Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Kristen Fife's Blog

The Realities Of A Radical Career Change

2014-08-12 21:33:46

I have had two long time friends tell me in the last six months that they want to make pretty significant career changes. They both believe that they have highly transferable skills that will make it easy for them to find jobs wherever they decide they want to be in a new industry. However, most professionals in this situation don't understand that just because you *can* do something doesn't mean you will be hired to do it, especially when the competition has current, relevant skills that don't require a ramp up time or a significant investment on the part of a new company beyond giving them the internal tools and helping them fit into the company culturally.

It is a problem and misconception that many senior professionals have; that experience in either a role or industry is highly transferable, and without a significant loss of income. When someone is looking at making a radical career change, I recommend they considering investing in a Career Counselor or Coach. I asked my friend Janet Civitelli, a Career Counselor at Vocation Village to weigh in on how she has helped clients looking to make this sort of transition wth a Q & A.

When you have a client that comes to you wanting to make a radical career change, how do you respond?

I start by performing an evaluation of a client's current situation. If the client decides to hire me as a career coach for structure and support, we work together to assess the client's strengths and challenges, make decisions, create actionable steps, and overcome obstacles.

How long does it generally take to completely switch careers or industries (with/without additional educational actions)?

It can take just a few months if someone invites you to follow a path even if you don't have any track record in that area, but this is not typical. It can take years to transition into some specialized fields that require advanced degrees, credentialing, or licensing.

What kind of skills inventories do you use to help clients identify their needs?

I am constantly evaluating assessment tools. Some of my current favorites are listed here: List of Assessments

Do you address emotional issues that may be impacting a client’s desire for a change?

Absolutely yes. That's one of the reasons my background as a psychologist is helpful.

Is there a specific methodology you use for a career transition plan?

Each client is unique but in general, the steps in making a career transition are:

1. Identify the client's strengths, interests, values, and personality.
2. Evaluate options and how to build on the client's previous track record to transition into new possibilities.
3. Experiment with options to reality test the fit. Do this in the least expensive ways possible in terms of time and money.
4. Start taking steps toward the new path because making this investment is worth it in the long run given most people will be working for many more decades.
5. Learn as you go, re-evaluate, and course correct because many people find that as they change and the world changes, their goals evolve, too.

What advice do you give to professionals considering radical career moves?

All of life involves tradeoffs. There is no such thing as a cost-free radical career move so I recommend proceeding in a strategic, intentional way to maximize the chances that the long-term outcomes are good.


As a seasoned recruiter, I can tell you that hiring managers are generally looking for candidates that have up to date skills and/or current industry experience (you can train on one - skills OR industry, but generally not both quickly). Every industry changes regularly: tools, business model, audience/customer base, and product/service evolution. Employees need to be able to jump in and be productive in a relatively short time (usually the first 60-90 days). The exception to this rule is usually new graduates, because they come directly out of school in a learning mode, and have no outdated skills or industry insights to unlearn.

If you are thinking of a major career change as an employee of someone else, keep in mind that your best bet is to make incremental, lateral moves. Your same job in a new industry, or a different but not radically different job in your current industry. Deciding to chuck your entire career of the last 15 years because you want to try "something different" is often an unrealistic fantasy, especially if you don't have significant money in the bank to see you through a multi-year transition. You need a realistic transition plan or you will find yourself frustrated, unhappy, and unemployed.

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