Career Transition Action Plan (Part I)

• Wondering if you are playing the job search game correctly?

• Are you in career transition and overwhelmed?

• Are you considering a new industry, sector, functional role or job?

• How do you know if you have the skills, knowledge and experience to be competitive?

One of my favorite career management topics is Career Transition Strategy. I love meeting with clients and helping them plan their career transitions. Sadly, many people by necessity or lack of guidance leap from one random job to another. Over time they become both burnt out in their current field and type-cast in their field. This is not surprising since less than 5% of North Americans receive formal training in career management or job search. The other 95% of us are ill equipped for the rigors of a modern job search.

Changing careers can be challenging and risky but can be ultimately very fulfilling. The typical North American will change careers at least three times during their career lifespan and will have an average of three to five different jobs within each career change. Depending on the size and scope of your ambitions it may take one to three jobs to reposition yourself. This is not as daunting as it may seem, since the average North American job only lasts 2-3 years. Thus, planning a career transition is an essential life-skill, and requires strategy and planning. It is unfortunate that so few of us receive any proper training.

Employers are no longer willing or able to take charge of your career direction. You are in charge of your career. Career transitions should be more like a well thought out, strategic game of chess than a random, round of Bingo. Finding a job shouldn't be based solely on luck. Similarly to chess, changing your career will take several strategic career moves. You will need to understand your goals and the goals of your opponent. You will need to determine who else is in the game and what strengths the other competitors have. Whether you are contemplating a minor or major career change, a well thought out plan is required.

During this tumultuous economic time, employers have become much more conservative about hiring candidates. They are not making risky hiring moves, since they do not have any “fat” in their hiring budgets. Each hiring decision is scrutinized much more than it would have been, even two years ago. Managers and Directors are also getting involved since many companies have cut their human resource departments. Thus, a thoughtful and well planned approach is not only logical but essential these days.

Employers will ask you tough interview questions and you will need solid, well reasoned answers. “Why should I hire you?” “Why do you want to work in this industry?” and “What qualifies you for this job?” “Why are you a better choice than the other candidates I interviewed?” A trained Career Counselor can help you during this overwhelming time. Do not jump into a search without doing your homework. Thoroughly assess whether you can transition to this new industry or functional job role. Remember, each job you take typecasts you in a particular direction. You do not want your work experience to be a random assortment of jobs. There should be focus and direction in your career path.

What are your Strengths and Weakness: Conduct a SWOT Analysis to Find Out!

Below is the first section of a template I use with my clients, to help them successfully rebrand themselves and launch a new career. Note: this will be the first article in a multi-part series. Phase 1 includes establishing your career objective, career testing, exploring your career options, and preparing for a new career.

Career Testing and Psychometrics: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

Career Transition Action Plan (Part I)

I) Establish your Career Objective

A. Self Assessment (aptitude, personality, interests, values)
a. Career Leader: Assessment of Business Skills, Aptitudes and Motivators

b. MBTI Meyers Briggs Type Indicator: Leadership Assessment. This is much, more comprehensive than the simple MBTI and it includes a 19 page summary booklet.

c. Culture Active: assessment of your cultural style & intercultural Competency

d.  Tests should be selected based on your unique needs. They should be administered, scored and 
interpreted by a trained, certified Career Counselor

e. Personal exploration and research on careers of interest

f. Informational Interviews with insiders in your chosen field

B. Career Exploration (Self assessment)

SWOT analysis – competitive differentiation and job targets

a. Research career types (National Occupation codes)

b. Research industries and sub-sectors (Vault, Wetfeet, Book of Lists)

c. Research geographic locations (locally, nationally, internationally)

d. Determine maximum commute time & amount of travel you can do

e. Determine your budget (Resistance Point and BATNA)

Negotiate Salary like a Pro: Know your BATNA, Resistance Point and Opening Offer

C. Career Preparation

a. Understand the Career Requirements: review potential jobs. Research your Competitive Advantage.   
Do you have the skills, knowledge and experience which employers require in this field.
b. A career counselor can help you conduct a SWOT analysis and/or a Job Task analysis to determine
fit” If the new job is a stretch, what skills, training or experience will you need to acquire to be

c. Academic: Do you have the correct degrees, certifications and licenses to be competitive in your new
career? How old are your degrees? Can you take refresher, training?

d. Do you have an advantage based on additional activities, industry association memberships, clubs,
trade shows participation, conference presentations or participation?

e. Additional Experience: Do you have any experience in this new, chosen field? Look into securing an
apprenticeship, practicum, internship, volunteering, job shadowing.

Remember that there are major regional differences in the employment outlook.

Job Rebound Map of the USA. Check out your state!

Would you hire yourself? Why or why not? I always encourage my clients to meet with recruiters and employers for informational interviews. Get first-hand feedback about what is required to be competitive. Consult with a high volume, career counselor who has experience with your chosen sector. They can help you determine if your career goals are realistic. They can also help you research whether you would have a competitive advantage in your new, chosen field and if you are the right “personality” fit.

When choosing a career service or career counselor, ask about their approach to testing and counseling. Do they use the same test on every client, regardless of career goals? Do they use a standard job search workshop and or a custom approach? You do not want a one size fits all, cookie cutter job search class or approach. Ideally, you would work with a counselor who gets to know your likes, dislikes, strengths and limitations.

Choosing a Counselor Virtual Career Counseling: Reduce Your Carbon Footprint!

A customized and individualized approach is necessary for any career transition. Coming from a counseling paradigm, I view the individual as unique and use a tailored approach for every single client, whether they are in transition or planning a straight-ahead job search.

Changing careers or changing direction, usually entails a multi-step process. For instance: if you worked as a real estate investor for a land development company, you cannot just decide to be a logistics expert working in a major metro hospital – in one career move. This may sound obvious, but as a high volume career counselor I frequently hear these types of random choices. With 500+ clients on my University caseload each semester, I always access if clients have the skills, knowledge and experience to be competitive *(SKE’s). Ask yourself, how do you know if you are competitive, what’s your level of proof? Reorienting a career which has been derailed by hasty choices is much more difficult than setting logical, goals and following a plan. Similarly to healthy weight maintenance, it is easier to continue with a healthy lifestyle than to have to restart one after “falling off the diet wagon.”

Take control of your career, before it takes control of you.


Author: © 2010 - present. All Rights Reserved - Sharon B. Cohen, MA, Counseling Psychology, CPRP. Licensed Counselor. Career Counselor and Career Transition Specialist.

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  1. Nice information about career switch..explore career options while switching career..

  2. Great article! I agree totally with your recommendation of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator: Leadership Assessment. The work of Dr. Carl Jung that the MBTI is based on gives incredibly valuable information to assist with career transitioning.

  3. MBTI is a valid and reliable instrument if administered by a trained, professional, counselor.

    I use the MBTI in an MBA Graduate Leadership class, to help students' understand their career values, style, teamwork and leadership potential.

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