Where Do I Start When I Want to Change Careers?

A reader who recently lost his job ponders tackling a new career path, but has some questions about the process.


I am in my mid-30's and recently lost my job. I am thinking about switching careers. I don't know what I want to do.  Where do I start? How can I figure out what I would like to do and what I would be good at?

Soul Searching in Solebury


Dear Searching,

Believe it or not, losing your job could be good news.  Many successful people say that getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to them.  It forced them to take a long hard look at themselves and their aspirations.

With that being said, know that you are not alone.  Many Americans are considering a new career path.  The good news is you have choices and lots of them. However, taking the leap into a new career isn't always easy.   Here are a few suggestions:

First, make a list of what you DON'T want to do.  Think about the things that you disliked about your last job.  Did you hate working in a cubicle? Did you not regret not being able to make your son's soccer games, or the constant traveling? Put it on the list.

Next, make a list of activities and hobbies that you enjoy.  Try not to leave anything out. You never know where a particular activity or interest may lead you.  You might find that you enjoy fishing and journaling and that could lead you to a job at a fishing magazine. Be open and honest with yourself.  You don't need to share this list with anyone.  It's just for you. 

The next step is to brainstorm a list of adjectives that describe you.   Are you outgoing, tenacious and eloquent?  You might be great at sales.  Are you inquisitive and thorough?   Research or crime investigation may be a great area to pursue.   If you're having trouble making the list, ask friends and family for input.  Tell them to be honest and positive.  You want to focus on the best of who you are. 

Another important consideration is the type of environment in which you want to work.  Do you want to wear a suit to work every day, or do you prefer casual attire?  Some companies have a strict dress code, while others are business causal.  Do you want to work around lots of people, or do you prefer solitude? Would you like to work indoors or outside? 

Once you have done these things, begin to research companies and careers that will match your personality.  There are a few quick and comprehensive career assessments that can help. I recommend the Meyers-Briggs Assessment and the Strong Inventory.  Several websites allow you to take them online for a small fee.  Another great option is to visit a career counselor.  The services they provide usually come at a sizeable cost, but often prove to be a worthwhile investment. 

Finally, you can check out your local library for books on this topic. I recommend What Color is Your Parachute, by Richard N. Bolles., and No More Mondays by Dan Miller.

Good luck and happy hunting!



James Peter February 15, 2011 at 09:25 PM
Good advice!! Another good book on this topic is "What Should I Do with My Life" by Po Bronson.
Kitty Crosley February 18, 2011 at 11:17 PM
wow... that was great advice! Thanks.


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