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Map out a plan for changing careers

If possible, look for a job while you still have one. Make skills your resume’s focus.

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If possible, look for a job while you still have one. Make skills your resume’s focus.

As layoffs across the country rattle Americans' sense of job security, some are taking it as incentive to finally go after their dream careers. Others are wondering whether it's time to jump ship into a more stable industry. Before you take the plunge, map out a game plan. Associated Press

Take stock of your situation

Ask yourself why you're not happy in your job: hours, city, moody co-worker, lack of encouragement from the top? Consider whether switching jobs, not careers, might be the solution. Putting pros and cons to paper can crystallize matters. "You have to understand what turned you off," said Lynn Berger, who runs a career coaching business in New York. Consider the financial repercussions of a career change. Prepare a budget, and factor in educational costs that a new career might require. Make sure you fully understand the new career. Try out a job by working on a contractual or volunteer basis.

Revamp your resume

Scrap the traditional resume that lists jobs chronologically. Create one that itemizes your talents, said Jennifer Grasz of CareerBuilder.com. Beneath a heading like "Team Leader," for instance, outline the experience that gave you that skill. "Focus on specific accomplishments and quantify the results you achieved," Grasz said. "Even if you're applying for a different job, presenting those numbers shows what you bring to the table." Tailor your resume for each position. One way to do this is to read the job posting carefully and echo some of its language.

Begin the hunt

Keeping your job while looking for a new one is best, but that requires organization. Set goals; commit to at least one daily task to advance your quest. That might mean waking up a half hour early to send e-mails or making calls at lunch. Establish contacts by joining a professional association or seeking out like-minded groups on social networking sites. "Find whatever way you can to volunteer, take a class or help someone with a project," said Berger, the career coach.

Close the deal

If you land a face-to-face interview, consider it a milestone. You're now on equal footing with those who have experience in the industry, said Eric Winegardner of Monster.com. At the interview, focus on the future. Address your career switch, but don't get tangled up in lengthy explanations. Show you've done your homework on the company, too. Ask questions that demonstrate your familiarity with the company's mission and clients. "In times like these, it's more about the employer than it is about you," Winegardner said. Follow up with a thank-you letter.

Map out a plan for changing careers 03/20/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 20, 2009 10:56pm]

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