Choose Your New Career

Top career counselors offer advice for career switchers.

Many Americans are frustrated in their current careers–some because they’re having trouble finding a job, and others because they are no longer satisfied with opportunities for advancement or with their work itself.

If that frustration sounds familiar, read on. We asked two top career counselors for their new-career ideas for five types of people–maybe there’s an idea here for you to consider.

A young adult who has only a high-school diploma and who wants a stable, high-paying career–but who can can afford only the time or money for a two-year associate’s degree (at most):

Career expert Robin Ryan, the author of “60 Seconds and You’re Hired,” suggests looking at certification programs in tech areas of health care. She says jobs such as medical assistant and medical insurance biller are excellent bets for future employment. X-ray technicians, automobile mechanics, and HVAC mechanics are also likely to remain in demand.

Laurence Shatkin, a career information expert and the author of “2011 Career Plan,” says, “Instead of an associate’s degree program, enroll in an apprenticeship program to prepare for a skilled trade, such as CNC programming, HVAC repair, or elevator repair. You’ll be earning as you learn, and you’ll receive a credential that is nationally recognized.”

A person in his or her 20s who has a liberal-arts bachelor’s degree, but who isn’t sure what industry to go into and who doesn’t want to go for an advanced degree or a whole lot of additional training:

Ryan says that a person in this position should think about interests. “If I were counseling this person, I’d ask, ‘What interests you? What fields interest you, and what do you want to know more about?'”

She adds that a person with this background likely has good research skills, and adds, “Pair [those skills] with your interests. If you’re interested in a cause, non-profits are good places to look–fundraising, marketing, and so on. There are also plenty of opportunities in social services.”

Shatkin would advise a person like this to consider a career in sales–a career in which any base knowledge or interest and an outgoing personality can be combined into a healthy career: “This may require, first, a little work experience in a low-level job to acquire a beginner’s understanding of an industry,” he says.

He adds, “Another possibility is to get short-term training for a job in the health care industry, such as an occupational therapist assistant or an equipment preparer. From there, this person could either go into a related sales job or move into health care management through a combination of work experience, taking on additional tasks on the job, and night classes.”

A person in his or her 30s who has a high-school education, a little bit of (or no) college, and a background in manufacturing, and who has very limited resources for further education:

Shatkin says that sales may be a good field for this person, too–especially if he can get into sales in the same industry his manufacturing background was in.

Ryan says that this person should ask herself what her transferable skills are. She adds, “If you don’t have good computer skills, take some classes. Learn how to use Office, email, and other computer fundamentals.”

Her further suggestions are to consider moving into the trades, opening a business, or looking into retail positions that offer a track to retail management.

A person in his or her 40s who is a marketing or business executive, who wants a new career path, and who is able invest in schooling:

Shatkin says, “Health care management is a hot field. Or consider teaching. In many states, you can start teaching in a secondary school right away through an alternative-entry arrangement. With a master’s degree, you can teach in a community college.”

Ryan sees a couple of clear choices for this person: First, to simply move up the career ladder, someone in this position should pursue an MBA from a reputable institution.

But she adds, “Most people want a job in which they feel like they have more personal satisfaction. In that case, you need to define what that is.” She says careers in social services or that otherwise help others may be rewarding for someone who wants out of the rat race.

A person in his or her 50s or 60s, who was once a professional but who now wants flexible or part-time work that is rewarding and that will provide a fair income:

Ryan says, “Think about consulting in your field. Contact former bosses and former employers by going to networking events or looking at LinkedIn–locate former coworkers to see if there are part-time positions. The best part-time positions … are usually found by talking to people you already know.”

Or, she says, “Pick something that you’ve never done before but find interesting. Work at a nursery, for instance. Consider small businesses that could use your skills and might want people.”

Shatkin says this person could consider teaching as an adjunct instructor in a college. Or, “if you have a head for investments, become a personal financial advisor,” he suggests.

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