By Larry Buhl
If your career prospects have stalled or you've lost your passion for your work, you might not need to make a radical change to a new industry. Instead, you may be able to take an alternative route in your current career -- by using your industry expertise in a new way, advises career expert and author Laurence Shatkin. "In almost any industry where you have an insider's knowledge, you can make a change within that field and maybe earn more," he says.
If want to reroute your career, you could:
Teachers are everywhere -- in schools, colleges and all types of companies. Larger corporations use trainers to instruct employees in company procedures, benefits and software use. Being able to conduct distance learning or other kinds of online instruction may make you especially marketable. You'll likely need some sort of teaching experience, whether one-on-one, in a classroom or in a seminar. In some training careers, additional coursework and certification are necessary.
For example, a sales manager could become a sales-training manager, or a software-development manager could become an IT trainer.
Activists, trade organizers and lobbyists are all advocates. You can find these opportunities with public-relations firms, trade organizations, unions and special-interest groups. Public-service jobs for consumer advocates are available at all levels of government, from federal to municipal. An assertive personality helps, and industry expertise is often more important than a specific college degree. To gain experience and visibility, start by volunteering with a citizens' group or a nonprofit consumer organization.
For example, a malpractice attorney could become a healthcare lobbyist, or a food-industry sales manager could become a food-safety expert.
There are many opportunities to communicate what you know. For instance, technical writing is a growing and lucrative field for professionals in fields such as software development, computer-systems design and engineering. Insiders in a variety of industries could write about it for advertising agencies or as nonfiction authors. Beef up your writing skills with a class or two, and gain experience by volunteering to write for industry newsletters. Or start a blog (but post news about your industry, not about your cat).
For example, a computer programmer could become a software-documentation writer, or a financial planner could become a financial reporter.
If you have a strong understanding of your industry, there may be something you could sell. If you don't think you're the "selling type," look for opportunities to be a broker, bringing buyers and sellers together. Sales jobs usually don't require specific college degrees (although some industries require licenses). More important are persuasiveness and persistence. Some experience with sales, as well as a thick skin and a gregarious personality, will also help.
For instance, an insurance-claims adjuster could become an insurance broker, or a retail-industry marketing manager could become a sales manager.
Federal and state governments, large universities and major industries have think tanks employing a variety of policy analysts in a wide range of topics, such as public health, education and water rights, just to name a few. For-profit companies need a variety of analysts to forecast budgets, assess risks and project changes in the industry. Extensive experience in some aspect of your field and a related (usually advanced) degree are required. Experience in conducting research or writing and presenting reports is helpful.
For instance, a tax accountant could become a management analyst, or a hospital administrator could become a disease-prevention policy analyst.
Preparing to Take a Detour
Making a career change within the same industry may be easier than starting a new career, but it does require some homework. Experts suggest several ways to prepare:
- Gain Experience Now: "Experience can come not only from paid work, but also from hobbies, volunteering and independent consulting, so it's important to actually do what you're wanting to do before you take the career side step," says career coach Deborah Brown-Volkman.
- Get Training: This doesn't necessarily mean an extra degree or even a year of classroom time. It could mean a one-day sales seminar or an evening writing class.
- Tailor Your Resume: Brown-Volkman says that professionals must use their resume to demonstrate that they can do the job they want to have. "If a recruiter, for example, wants to shift to training, maybe he or she has done some teaching already, such as a seminar or informal training of associates" she says. "It's all valid."
- Start Where You Work: If you have a job, the easiest way to take a new route is to do so within your own company, according to Shatkin. "The people already know you and presumably like you," he says. "If there is a need for someone in the position you want, they may even train you to do it on their dime."
When you're taking your career in a new direction, the key is flexibility and creative thinking, Shatkin says. "If there's a need for your expertise, there's a career for you -- even if you have to design your own career," he says. Articles in This Feature: