Dear Matt: I have a business degree and took a chance on a sales job out of college. I’m now in my 30s and while I’ve succeeded in sales, it’s not satisfying any more and I want a career change. How does one go about that?
Matt says: People’s interests, values and goals change over time, so it’s not unusual to switch gears from what you thought you were interested in while in college or in your 20s.
You do have some good things going for you. Employers value people with a sales background because it requires communication, organization, account management and most of all, persistence and determination. The foundation to make a change is there. Now you have to find out what that change should be and where you want to go.
“I tell my coaching clients that career exploration is like putting together the pieces of a puzzle,” says career coach Joan Runnheim Olson (pathwayscareer.com). “When exploring new options it’s important to consider your skills, interests, values, personality, lifestyle and financial needs.”
Denise Felder (denisefelder.com), a career adviser with ISEEK (ISEEK.org), Minnesota’s career, education and job resource, moved from Los Angeles, where she worked in TV production, to Minnesota, where she followed her passion of becoming a career adviser. She said it’s important to always focus on where you want to be, not what you’re trying to get away from. “Think about where you want to be in five, 10 or 20 years,” says Felder. “Think about your professional and personal life, your priorities, your values, and the mark you want to leave on the world. Then think about what you will have to do short-term to meet those goals.” Don’t focus solely on money, adds Felder. If you take a job just for the money, you will always chase money and won’t have the time or energy to chase your dreams.
Before you make the switch, do some career exploration and analysis using a tool like onetonline.org or ISEEK.org. Would you like another sales job if it was with a company aligned more closely to your values? Do you like the industry you are in, but would like to explore another role? Or do you want a completely new career path? “It’s sometimes easier to transition into a new position within an industry in which you have experience,” says Runnheim Olson.
Make sure your résumé clearly articulates how your past career can lead to success in a new career. Then you are going to have to network, possibly set up informational interviews, and compete against people who already have experience in your new industry who want the same jobs as you. Use those sales skills to gain a new client — your next employer. “Because of your experience, you undoubtedly have a number of transferable skills that will be attractive to the next employer,” says Runnheim Olson.
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