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Snoozing at your desk? Time for a job change!
Shailja Mehta
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February 22, 2008

Changing careers isn't a luxury pastime or a path filled with roses.

For many of us, it's required if we want to ensure a steady paycheck. As industries mature, grow or falter, some jobs simply disappear. This makes career change inevitable, whether it's our own choice or we're forced into it because of a termination.

Many people have given up seemingly secure banking, government jobs etc and have opted for software jobs, creative jobs and even freelance options. All you need, really, is a bit of courage, a dash of self belief and some clarity of thought and you can join the band of people who have successfully changed careers.

Don't fret because of initial set backs -- the cash flow may not be heavy in the beginning and new environments might be daunting, but it will all pass. Once you are up and over that learning curve, nothing can stop you

If you are contemplating a change in your career but are hesitant to make the transition, assure yourself that it is never too late to choose anew. Inherent within the human spirit is the desire for fulfillment, a longing to carry out our creative aspirations by reaching new heights of accomplishment.

Often, however, the yearning can be suppressed by fear. Perhaps we aren't feeling good enough, smart enough or able enough to pursue and fulfill our dreams. As a matter of fact, many people change career directions several times throughout their lifetimes and some don't even discover their true passion until much later in life. If you are not living your career dreams and have been putting them aside because you're terrified of trying something new, now is the time to take a stand.

The one way you won't make your dreams a reality is by ignoring them. To bring them into actuality, one simply needs to step out and begin living them. There are no magical answers and no formulas prescribed with guarantees. There are only opportunities. You merely have to make a decision that you are going to do it and then follow through. You'll be called upon to express boldness as well as a willingness to take chances, but the key to reinventing yourself requires the willingness to step outside of your comfort zone. How else will you know what you're made of or what you're capable of, if you don't explore your potential?

Not long ago, I met Bangalore-based Ekta Seth. At 28 years of age, she had a good deal of web designing expertise as well as content writing experience but was working as a secretary. "I was not very happy with my job and wanted to move forward, but didn't know how to go about it," she explains. In spite of the fact that Ekta was involved in a number of creative endeavours on a consistent basis, as a very talented young woman the only thing that was lacking was confidence in her own ability to step into a new role.

By leaving your comfort zone and doing what you feel is right despite your fears and uncertainties, you will be demonstrating a commitment to yourself. A 35-year-old administration executive from Chennai, Sameer Desai* pursued his passion by studying multimedia via distance learning. "In my free time I created images for publications and eventually went on to create my own website, along with my portfolio and contact details. I also updated myself on modern technologies." Sameer got involved in various reputed projects and is currently learning a programming language.

Of course, you'll have your moments and possibly doubt yourself at times, but remember nothing ventured nothing gained. It is highly recommended that you do not allow fear to prevent you from living your career dreams, but simply give yourself permission to do the very thing you've wanted to do all your life.

A 32-year-old Mumbai psychologist, Bharat Chitkara was burned out by the stress of managing his practice of five years, which specialised in eating disorders among teenagers. A bachelor, he wanted a less stressful position that gave him the chance to travel. He developed a resume and cover letter pointing out his knowledge in development, training and human relations. After a four-month job search he landed a position in organisational development in a reputed company. The job allows him to see the results of his work quickly and offers him the opportunity to travel nationally and internationally, which he describes as a major perk." I couldn't be happier," he says. "Changing my career path was the best decision I've ever made."

Anyone can change his or her career path. Start by reviewing your skills and understanding how they can be applied in a different environment. Career change means learning about yourself and what you really enjoy doing. If you're happy at your job, your odds of being successful at it are greatly enhanced. In short, explore your options, set goals and make plans to develop yourself to fit your new career path. The following tips may be helpful if you're seriously considering a career change:

~ Choose to do what you enjoy

First off, you may want to decide if it's your career or your job that needs changing. If you find that your company or industry holds promise, you may want to consider if there is another position within the company that would be more compatible with your job skills and interests. Don't be afraid to talk to your boss and to ask around in your company about other available positions. Employers have an investment in their employees, and an employee that expresses the need for growth and more responsibility can be considered an asset.

Career dissatisfaction in its extreme has been linked to early mortality. Greek mythology outlines a story about how Sisyphus, a king who displeased the gods, was condemned to push a heavy stone up a mountain every day and then watch powerlessly as it rolled back down again. Millions of  people replay this role in their jobs without thinking about changing their careers. The most successful individuals are those who enjoy their work.

~ Assess your skills

Your skills determine what you do, but not always in the manner you might expect. In general, hiring managers are seeking characteristics that will indicate your potential to succeed in their workplace and skills and qualities needed by the company. For instance, companies invest in training salesmen and often hire candidates with backgrounds in the military, engineering or aviation for sales positions. Former military personnel are focused, dependable and loyal, while candidates with engineering and aviation backgrounds have excellent analytical skills.

Organisational skills, communication skills, creative skills, administrative skills, leadership skills etc are all qualities that you can utilise at your new job. Identify those skills and work on them in a way that you can implement them for your new career. This will give you a head start, because most principles in business or art works around a pattern and you can slot it into your pattern.

Jatin Mehta from Chennai, a 30-year-old technical writer by profession, was unhappy with his job. "Not having enough interaction with other people bothered me. I had always enjoyed being a part of a team, bouncing ideas off each other, but writing manuals for end-users of my company's software products made me feel like an unimportant cog in my company. I had to do something about it.'' He started branching out in user-facing web-software documentation, bounced through marketing and content acquisition, editing and proposal management and now he is doing project management full time for various web projects.

~ Develop your abilities

Learn to manage your career to acquire needed skills. A good way to develop your abilities is by volunteering or working in cross-functional teams. Identifying volunteer and freelance activities related to your target field to test your interests is a great idea. For example if you are thinking of publishing as a career, try editing the PTA newsletter. If you're interested in working with children, volunteer at your old school. Priya Jain, a 28-year-old housewife in Delhi, was an active volunteer at her children's school. She became president of the PTA, which required extensive involvement with parents, faculty and students and management skills. The top skills that employers seek are those she acquired from her PTA volunteer work and used to open up her own business. Priya decided to pursue her interest in plants and flowers. She started working in a flower shop, learning flower-arranging, scheduling deliveries and managing the store. She now owns the shop!

So while switching careers is a daunting prospect, it's a move that will keep you happy in the long run. Whatever your passion -- art, the Internet, or flowers -- cultivate it enough to make a lucrative and satisfying career out of it.

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