New Career Shapes
If after a self-assessment you’re still eager to try a new career, you must think of your career in a new way before starting your job search. Betsy Jaffe, a New York-based career consultant and author, has identified five new ways that careers are changing today. By understanding them, you can see where you might fit in best.
- 1. The New Classic Career
The old corporate career ladder that stretched to the executive suite is gone. Today’s career ladder has fewer rungs and may lay sideways rather than head upward. To survive, let alone advance, you must have portable job skills that cover many functions, says Dr. Jaffe.
“Instead of looking to fill a box on an organizational chart, look for situations where you can build your repertoire of knowledge, skills and experience,” she says. “The key is that you must make it happen.” To do well in a big company, you’ll need the abilities to adapt, handle a steep learning curve and play on ever-changing teams, she says.
- 2. The Concentric Career
Imagine a bulls-eye and you’ll see the basis for a concentric career. It is built on a core, such as a specific business or product line, and grows from there, Dr. Jaffe explains. Your main product (or area of expertise) is in the center. As you expand your product line (or skills), concentric circles are added beyond the core. Typical careers in this mode include sales rep and product manager.
One former IBM Corp. employee in Michigan began her second career by developing a line of home-security items, which she marketed online. As the business grew, she added guard services, home-security audits and consulted with companies on security issues.
- 3. The Combination Career
If you enjoy variety and yearn for the chance to balance multiple jobs simultaneously, you’re ready for a combination career. Your resume will look like a hodgepodge of activities, but you can vary your workload and keep boredom at bay.
Professional freelancers and consultants are good examples of people with combo careers. Of course, having a combination career is easier when there’s another source of family income and health-care coverage. But it’s not mandatory if you know how to hustle while balancing family demands.
- 4. The Contingency Career
The typical contingency career resembles the broken lines on a highway, says Dr. Jaffe, because it’s full of stopgaps and backtracks to earn money while hoping to get a break doing what you love. We’ve all heard about actors and musicians who wait tables and work in bookstores while auditioning and building a portfolio. Now many white-collar professionals are doing it, too, before making a major career change.
- 5. The Concurrent Career
If you can balance two totally separate careers at the same time, then you’re a prime candidate for a concurrent career. The obvious example is someone who holds down a full-time job while earning a college or grad school degree. But other examples include an Art Director at an advertising agency who also designs and sells t-shirts to local merchants, or a bank exec who leads paid fishing expeditions every weekend.
Work Versus Family
Seeking a good work life balance may be your most important consideration when deciding to change careers. In fact, it could be your principal motivation for making a switch. But if you haven’t considered the impact a career change will have on your family, you’d better start now. You may be stressed out as you learn a new job, but rest assured that your spouse and kids will be equally stressed. Even if you aren’t married, it pays to discuss your plans with people close to you before taking action.
There are many specific work life balance questions you should answer when weighing new career directions. According to psychologists, the four most important are:
- How many hours a week do I want to work?
- How much do I need to earn to live comfortably?
- Will I be satisfied with the social status of my new company, position and title?
- How complex does my new career need to be to keep me challenged?
The Bottom Line
When you’ve heard from every specialist and processed every fact, you’ll find that the most important issue when deciding to change careers doesn’t involve plans and procedures. Instead, it’ll be a straightforward decision based on the type of job that would bring you the most happiness and greatest fulfillment.
With this in mind, Douglas B. Richardson, a leadership, communication and career management consultant in Narberth, PA, explains that most career changers are faced with two options: “You can bag your existing set of technical skills and acquire a new set, like the person who used to be a Pharmacist but is now a CPA. Or, you can bag your old set of technical skills and redefine yourself in terms of your transferrable abilities,” like the writer who moved from a brokerage firm to a movie studio. In either case, old stereotypes don’t apply anymore, he says, and the job market will be forced to look at your through new eyes.