No matter your age, profession, or the degree of success you have achieved in your career, there may come a time when you need or want to seek new career opportunities. Sometimes the need to seek new opportunities is forced upon you. You might be graduating from school and looking for your first job. You might lose your job or be laid off. The company for which you work might close. Sometimes, however, the initiative to seek new opportunities will come from you. You might find that you lack the education or credentials to advance in your field. You might suspect that your current position is targeted for elimination or that your company is not well positioned for the future. You may need to seek new opportunities in order to guarantee job security. Regardless of why you are seeking new opportunities, how you identify and target them can determine your success.
Your situation will determine the kind of opportunities you seek. Opportunities may be educational or professional. They may be within your current organization or outside of it. In order to focus your search for new opportunities, you need to figure out what it is that you want to achieve. Are you looking for a similar position with a different company? A promotion at your current company? Or are you looking to start a completely new career? Will you need additional training to achieve your goals? The answers to these questions will help guide your search.
If you want to take a more scientific approach to identifying the opportunities that are right for you, you may want to look into career-related assessments. Personality tests, for example, help you identify character traits that can impact your career. They can help you determine whether you are an introvert or an extrovert and help you understand how you approach tasks and problem solving. These traits can help you target careers to which your personality is well suited and potentially eliminate professions that may be too challenging or uncomfortable for you. Similarly, aptitude tests help you identify opportunities by measuring your knowledge and innate skills. An aptitude test may help you identify areas of strength that you have not yet recognized in yourself.
You can access some personality and aptitude tests online and from books available in your public library. They can offer basic insights into your personality and abilities. Many assessments, however, can only be administered by a licensed psychologist. If you want to undergo in-depth assessment and desire help in interpreting the results, consider meeting with a career counselor. Many high schools and colleges offer counseling services to students free of charge. You can find independent career counselors or career coaches on the Internet or in the phone book. Some state government agencies also offer services that can help you explore your career interests and find jobs.
Even if you are happy at your place of employment, you should keep your eyes open for additional opportunities within the organization.
Often, companies post open job opportunities internally before advertising to outside candidates. Find out when and how openings are posted, and make checking these openings a regular part of your work routine.
If you do not already have a mentor within the organization, look for one. A mentor will be able to guide you along the path to advancement. More importantly, having an ally in a management position in the company will make it more likely that you will be considered for any positions that become available. Many times companies make internal hiring decisions before, or even without, posting the position. Having a mentor who can speak to your abilities and potential for growth will also make it more likely that you will be considered.
Not all professional opportunities, however, will come in the form of a new position or title. If you have the opportunity to lend your expertise to a project or team to which you do not usually contribute, take it. You will prove your worth as a team player, broaden your networking circle, and increase your chances of being considered for other opportunities in the future. You may also find that you have the opportunity to take on additional roles and responsibilities within your team. Sometimes such opportunities come with an increase in pay, but often they do not. Do not feel insulted if you are not immediately rewarded with an increased salary when you step in to fill a need in the company.
After you have proven your abilities, discuss your new role with your supervisor or with human resources staff. It will be easier to negotiate a raise or change in title if your worth to the company is documented. Even if the company cannot offer you an immediate increase in pay for your contributions, your willingness to help will make promotion more likely when positions become available or the company's finances improve.
Often, targeting new opportunities is less about moving up or changing careers than it is about finding the working environment that is right for you. Perhaps you love what you do but find yourself in conflict with your current supervisor. Maybe your employer requires you to take on duties that are not usually in the job description of the position you hold. Perhaps you are worried that your current employer will be laying off staff or going out of business. In these cases, you will want to target opportunities outside of your current organization.
Before reaching out to other employers in your field, it is important to make sure you have clear and realistic expectations for a new job. Be honest with yourself about what is motivating your desire to find new opportunities. Is your desire to leave your current job motivated purely by an issue specific to your current employer, or are you bored with your job or struggling to complete it? Are you truly seeking a similar position, or are you hoping for advancement? Will you be happy with the same salary, or are you really seeking higher pay? Being honest with yourself will help you evaluate new opportunities. When you interview, ask the right questions to make sure that you do not end up stuck in a situation similar to the one you left. If possible talk to people who work in organizations you are considering. They will be able to give you a sense of what work life will be like if you decide to accept a position. They may also be useful networking contacts as you begin your job search.
Many people worry that if they start over professionally, they will have to start at the bottom in their new field. This is not necessarily true. If you have previous professional experience, even in a different field, you may be able to apply that experience when you start a new career. Be sure to highlight career skills that are applicable to many different kinds of positions when you write your résumé and interview for positions. Let potential employers know that you will bring confidence, maturity, and experience to the position. Overcome stereotypes by demonstrating your ability to embrace new technologies and to adapt to change.
Deciding to go back to school is a big decision. Even after you realize that education is your path to better opportunities, however, you have to make tough decisions. One of the biggest decisions you will make is whether you will continue to work while attending school or resign your position in order to concentrate on your studies. There are advantages and disadvantages to both of these options. You need to figure out which one is best for you.
The biggest advantage of resigning your position to go back to school is that you will be able to concentrate on your studies. You will not have to divide your time and attention between work and school. You will be able to enroll in the courses you want to take instead of those that are offered in the evenings and on weekends. You will also be able to devote as much time as you need to coursework and studying. You may finish your degree faster, or with higher grades, than someone who has worked full time while going to school. The downside of giving up your job while going back to school is that you will not have an income. Unless you have significant savings, you may need to change your lifestyle and incur student debt in order to complete your degree.
Whether you decide to keep working, cut back your hours, or resign your position while going to school, make certain you have the time and money to complete your education. To determine your time needs, calculate the hours you plan to work weekly and the time you spend on other activities, such as family responsibilities, housework, and hobbies. Check your bank and credit card statements, budgets, and other financial statements to see if you can finance an education, or talk to your workplace and potential school about financial aid options such as workplace tuition reimbursement, scholarships, grants, and loans.
There are many educational opportunities beyond those offered by colleges and universities. Vocational programs provide specialized training in a specific field and can help you find a job in that field upon completion of your studies. The emphasis on specific fields and hands-on training make vocational programs different from many other academic programs. Vocational programs are a good educational option if you know what kind of career you want, if you want to learn while working, and if you want to earn a specific type of career certification.
You might also consider going to school to earn a certification or license. When considering this opportunity, check with your employer to see if certification would help you advance your career by earning you a promotion, more responsibility, or more money. You could ask your coworkers or friends in your career field if they have certifications and if such certifications have helped them. Check with your workplace's human resources department to determine if certification is likely to lead to promotions or pay raises at your workplace. The Internet can also help you with this search, since you can visit different company websites and career sites to check the educational credentials of people in your field.
Certification can help you start your career or enhance your existing one. Research whether your career requires a mandatory sort of certification, such as a teaching certificate, or an optional one, such as a certification in counseling. During your research you might discover that your career requires a license. Licenses are mandatory and are not optional. If you have a license, it means that you have permission to do something, such as practice law or medicine. If you need licenses, you typically have to take tests, work a certain number of hours, and pay fees. Consider this extra time and money you will have to spend if you are thinking of a career that requires a license.
Although degrees and certifications earned through college or vocational coursework are one of the most common ways of demonstrating your qualification for advancement, not all advanced positions require degrees, and not all skills and training are acquired in the classroom. If you want to advance in your current organization, it is critical to understand its policies and culture. Having a frank discussion with a supervisor, mentor, or member of the human resources staff will help you determine whether it is possible for you to advance in the company without going back to school to earn a degree.
If others in your company believe that advancement is possible without going back to school, you should target opportunities for improving your skill set both on and off the job. One way to improve your skill set is to target opportunities that will help you develop job-related skills. Many companies sponsor workshops and training sessions that are open to interested employees at no cost. Whether you are seeking knowledge of specific software, training in writing a budget or managing a project, or advice about how to function as part of a team, there may be programs available. Take advantage of these opportunities, even if you are not sure they apply to the work you hope to do in the future.
Your community may also offer training opportunities that can help you grow professionally. If a fear of public speaking is holding you back, look for a local chapter of Toastmasters International, a group that helps its members improve their speaking skills in a positive, low-pressure environment. Visit your local library to find books and other resources related to your industry. Check to see if your local community center offers courses or events that can help you build new skills or improve existing ones.
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