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How to Plan for a Career Change

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Whether you’re trying to advance in a job or clawing madly to get out, it’s always the right time to develop more skills and meet new people. And in today’s world, doing both is easier than ever before.

The first step? Know thyself.

Kevin Cameron, founder and CEO of the Wilmington-based executive search firm Exclusive Search Connections, says people don’t make changes until they honestly ask themselves what they want or would rather be doing.

A changing workplace culture is increasingly giving people permission to pursue careers they enjoy, Cameron says.

Making your next move

Assistance and resources await throughout the state. The Delaware Department of Labor’s Division of Employment and Training, for example, helps people find certificate programs or finish their degree, says director Stacey Laing.

“We’re trying to market ourselves not only to job seekers, but to career changers,” Laing says. “We want to encourage people to think about how their skills can be transferred.”

Jill Gugino Panté, director of the Lerner Career Services Center at the University of Delaware, also emphasizes the importance of developing skills—whether you’re preparing for a job transition or hoping to be promoted in your current role.

“Without the skills, no one will believe you can do the job,” Panté says. She’s a fan of LinkedIn’s online education opportunities, but also emphasizes that not enough people take advantage of alumni services or in-house training options already available to them.

If you’re thinking about pursuing an MBA, Panté says, note that specialized concentrations—rather than regular business degrees—are trending. (The University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics offers five MBA majors and a dozen concentrations. Wilmington University has more than 10 MBA concentrations.)

But remember: Not all career switches require two-plus years in the classroom.

Justina Sapna, vice president for academic affairs at Delaware Technical Community College, says the school has seen an increased interest in short-term training programs over the past few years. “Our workforce development programs cater to people who want to train quickly and get back in the field,” she says.

Individuals seeking teaching careers can work as full-time teachers while obtaining their teacher certification. The ability to jump into teaching immediately is “the No. 1 reason people use our program,” says Frank Livoy, coordinator of the University of Delaware’s Alternative Routes to Certification (ARTC).

Many ARTC participants are mid-career adults with bachelor’s degrees who had an interest in teaching but ended up pursuing other paths. Livoy’s first question for anyone interested is simple but profound: Do you like being around young people? Teachers must have people skills in order to establish a rapport with their students, he explains.

Ensuring success

Complacency is the enemy, so try to find a mentor who can help keep you accountable and on the right track. (Don’t pick someone who will just tell you what you want to hear.)

Most of us tend to remember a criticism from six months ago more easily than a win from last week, but don’t forget to record your victories—even the small ones. Panté even recommends keeping a journal.

And if you want to gain experience in a new industry, consider developing relationships through volunteering, says Frank Ingraham, who spent more than 40 years working in human resources at DuPont.

“What I tell folks all the time is: You need to put yourself out there and continue to meet others,” he says. “And volunteer opportunities are one way to do that.”

Indeed, career success has a lot do with who you know. Panté suggests reaching out to people who are where you hope to be someday—something Cameron claims is less of an imposition than you might think

“People like to talk about themselves,” he says. “They love to tell their story.”

Resources:

Delaware JobLink
If you create a free account with this web-based branch of the Delaware Department of Labor, you can utilize its online resume builder. The department also offers job clubs and other training/placement options.

The University of Delaware’s Alternative Routes to Certification (ARTC)
This program allows participants to work as full-time teachers while completing teacher certification requirements.

Delaware Technical Community College
Each of DelTech’s four campuses across the state boasts an array of workforce training options, including short-term certification programs. Peruse relevant opportunities and course schedules online.

Trade associations
If you’re interested in a career transition, trade associations are a great way to meet new people and discover volunteer opportunities. The Delaware Chapter of Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), for example, holds a study group for members seeking professional certification.

Alumni offices
Whether you graduated last year or decades ago, staff members can provide career assistance.

Able National Network
This federally funded resource helps Americans over age 55 find a job or switch careers.