Do you work two jobs – one in an office setting that is paying your bills and the other from your home computer that is nurturing your creative side?
Is your company downsizing and outsourcing and you fear your position is the next to go?
Are you planning to return to school for another degree?
If your answer is “yes” to any of those questions, you are not alone. White collar America– in which workers tended to work for the same company for their entire career – has shifted. Second careers are becoming the new normal.
The reasons for the shift reflect the economic, technological and lifestyle changes the early 21st century has brought us. Growing numbers of young entrepreneurs long to start their own web-based businesses. Other workers are tired of waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop that lands them out of a job in this lingering recession. Some workers are nearing retirement age but simply cannot afford to retire. Still other Americans — across the age spectrum — are feeling burned out by their careers and are seeking more fulfillment in their work.
You could say that we simply don’t feel the same way about our careers as we once did. In fact, a 2012 study by Mercer, a human resources consulting firm, found that Americans are less satisfied with their jobs than they were five years ago, and one out of three workers is considering leaving his or her job.
Whether you hope to start a business or you are simply seeking a change in your life, there are some steps you need to take to successfully launch a second career.
Steps you need to take to Start a New Career
Asses your situation
There’s an old theater joke in which a director warns a struggling actor, “Don’t give up your day job.” It makes sense here. Don’t quit your job until you have taken stock of your financial situation. A MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures survey of 2,500 people who changed careers found that the transition took an average of 18 months. One-fourth of the respondents said they earned no income during their career transition. Almost four out of five of those respondents said that lean period lasted six months or more.
Even if you are itching to make a career change, stay employed as long as you can to build up the capital you need for your new venture. Be realistic about how much money you need to pay your bills. Think about any ways you can cut down on current expenses.
Now, take a look at your abilities. Launching a new career doesn’t have to mean starting completely over. Brainstorm ways can you use the skills and experience you have developed in a new way.
Research the job market
Do your homework. It’s easy to get caught up in a new idea, but you need to find out if your idea will translate into an income. Check out The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/. It gives assessments of different jobs, including the skills required, salary ranges, and projected growth. You’ll find, for instance, that although current career opportunities in the fields of real estate or construction are still flat in most of the country, opportunities in health care and education are growing.
Are there gaps in your education that you need to fill to launch this new career? Think about ways to get the training you need. Most colleges and universities offer flexible enrollment options, including evening, weekend and online learning options. Also check out continuing education classes, seminars and workshops in your area of interest.
Consider volunteer work that could help you gain insight in your new field. Is a software design career calling your name? Offer to build or revamp a local non-profit’s website. Have you always wanted to be a photographer? Offer to shoot a friend’s engagement photos.
Another idea is to talk with someone who is established in your area of interest. Perhaps you could “shadow” him or her for a day. Or he or she might be open to meeting for coffee in order to answer your questions about how to get started. Most people are happy to share their work-related experiences with someone who is starting out on the same path.
In addition, you can join discussion groups and read blogs by those who have entered your new field of interest to see what has worked for them. Re-connect with any former classmates or co-workers who may have made a similar career transition.
In order to make a second career work, you need to be patient and willing to bend. Chances are you will be making less money than you were before the switch. You also may be lower in status at your new job for a while. Be patient with yourself. Remind yourself of why you are doing this change, and give yourself a break.
There’s something to be said for following your gut in a career switch. You may hear a lot of nay-sayers telling you to wait, to stay where you are, that it’s too risky. If you have successfully completed the first steps, then it’s time to have confidence that this is the right move for you. Surround yourself with supportive people and separate yourself from negative influences.
Americans are staying in the workforce longer than ever before. A tight economy coupled with people staying healthier and active longer has pushed retirement age back. A 2013 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute shows that about 25 percent of workers expect to retire at a later age than they expected a year ago.
If you can’t see yourself staying put in your current career, the time may be right for you to launch a new one.
Mercer human resource consulting, http://www.mercer.com/articles/cost-of-living-2012
National Commission on Entrepreneurship, http://www.orie.gr/download/whitepap.pdf
Employee Benefit Research Institute, http://www.ebri.org/pdf/surveys/rcs/2013/Final-FS.RCS-13.FS_2.Expects.FINAL.pdf