Vicki Lind, MS
Vicki helps clients develop vibrant careers in Portland’s creative, sustainable, non-profit, and health-care communities. As a career counselor, she assists with tailoring resumes, practicing interviewing, and honing job-search strategies. As a marketing coach, she facilitates identification of a marketing plan that matches the individual.
Career Transition: How Long Will It Take? Part I
The career transition process is simultaneously a strategic, step by step process and an unpredictable journey. Examine your preconceived notions about what it will take to transition and give yourself a flexible time-frame as well as options for increased support. As you go through the process, be open to both happy and unhappy surprises that take you off of a pre-ordained linear track.
You may be gingerly exploring a career option, when a full-blown great opportunity gets presented to you. Or, conversely, you may think that you are closing in on a perfect fit, and find that a door is unexpectedly slammed shut without explanation. When you feel discouraged, be aware that when you come from your deepest interests and values, people tend to respond affirmatively and help you in totally unexpected ways. Stay open to see when light appears under a door that initially appeared unwelcoming and tightly shut.
Over the last fifteen years, I’ve traveled the career transition journey with hundreds of clients and I’ve seen some meet their goal of a new job or career in as little as two months and as many as two-plus years of committed attention. Statistics indicate that it takes an average professional six months to get a new job in the same field; statistics say that it can take up to two years to change careers entirely. Below are six factors that can either help your transition move quickly or be a barrier that you need to acknowledge and address to move more smoothly towards your career vision.
Two months to over two years of transition time is quite a range. To get a closer estimate for your situation, examine these six pairs of factors that correlate with a faster or slower transition. My purpose is to help you establish a realistic time-line and make intermediate steps or back-up plans while working towards your goal of a new career path. If you have more challenging factors in your situation, be prepared to make a plan that will allow you to tailor solutions to those challenges. If you have the advantage factor (in any of the pairs), think about how you can leverage it to save time. Be thankful for it. If the idea of a two year career transition intimidates you, consider intermediate goals, and think about what support you need to help with the challenging factors.
Financial Resources vs. Financial Crisis
It is ideal to have the funds to support yourself while you gain new skills, carry out strategic volunteering and network in professional associations. If you are in financial crisis and don’t have the option of staying in a current job, you may need to consider temporary employment, drawing on the comfort of knowing you are meeting your primary needs for food and shelter. You will be able to think more creatively and optimistically about career transition strategies, once you know that you are able to pay the bills.
If you need to stay in your current position for longer than you hoped, consider it temporary, and pay down bills and/or save money to support your career transition. Explore options to work part time or on contract for your current employer to allow more time for pursuing your true career interests. As always, live simply and experiment with lifestyle choices to reduce expenses and help create and expand your options.
If you need a new job right away, you will need to search in a narrower realm that matches your past experience and skills. You may want to consider project or contract work so that you are not tied down in a career area where your interest has expired.
Available Time vs. Time Crunch
Most job searches proceed more quickly if you have more time to commit to learning new skills, networking, and crafting resumes. You’ve probably heard “It is a full time job to get a job.” I disagree. While learning new skills, networking, and crafting resumes can become enjoyable, I think that strategically committing twenty to thirty hours a week is plenty.
If you are currently locked into working forty or more hours a week, you will be limited to an evening or two per week, which may slow progress. When time is limited, I encourage you to think creatively about how to do double duty. For example, can your employer send you to a technical training relevant to both your current position, and (unbeknownst to them) in high demand for your future desired career? Perhaps you can become more strategic with your volunteer activities. For example, if you are looking towards the still-growing area of energy efficiency, you could duck out of the SOLV beach clean-up and volunteer on a committee for the Association of Energy Service Professional (AESP).
Geographical Restrictions vs. Geographical Freedom
Because Portland is full of wonderful professionals with deep backgrounds in creative fields, sustainability and social justice, competition is fierce for positions in organizations with strong reputations. If Portland is your first choice, then you might want to budget a period of time in which to find a new position. If job openings are too sparse when the time is up, then consider a broader geographical range. If you have a family, they may be more open to relocation if they see that you have turned over every soggy stone in Portland.
PART II will include Technical Competence vs. Technical Phobia, Expertise in a Robust vs. a Crowded Industry, and Emotional Resilience vs. Emotional Vulnerability.