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How to Change Your Career in Tough Economic Times

Jul 3, 2009 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Recent unemployment numbers are pretty grim. In 2008, unemployment rates rose to 7.2% and the year’s total job losses totaled over 2.8 million. Economic signs point to a continued drop in labor and an ongoing trend toward leaner, more cost-efficient companies—a bad sign for job-hunters.  The result of all this is that a lot of experienced people are out of work, and career coaches and recruiters would probably tell you a recession isn’t the best time to plan a career change.  Maybe it’s better to wait until market conditions improve.

However, some people don’t have a choice. If you’ve been laid off from an industry with dwindling opportunities, you may be facing extremely slim job openings in your field. In addition, in this tough job market, a lot of very experienced and accomplished people are out of work—so you’re facing steep competition.

Changing your careers in a recession isn’t easy—but it’s not impossible.  One of the first steps you should take is to consider which industries are growing, even in tough economic times. Chances are, if they’re thriving now, they’re likely to thrive even when times are good. Opportunities in medicine and medical support, telecommunications, and education, for example, are still growing. Other fields, such as bankruptcy law, are doing well now—but their success is tied to the difficult economy, and when matters improve, they might see their opportunities drop.

A Man Thinking At A Desk.

With careful planning, you have a good chance of making the switch to a fun and rewarding new career.



In addition to considering industries that are growing, consider a career where you have transferable skills.  Computer and tech skills, communication and leadership, reporting and processing, event and meeting management, and presentation skills all transfer very well between jobs. Make a list of the skills you’ve acquired in your work experience—hard skills like hands-on technical expertise as well as soft skills like communication and leadership—and think about what jobs in your industry might value these skills.

Unless you’re willing to relocate, it’s also smart to choose a career where there are opportunities in your area—this may not be the case for some areas and some jobs. Search on a major job search site such as or for the type of job you’d ideally like to transfer to in an area you can commute to easily. Are there a wealth of opportunities? If not, you may want to reconsider.

Going back to school might be a difficult investment, but it’s often the best option in a troubled economy. There are several reasons why it pays to go back to school during a time of unemployment. Getting industry certifications may assure employers you have certain necessary skills, even if they don’t appear in your job history—it shows a commitment to switching careers and fills resume gaps.

If you decide to go back to school for a degree, you may have some transferable credits in your past that you can apply to a new degree today. Most schools allow students to transfer at least some of their past credits toward a new degree if they relate to their new course of study. If you can transfer some of your previous college credits, you can save money and time earning a degree.

Finally, it’s critical to get away from the computer and network with people during the course of your new job search. Touch base with your school’s alumni association—even if you graduated decades ago, your school probably has a network of professionals in the industry where you plan to work. These people may be willing to give you advice on making the switch or even know of some promising job opportunities.  Make connections in the industry where you plan to work. Network, volunteer, and do your best to help others in this area—and chances are they’ll do their best to help you as well.

It’s not easy to make a career change in the best of economies—and a recession multiplies the challenges faced by aspiring job searchers. But it is possible to make the switch. Make sure you have the education and credentials you need to compete with other applicants; network in person to find opportunities; and be strategic when you choose your new career. With careful planning, you have a good chance of making the switch to a fun and rewarding new career. Changing Careers




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