Q&A: Career ch-ch-changes

March 27, 2009

If you're not enjoying your current job, you've recently lost your job or you're worried about future job security--you might feel it's time to change careers. But are these good reasons to find a new occupation? And if they are, how should you go about making the change? Judith Hoppin, president of the National Career Development Association, has some perspective on the issue. Hoppin has been a career counselor for more than 20 years and currently teaches career development classes at Oakland University in Michigan. Below, she draws on her experience to provide much-needed advice.

1. How do I know when it's time to change careers?

There are several cues for you to decide when to change careers:

You no longer enjoy or value the work you are doing.

Your occupation is in decline or outsourced.

Your industry is in decline and you would like to find a career in a growing industry.

You have lost your job and you think it's time to do something you really always wanted to do.

2. In this economy, is changing careers a wise or risky choice?

It depends on your circumstances. The latest issue of Time Magazine has an article that essentially says the new security is your job. So, if you think your job and employer is secure, now is not the time to quit your job but that doesn't mean you can't prepare for a new career by developing new skills, knowledge and experience.

3. What should be my first steps in trying to change careers -- ┬Łgetting advice, signing up for retraining classes?

Contact and work with a career counselor who can guide you through the steps of career planning and provide assessments of your interests, values, skills, and abilities. They can also provide you with ways to research future jobs and the labor market. It is important to work on a career plan before signing up for retraining classes so that you are retraining for occupations that are in demand and will be satisfying for you. A guide to finding the criteria for choosing a qualified career counselor can be found on the National Career Development Association website.

4. What kinds of industries look promising and would be ripe to enter into?

Any type of industry or occupation that can't be outsourced. Green industries, health care and services, services for older adults, STEM industries and related occupations are a few. You can access occupational information, labor market projections and much more at the following links: Occupational Outlook Handbook, America's Career One Stop and O*net on-line.

5. What advice do you have for people looking to or considering changing careers?

Make sure it is your career or job you are unhappy with not just the place where you work. Consider whether the new career fits your values, interests, personality, skills and abilities. Check occupational and labor market projections. And finally talk to several people who do the kind of work you are considering. They can give you inside information that will not be found in the on-line resources.