by Teri Fritsma

As the recession wears on and more than 200,000 Minnesotans find themselves jobless, we keep hearing stories about people who’ve been laid off and are looking to transfer their skills to a brand new industry or occupation.  Whether you change careers out of necessity or in pursuit of your lifelong dream, here are a few tips for a successful transition.

1.  To get past the mental block, stop thinking about your previous job duties.

Many people have a hard time envisioning themselves in a completely new career or industry.  The mere thought of doing something totally different is too hard (or scary) to picture.  If this is you, it may be that you’re focusing too much on what you do in your current job and not on the general, transferable skills that you would bring to any job.

Suppose that in your current or previous job, you were a customer service representative who handled client complaints.  You should recognize that you probably have some good listening and social skills that can transfer to a new job, like Personal & Home Care Aide or Social & Community Service Manager.  Or suppose you were an estimator who measured square footage and calculated costs of remodeling jobs. You probably have pretty strong quantitative reasoning skills that will serve you well in a variety of jobs — for example, you could think about becoming a Surveying & Mapping Technician or an Operations Research Analyst.  The point is to think less about your past job duties and more about those skills and talents you possess that are going to take you to your new career.


2. Identify your transferable skills.

If you’re having trouble figuring out what you’re really good at, try this activity.  Think about your last three jobs.  (If you’ve never worked before, then think about your work at home, volunteer activities, hobbies or things you liked to do as a kid.)  Then write a paragraph or two about the five activities you enjoyed most, either at work or at home.  What are some of the common activities you see in your list?   Do you really enjoy working with people?  Do you like to investigate questions or problems?  Do you enjoy repairing equipment or troubleshooting mechanical problems?  What are those general, transferable qualities that you can take with you to any job?


3. Take ISEEK’s Skills Assessment or the MNCareers Interest Assessment.

I’m biased because I work for ISEEK, but we have some great tools to help you figure out how well your skills and interests match up to different careers.  Our assessment are free (you aren’t going to have to enter a credit card number at the end, or give us personal information), and you’ll get your results right away.  If you take the skills assessment, you’ll rate yourself on 35 different skills, then see which occupations are a good match for you.  The interest assessment is also useful for people who haven’t worked before or who aren’t sure what their skills are.


Most importantly, remember that changing careers is common — in fact, it’s so common these days that there are some great resources available to help get you started.  Go for it!

3 thoughts on “Transitioning to a new career

  1. I’ll be the first to say it will not be easy but amazing things can happen.

    In 2001 it was somewhat like this job market when I was out of a job. I took one class at the MN WorkForce Center called career exploration. Best thing I ever did for myself. Then I turned up my progress on finishing my college degree. I remember thinking that I’d like to be training and presenting as the person was at the MN WorkForce Center.

    During my education, I found myself involved with the college job bank and programs related to job training.

    Well I finished my degree and my second job was working with the state career website and the national career website. The next position that opened up for me was a job with the job bank from the state for employers and seekers, I now often find myself presenting and training at the MN WorkForce Centers today!

    With my persistence and passion, it all fell into place. I’ve never been happier in a job than I am today. But it would not have been possible had I not been out of a job during a bad economy because it pushed me to finish my college degree and seek out where my work passion exisited.


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