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Written by Carmen Turner, MBA, FP&A
So you want to transition from a job to a career?
Well, let’s first identify the difference.
Job: a paid position of regular employment.
Career: an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.
Transitioning from a job to a career can be a daunting task, especially if the transition is out of your current industry. Daunting, YES – impossible, NO. How do I know? In 2006, I started my transition from “jobs” to my current career in Finance. Honestly, my transition started way before that but let’s call that the official year.
In my past jobs, I was always seeking challenges and wanting to improve my knowledge and skill set. Prior to my career in Finance, I was in the manufacturing industry and held various jobs including Education and Training Coordinator and Electrician. While I could have made a career out of either of those positions, I knew that Finance was my true passion. I knew the transition wouldn’t be easy but with careful planning and preparation could be achieved.
There are several steps required when transitioning from a job to a career. Here is the process that I followed and recommend for a successful transition.
Research the Industry
Researching the industry is critical. This is probably what you are going to be doing for a long time so make sure you fully understand the career you are choosing, nothing worse than transitioning to a career only to find out that is not a fit for you. I researched the Finance industry and which path I wanted to pursue.
One of the resources that I used was the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It provided insight into the Finance Industry including a description of the types of positions, opportunities and the salary range. In addition, I spoke with people in the industry to get an idea of their opportunities, the daily routines and the skills required. I even participated in “Day in the Life” events where I spent time shadowing a finance professional. After determining the career path, the next step is to evaluate your skill-set.
Assess Current Skills vs Skills Required
While I didn’t have experience directly related to Finance, I knew that some of my skills would be transferable. Lots of skills are transferable so take the time to see how your current skill-set can be applied. After evaluating my skill-set and gathering all of the information, I determined that for advancement opportunities I would need to get an advanced degree. All transitions won’t necessarily require an advanced degree but may require some type of certification; it will depend on the industry and career path. After identifying what is required, the next step is to create a transition plan.
Career Transition Plan
A career transition plan should include a full assessment of when to leave your current job, which school to attend, which professional groups to pursue and how to start building your network. Waiting until the end of the process to join professional groups and network is too late. This process has to start at the beginning of your transition. While pursuing my MBA, I made sure to be as active as possible in professional groups, volunteering, school events and networking. Volunteering provided an opportunity for me to expand my skill-set and network. Professional groups and school events allowed me to make connections that proved useful later.
The transition plan should also include a financial plan, as it may take some time to land your position. Being prepared financially for me was critical, especially since I was going back to school full time. This is a very important step and should be thorough.
All in all, my transition took about 2 ½ years from start to finish. I landed my first Finance position about 4 months after I completed my MBA. I have worked in different industries within Finance and held various positions including my current role as Manager. I have about 7 years in industry now and enjoy what I do.
So if you are undecided about whether to transition or not, I say just do it!