Dear Matt: I work for an industry that is not growing. I'm planning on looking for a new job and I don't want to stay in this industry. How do I go about not only changing jobs, but industries? What tips can you provide?

Matt: I agree with Twin Cities career guru Catherine Breet-Byers, who says the first thing you need to understand is what you really like doing. Write down what you love (and what you hate) about your current and previous jobs. Breet-Byers, who hosts a free job networking community on her website (www. changeyourstripes.net) and also is the author of "4 Simple Steps to a Great New Job," says it's important to do some research to find out what other jobs and industries might give you what you want. One place to look is at www.ISEEK.org, which offers information on career assessments and high demand careers under the explore careers tab. But only you can decide what you will like, so networking with those employed in the industry you want to pursue is crucial.

Once you've identified some potential jobs, write down the key skills and experience that employers are asking for, says Breet-Byers. Map your current skills against the required skills, and identify the gaps. Often, the gaps are simply a difference in industry language, so translate your skills into your target market's terms. For example, a waiter can easily translate the following skills to many other jobs and industries: customer service, grace under pressure, handling money.

I also suggest you look at how you got into this position. Do you no longer like this profession because of the industry slowdown? Would you be happy if business was booming? Are you sure things will be any different in the new profession you want to pursue?

As certified career and leadership coach (www.pathwayscareer.com) Joan Runnheim Olson points out, finding and keeping jobs in an industry where you have experience is proving to be tough for many people right now. What will happen when you switch career paths and are suddenly competing against people who have much more experience in an extremely tight job market?

I recommend keeping the current job while developing the needed skills and making contacts to help pursue your career of the future. Use the above tips to prepare yourself to make the move - but only when the time is right.


Matt Krumrie is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, and has nine years of experience reporting on the employment industry. This column will answer readers' questions. E-mail questions or subject ideas to askmatt@startribune.com.