career choice will require some additional training. Fortunately for the modern career-changer, getting educated for a professional shift is easier than ever. Hundreds of colleges and universities offer distance learning courses and degrees that allow you to earn needed credentials in your spare time without quitting your day job.

Before you enroll in any courses, take stock of your transferable skills.
Terms to know: Transferable Skills – Skills acquired through work, life experience, or hobbies that you can use in another job.
You may find that some of your previous educational or work experience applies toward the certificate, diploma, or degree that you hope to earn. When analyzing your options, remember that financial aid, scholarships, and student loans may be available to help defray the cost of your education.

Setting the Wheels in Motion for a Change
Finding the solution to your professional anguish can take time and may require some personal sacrifices. Depending on your situation, it could be years before you find yourself in that dream job. Whether you have to pull all-nighters studying for an online exam or put yourself on a strict budget to pay for career training, stay focused on your goal. With some hard work and determination, the thirty percent of your life devoted to work could someday be both enjoyable and rewarding.

Publish date: June 14, 2008