Six Secrets of Career ChangersFiled under: Career Advice, Career Change Print ArticlePosted Jun 9th 2010 12:42PMBy Barbara Safani Many of us dream about changing careers. But what separates the dreamers from thedoers? Do successful career changers possess certain traits or do certain things? I recently met with two careerchangers to learn more about what worked for them during their transitions to new careers.Barry Kleiman left a 25-year career as an Equity Trader after being downsized in June 2008. It wasnt very longbefore he realized that the job as he had known it no longer existed and he wasnt going to land on The Street again.He started working with Career Counselor and Coach and President of CareerCounsel, Linsey Levine, in September2008, and became a small business owner in March 2009.-- Find out what your dream job could earn you.Pamela Tucker had spent 10 years as a marketing and communications consultant for financial services firms; whileworking with Linsey, she unearthed her passion for fashion and the retail industry and she landed her job as managerof Gift Cards and Credit Services for a nationally recognized upscale retail store after a nine-month career-transitionjourney.Realistic goals Before embarking on a career change, its important to examine the path ahead of you.You need to take an inventory of your interests, skills, values, and abilities and review them in the context of what istransferable to a new career. You need to determine whether your new career target requires retraining or anadvanced degree. A career change takes time, support from others, patience, flexibility, and sacrifice. Many careerchangers need to keep their current job while working on their new career in the evenings and weekends. Othersneed to sacrifice their savings in order to tide them over until their new career becomes a reality.
Kleimans initial exploration of career change included an assortment of career assessments and exercises and thenresearch into several positions that surfaced as viable options for him based on transferable skills and compatibility.But each one was ruled out for different reasons -- including length of time necessary to generate adequate income,potential for age discrimination, unacceptable lifestyle change, or undesirable geography. He also looked atentrepreneurship, but the expenses associated with starting a business from scratch seemed prohibitive."As I felt I was running out of options, my career counselor suggested I explore franchising, and my response wasDunkin Donuts? I dont think so," recalls Kleiman. "She referred me to a franchise consultant and I started gettingeducated about franchising and examining business models he felt had the potential to meet my goals, needs, andexpectations. During my exploration process, I became interested in the role my franchise consultant had and I cameupon The Entrepreneur Source, a 25-year-old consulting firm that had been franchising for 10 years."RelevanceYou cant expect to be taken seriously in a new career if you dont have the business chops to back up your newprofession. In many cases, you will need to re-train or gain relevant experience on a part-time, volunteer, orinternship basis in order to make your dream a reality.Tucker enrolled in a Retail Advancement Essentials certificate program at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NewYork City to gain knowledge of the retail industry and make new industry connections. Kleiman went through severalweeks of intensive training over a five-month period at The Entrepreneurs Source Performance Enhancement Centerand also at their annual conference. He met with other franchisees from all over the country to swap best practicesand learn from each other.ResearchResearch on company targets and key decision makers at those companies is critical during a career transition. Youdont only want to look at positions that are available right now. You also want to look at ways to create relationshipswith employers before there is a job opening. If you can build that relationship before they need to fill a position, youincrease the chances of being considered for an opening if one presents itself in the near future. If you build therelationship before you need it, you become a warm lead rather than a cold call once a position is posted.Tucker partnered with a career-research service to obtain lists of New York City-based retail and apparel companiesand she targeted managers in the strategy area at those firms. She wrote customized letters that included informationabout those firms. She received a call back from someone who was impressed with her knowledge of the companyand that led to an interview. She ended up meeting with the CFO, who said they didnt have any jobs at the moment;but at the end of the conversation, he mentioned that the company was working on an initiative with gift cards. Tuckerdid research at home and at the library to put together a proposal on the threats and opportunities/outlook for giftcards and sent it to the CFO.PersistenceA career change takes an enormous amount of persistence, and at times even a thick skin. You need to hear a lot of"nos" before you can hear a yes. The more doors you knock on, the greater the likelihood that someone will grant youa meeting or give you a valuable piece of information. Not everyone will return your calls immediately or agree tomeet with you right away. Some wont return your calls at all. The key is to keep trying.After two weeks and no response from Tuckers proposal mentioned above, she found an article in Womens WearDaily about gift cards and called the CFO to mention it to him. He set up a meeting for her to present her idea to himand other staff members. The meeting was well-received but still she didnt hear back. "Several weeks later I saw ajob posted for a manager, Gift Cards and Credit Services position. I contacted the CFO who first thought I was toosenior for the position. I convinced him otherwise and I landed the job," Tucker says.Confidence
Because many career changers experience periods of self-doubt during the transition period, it is important tosurround yourself with people who believe in you and can boost your confidence. Rejection and factors that arebeyond your control are often part of the process -- but that shouldnt make you abandon your goals.Kleiman launched his business April 1, 2009. He commented, "the market had cratered in March and there was nocredit available for business buyers. The economic armageddon made people even more risk-averse than usual. Istruggled more than I had anticipated at first. I was doubting my decision and I responded by doubling my effortswhich has paid off. I am seeing the results that made me choose this to begin with as well as deriving a lot ofsatisfaction from helping people change their lives. The lifestyle change (flexible hours and no commute) I have withthis business model is also paying the intended dividends -- being able to attend more of my childrens activities."Tucker remembers getting many nos before she got a yes. Some people she met with were skeptical of her intentionsto change careers and asked why she wanted a job at a lower level or with less salary. They expressed concern thatshe would get bored and leave for a higher paying job in her previous industry. Others seemed uncomfortable withthe fact that she would be one of the older people in a more junior role. She kept at it, feeling sure this new careerpath was right for her and that she would find a place in the industry.CollaborationBoth Tucker and Kleiman agree that their career coach, Linsey Levine, was instrumental in their success. SaysTucker: "Linsey served as a guide and an objective person to assess my skills and keep me on track."Adds Kleiman: "Linsey helped keep me focused, kept the process moving forward, helped me to think outside the boxat possibilities I wouldnt have considered on my own, and didnt allow me to hold myself back. She held meaccountable to my goals and helped me deal with some of my fears as well."