So, you want to find a new career? This article will give you 10 ways to research which career field is right for you and step to get you started. Whether you consider going back to college to change careers completely or just want a fresh start with a new employer, there will be valuable tips for you. Let’s start with the type of career you are interested in most.
1. Discover your Career Interests
What topics are you interested in? What career fields do you think you’ll enjoy? Start off and reflect on your likes and dislikes and the reasons you are considering a new career. Make sure your new career has what you’re looking for. If you have not done so yet, you can take our free career test or more focused free career tests to discover your career interests. You can also consider asking friends, family, and even prior coworkers what type of career they could see you thriving at. It may be a career you never considered. Those closest to you are likely to consider your strengths and may come up with some really interesting feedback.
2. Research Careers
Research the careers you’re interested in. During your research, you’ll want to note the career’s occupational growth, salary, and educational requirements. By the way, if you decide to go back to college or attend a training program to make this career change happen, knowing the career’s growth rate ensures there are job openings available once you are trained.
To help your research, you can also check out these articles on this site:
3. Find a College or Education Program (if necessary)
Once you do your research, you may discover that going back to college makes financial sense in the long run. The salary difference between educational levels can be significant. Factor the difference in salary over the course of a lifetime and education can really pay off. These are the average yearly salaries provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics by degree.
If you check out the following salaries, you’ll notice a significant jump in earnings between those that earned an associate’s degree and those that continued on to earn their bachelor’s degree.
- No high school diploma = $23,480
- High school graduate only = $36,100
- Postsecondary, Nondegree Award = $37,670
- Associate’s Degree = $52,830
- Bachelor’s Degree = $72,830
- Master’s Degree = $68,090
- Doctoral or Professional Degree = $103,820
BLS.gov, 2017: High-wage occupations by typical entry-level education
The difference between a high school graduate and a person with a bachelor’s degree is almost $37,000! That’s $370,000 over a 10-year span. With many online programs, education has never been more accessible either. If you hold a job or have family responsibilities, online courses may work. Considering a college degree may be worth it. Again, research the growth rate, salary, and education requirements before making a decision.
4. Research Colleges
If you choose a career that requires you to gain additional education, you want to research colleges and programs. when researching colleges, consider their graduation rate, tuition cost, and make sure they are accredited in your degree program. For example, if you have decided on a medical career, attending a college program that is not accredited will result in your inability to sit for your boards to become licensed to practice.
5. Pay for School
You may also want to gain your education as affordably as possible. If you have lived in the same state for a year, you qualify for in-state tuition at public schools. This will be significantly cheaper than paying out-of-state tuition at a public school. A private school will not care if you are in or out-of-state, but the cost to attend a private school is generally significantly more expensive.
A local community or state college may be the most affordable option to return to school if you need to take foundational courses. Many community colleges and state colleges offer online options so you can still work while gaining your degree. If you have not earned your bachelor’s degree yet, you can also apply for the Pell Grant. If you qualify, this is free money you don’t have to pay back.
If you are unemployed there is also federal funding for job retraining. Speak to a representative at your local workforce center and ask about are the Workforce Investment Act or Dislocated Worker Program. You can also stop by your local college’s financial aid office to get more information. If you happen to be prior military, you may still qualify for the G.I. Bill. If you are a military veteran or dependent there may also be funding available to you. Many colleges have a veterans affairs office, which is a great place to gain more information about potential funding. Check out our How to Pay for College article to learn more.
6. Intern or Apprentice
Did you know that the U.S. Federal Government helps students and recent college graduates enter federal service through the Pathways Program? The Pathways Program is meant to provide career development opportunities to help people transition into Federal service. You can also visit large corporation websites to see if they take interns. Mind you, often intern opportunities are only available to college students. Apprentice programs are especially useful in trade careers, such as electricians and land surveyors. Some large companies pay apprentices while fully training them on-the-job. Check out Apprenticeship.gov and look for the Apprentice Finder tool to get started. To learn more, visit our Intern Programs page.
7. Research Employers
You may not need more education to change careers. If you are just be looking for another employer or have an existing skillset that is valuable to multiple industries, you may just need to research employers. Many companies have reviews on Glassdoor.com. You can view what current and ex-employees think of any given company, look at salary ranges, and even people’s experience of the interview process. If you do go on Glassdoor, take the reviews with a grain of salt though. They are opinionated. A fired employee could trash their previous employer with no ramifications. Take the information at face value so you do not miss an otherwise great opportunity. There’s more information on the Top 10 Interview Tips page.
Make sure to visit the company’s website. Research the companies mission statement, how long they have been in business, and check if there are press releases on future projects or past accomplishments. Not only is this useful now, but the information you gain can also be helpful during your interview as it shows you researched the company thoroughly.
8. Get Ready to Interview
Once you start researching employers, you never know when you’ll gain an interview. This is an opportune time to try on your interview outfit. Make sure it looks good on you (and still fits). You could end up with an interview sooner than you think and this can take a stressor off your plate. If you realize you could use an interview outfit upgrade, this gives you time to do so. You’ll also want to use this time to update your resume and cover letter.
Depending on the jobs you’re applying for, you may have a few versions of a resume. This can take time so you’ll want to start sooner than later. Also, choose your references wisely. You will want to find three people that know you well, such as previous managers, clients, or co-workers. Make sure you have their most recent contact information. Next, contact each of your references so they are not caught off guard if contacted. Ask if they will provide a reference and inquire about their preferred method of contact. Check out the Top 10 Resume Tips page to download free resume templates in Microsoft Word format. If you do not own Microsoft Office, Google Documents is free and can open a Word Document (.doc) file.
9. Cold Call or Email Employers
This may seem outdated and old-fashioned. However, depending on the company and position you are looking for, it could work! This is more likely to work for smaller businesses that are in your local community than larger companies. However, if you’ve identified a business you are interested in applying for and think cold-calling can work, go online and research information about the company so you are informed. Then, call to inquire about positions. Be extremely nice to the person who answers the phone, they are the gatekeeper between you and the person you need to speak too!
If given the opportunity to speak with someone, be ready to sell yourself and compliment the company. During your research, you may have noticed that the company earned a special award, or maybe they have been identified as a top employer. Align your strengths with their needs and be ready to sell yourself. Even if they are not hiring at this time, you can still gain valuable information on the call. You can ask what skills they are looking for in candidates should the job become open. This lets you know what you can work on to become their top candidate of choice in the future.
Prior to the call, especially if you are nervous, you can write yourself a bit of a script.
“Hello, my name is ________ and I want to inquire about career opportunities at ABC Company. I would really appreciate it if you could transfer me to someone I can share my qualifications with.”
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get this far though. Many times, you will be told to visit their website, stop by for an application, or to email your resume and cover letter. You may also simply be told they are not hiring at this time. This is useful information. The more you know, the less time you will waste during your job hunt.
If you are transferred through, be ready to answer some questions. Bullet some key information you will want to relay and have that nearby to assist you during the call. Also, if you have your eyes set on a certain employer, let’s not have that employer be your very first nervous cold call. Call somewhere else first and practice. There are advantages to cold calls and phone interviews. You can control your environment. For example, if you have strengths and skills you want to mention during the interview, you can have your notes ready on a piece of paper in front of you so you remember what you’d like to highlight. You can’t do that in a face-to-face interview.
Inquiry about Jobs via Email
If you don’t have a companies’ phone number to inquire about a position or the company states it prefers you send an inquiry email.
Before you contact the company, check your email address! Is it professional? If it isn’t, create a new one for your job applications. You can also appear more tech-savvy by having a more popular email. Hotmail, AT&T, and AOL accounts can date you. Google offers a free email account (called Gmail) that’s popular and takes a few minutes to set-up.
When naming your email, do not use the current year or your birthday. Try using your first, middle, and last name: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. If that is taken (which is likely is) you can always be creative. For example, email@example.com. Either way, look at your email address from an employers’ point of view.
Next, check your voicemail message! The company may call you back after sending your email and you want to ensure your voicemail is professional and friendly. Ensure there is no background noise (such as your car running or kids yelling). A nice, to the point message, will do. Smile (this does make your message sound better) and record something as simple as:
“Hello, you’ve reached Janet Smith, I’m sorry I missed your call and it is very important to me. Please leave your contact information and I will return your call as soon as possible. Have a wonderful day!”
Now that you have researched the company, ensured you have a professional email, and created a professional voicemail, you’re ready to email your employer. Below is a starter template for you to use. The starter email gets to the point, so feel free to compliment the company on any successes you learned about on their site, in a press release, or on the news.
Dear Hiring Department,
Upon researching COMPANY NAME and viewing the scope of your clientele, I would like to apply for a JOB TITLE position within your company. I have a varied skill-set and could fill a few roles listed in the careers section of your site. Attached is my resume and cover letter.
Thank you in advance for your consideration and time.
Here’s a tip when adding your contact information. If you are applying for positions in a different location than where you reside, consider purchasing a cheap, pre-paid cell phone. Pre-paid cell phones often let you pick the area code of the new phone number. You will be more likely to get a call back from a company if they think you live in their area than if it seems you live out-of-state or far away. This would be the number you use on your resume and applications. You must also remember to check this phone often in case they call back and leave a message.
10. Network to Land a Job
Networking is one way to land a job. Knowing people who can place your resume in the right hands can gain you the advantage of attaining an interview. Volunteering can help you network, attend community events, or join a local organization. Fundraisers, dinner functions, and even a neighborhood block party can yield unexpected contacts.
Consider this, many available jobs are simply not advertised yet or perhaps they are about to become available. This is why networking is vital. It is even better if you can present your resume to an employer when a position is about to become available. This will give you a competitive edge.
LinkedIn.com (opens in a new browser window) is a good place to start.
- Sign up for a free account. If you already have an account, review and update it.
- Complete your LinkedIn profile.
- Request as many recommendations as you can.
- Link to professional groups that are affiliated with your career field.
- Upload a professional looking photo.
- Build up your connections.
Also, be sure to Google yourself to ensure a potential employer will not find non-professional information about you that will eliminate your chances of gaining employment.