Second Career Danger Zone Ahead: 5 Questions to ask before leaping
About to embark on a second career, or even a third? Maybe yours will send you back to school for the first time in years. Like any transition, that can be exciting and scary at the same time.
You completed an intensive career exploration program and found a career where you can be remarkable, given your temperament and interests. They’re saying employers will line up to hire you when you graduate in two years.
Career Exploration is just a first step toward a second career
There are a few more questions you need to answer. I don’t mean the kind of answers you can’t get from the recruiting officer at the local college or by surfing the internet. I mean the honest, unbiased answers you only get from talking to people who actually hire in the new field.
I’ve experienced first-hand a second career transition, from retail lumber manager to corporate banking after an MBA. My resume wasn’t anything like corporate recruiters were seeking. Had I known then what I know now, I could have changed that resume significantly with some targeted activities during my time as a student. In my resume, my appearance and in my answers job interview questions, I needed to look like someone who had already made the transition from manager of a lumber yard to an executive position.
If your new career is a very predictable extension of your current career, you don’t need to concern yourself much with these 5 issues. But if there is little or no continuation from old to new, like truck driver to restaurant manager or plumber to librarian, they may matter a lot when it comes to your jobsearch.
You only need one job, but….
Add your new diploma to your current resume. Imagine that you are applying today for the position you want in two years. What’s missing?
Need more accomplishments? If so, between now and graduation, you need to create enough significant accomplishments to make you remarkable.And just completing the requirements of your program won’t make you remarkable.
Suppose your career exploration tells you financial planning would be just right for you. Your dream will differ but the basic issues are the same.
5 Questions to ask before investing your time and money:
1. What is the real demand for you in that second career?
Don’t trust biased sources or statistics showing 6 entry-level openings for financial planning in your home town. Are they salaried positions or is it really self-employment on pure commission with no cash inflow any time soon?
2. What do people actually do in your second career?
If making a cold call triggers a panic attack, face that now. Whatever it takes to be remarkable in your new field, learn about it now and ask yourself if you are willing to stray that far from your current comfort zone.
At graduation, employers will expect you to already have a track record of excellence in the skills that will predict a winner. Embrace every opportunity in your program to show that cold calls or closing a sale won’t be an obstacle for you.
3. What are the real barriers to entering this career?
If you belong to some group that the industry overlooks, know that up front. It does not mean that you shouldn’t try. In financial planning, being middle-aged brings credibility but in others it is a clear liability. But if your age puts you in the bottom third when applicants are ranked by employers, what are you going to do to move yourself up into the top third that gets the best jobs?
It just doesn’t make sense to start a second career hoping that being in the bottom third of your graduating class will be good enough. I’m not talking about grades. I’m talking about the ranking employers will perform on you and your classmates when they decide which applicant to interview. Grades are only one factor.
Read Cal Newport’s wonderful book So Good They Can’t Ignore You. Do something remarkable before you send out your resume. Maybe even two things.
4. What’s the competition like for graduates in your program?
A prospective employer will interview you and five or six other candidates for the same financial planning position. When you are ranked in terms of the hiring criteria that the interviewer values, will they be remarkable or will you?
You can learn a lot about some of those criteria by looking at job postings, but there is no substitute for information interviews with hiring managers from target companies.
Right now you are not yet available for a position in the new field, so they’re likely to give you pretty honest answers to most questions. They’ll respect your initiative.
What qualities have they seen in recent hires who worked out very well?t.
Your career exploration suggested you’d be amazing in a financial planning career. Do information interviews concur?
5. Are you willing to become remarkable?
It’s not just about handling this transition. Will you take the actions over the next three or four years that boost you into the top third for the next job applications? Saying yes will dramatically boost your chance of really thriving instead of just scraping by. Plan now to be very remarkable. Yes, you can.
I chose financial planning as an understandable illustration of these issues. Your new career will have it’s own challenges for you.
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I do not receive any benefits from recommending Cal Newport’s book. So Good They Can’t Ignore You