Changing Tracks

2013_bcom_lassonA recent study found that millennials in this country, between the ages of 18 and 30, switch jobs on average every two years. By comparison, members of Generation X typically spend about five years with each employer, and baby boomers spend about seven, according to the study. There are ostensibly many variables to be considered, including how one defines both career and change.

People change careers or jobs for several reasons, which are beyond the scope of this article. Here are my seven strategies for individuals confronted with this reality:

Up-skilling: Tapping a trusted mentor will give you an objective reality check to assess your professional situation and suggest new directions. If you have a specific career change that requires additional training, identify what that training is. How much will it cost, where do you obtain it, and how long will it take? For some, the investment of time and resources will be significant. Some training will merely require obtaining a skill or certification.

Stepping back: It might be necessary to take a step or two back. This will often be in terms of compensation. To do this will likely require buy-in from family members as well as financial assistance. Hopefully, the potential payoff will be improved compensation or overall quality of life. This will require a decent dose of humility, often setting aside previous accomplishments in exchange for an entry-level opportunity doing something new.

Networking: Always develop and maintain your professional and personal networks. You never know when they will come in handy.

Portable skills: Portable skills are taking what you’ve learned and showing a new employer or sector how they can be of value here and now.

Flexibility vs. focus: While these two terms sometimes mean the opposite of one another, career changes need to make them complementary. New situations will always require change. This could mean stepping out of your comfort zone, geographic relocation or logistic and scheduling adjustments. Focus means not just offering to do “anything” for the new employer. Propose specifics on how you will leverage your portable skills to add value to the organization.

No baggage left behind and that you are in the game: You must show that you have moved on from your previous job, employer or career.  This means both literally and emotionally. No (potential) employer wants to hear about things in your rearview mirror that are disconnected from the new job. This includes complaining about the past or waxing nostalgic about it. Furthermore, through your evolving knowledge base, skills and interests, you must be able to demonstrate that you are relevant to your new career.

Self-promotion and entrepreneurial spirit: When networking, whether on your resume and during interviews, you need to be able to communicate those accomplishments in which you played a role. When striving for visibility and name recognition, it is not the time to be overly humble.

Elliot D. Lasson, Ph.D., is executive director of Joblink of Maryland, Inc.

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