Unsure No more - 9 ways to Plan your next Career Path

Careers change on a dime, and for many reasons.

One day you might wake up and lose interest, or worse, lose your job. Maybe you took a break to spend more time with family or care-giving is a new priority. Oftentimes you relocate, disagree with your boss or suddenly realize a new (or previously dormant) calling.

When her husband’s job relocated them across continents, Maya K had to let go of her business and start anew in a new country. Once her son started middle school, Zoe C gave up her demanding corporate career to pursue her lifelong passion of Social service which also allowed her to be home when he returned from school.

The reasons vary, but one thing is clear. As women, our careers rarely have a linear trajectory.

We evolve, pause, reconsider, track-back or sprout new. And through all this, we think, reflect, collaborate and accumulate.

Collaborate and Accumulate — two very important words to recognize and capitalize on.

Everyday that you step out, you meet people and you build connections. New bonds are formed, each time you car-pool ( think Ride-sharing, school drop-offs), volunteer, meet clients, help someone online, get involved in a cause, go out for a drink with your colleagues or simply step out of your comfort zone and say/text hi to a stranger.

And through every experience, you acquire a new career facet. Mom skills , People skills, Networking skills , Efficiency skills, Fundraising skills. Hard and Soft Skills that you never paused to consider but add up slowly to your career repertoire.

Your life experiences can easily be tailor made to adjust to every new role that you decide to undertake. Things start to really progress when you understand your strengths and take ownership of the decision for a career change and work with clear goals and objectives.

Here are 9 ways on how to Plan your next Career Path.

Assess Your Passions & Strengths

While this first exercise sounds obvious, what’s important is to self-analyze which one of your passions is marketable. Reid Hoffman talks about the market reality in his book The Startup of You.

Skills that can’t earn money, won’t get you very far.

Rita J is an avid teacup collector with an entire wall in her kitchen dedicated to cups of varying sizes and designs. This alone was not sufficient to quit her job at a law firm. So she studied pottery for two years before giving up her job and starting an online custom ceramic art boutique. Now her teacup passion is a great source for Instagram traffic, while her store is where she capitalizes on it.

To help you analyze your skills, here’s a handy and fun Mad Libs exercise or use these Career Assessment Tools.

Research for Purposeful Action

The data and answers are all there. Are you looking?

Today, what is needed and what is on offer is now visible to anybody who cares to look.

Put your desired work title in job sites to see what are companies looking for. Then type your skills and see what kind of jobs (and titles) are on offer.

Another smart trick — Sift through online profiles and resumes of successes that you admire or aspire towards. Pick parallels in your chosen field to see what specific skills are they highlighting or bragging about.

To exploit her love for plants and gardening, Sheila M’s simple search for the word Gardening in the job site Indeed.com, turned up some interesting titles -Green Infrastructure Gardener, Garden Center Merchandiser, Garden Educator etc. Going through the requirements led her to pursue a certificate program offered by the New York Botanical garden

Wide Start, Narrow Focus

After assessing your passions and strengths, sometimes we are still unable to settle on just one choice. Why not combine interests or use complementary ideas for a job search or an entrepreneurial venture?

Shayna B turned her requirement for Gluten and Paleo friendly food and the love of photography into a top Food Blog, promoting her hashtags on Twitter. Today, she’s even a spokesperson for a specialized restaurant chain in her area.

Another exercise is to list various job opportunities and titles within an industry to gain a deeper understanding of the possibilities. Check out this fantastic resource on job titles & descriptions and see what fits you .

This gives you an idea of ancillary and non-obvious jobs or needs within an industry that might not be apparent to all, or fulfilled adequately. That’s what is a niche business or job opportunity.

Leena F tried to use her love for fashion to break unsuccessfully into the saturated personal stylist industry, but instead changed tracks to work as an Image Consultant for her uncle’s firm where she not only advised employees on professional dressing but also devised programs for improving overall etiquette and communication style.

After all, we all know that people who sold picks to the would-be miners during the gold rush are the ones who made profits.

Update yourself/ Know what’s happening

Knowledge is strength and portrays you as well informed. But even more, for your own sake, do your homework and keep yourself constantly updated in changes in the work world.

Intuitive, easy to use, visually appealing Content aggregators like FlipBoard or specialized tab extensions like zest.is or UsePanda can be easily customized to bring you the dibs on your chosen topics.

Here’s a snapshot of some of my chosen topics on Flipboard. It’s easy to guess my passion.

In today’s digital world, there is literally #noexcuse for not knowing.

Leverage your Advantages

Contemplate the relative advantages you may have accrued over the course of your professional career - Contacts, Money & Soft Skills. Singularly or cumulatively, these will give you a greater edge in your career.

Contacts - Time spent in any previous career gives you inside knowledge and professional contacts within that industry. Your personal contacts ( think PTO, coffee friends, book club members )can lead to a wide network of introductions by simply asking. Friends, who are subject matter experts in a successful career, can be approached as Mentors.

Money -Maybe you have accumulated a nest egg to rely on, while you pause to re-figure your next career move or have a supportive partner or family members who are there to help you financially. This is a fantastic advantage as it takes the pressure off and instead gives one time to tread with thought and planning.

Soft Skills -Ever heard of a term called Staying Sticky? Sensei Rupert, who teaches and mentors Martial Arts students describes it as , “Martial Artists maintaining contact and control while transitioning from one self defense to another.”

Technology, new tools or an altogether new industry choice may make your specialty outdated, but your soft skills aka people skills are sticky skills. Time Management, organization, communication or teamwork to name a few, are highly desired traits at every workplace, so remember to list and own your interpersonal skills.

Sarah Jane offered up space in her fledgling dance studio to host meetings for women’s business groups which led to increased foot traffic and a tax break. Her warmth, ability to remember names and people-centric outlook helped her make a ton of connects. The result -a good number of signups and referrals for her Zumba and fitness classes.

Network to Build new relationships

Use free online collaborative networks like Maroon Oak or thematic social networking portals like MeetUp to connect with like-minded people and learn about what’s new across industries and figure out ways to collaborate. Harness the power of informational interviews to gain a better understanding around your chosen field.

While she looked for a full- time job opportunity, Dani Butler found several part-time gigs as a Social Media Strategist, by staying connected and engaged on online platforms, and answering questions from other Members.

Volunteer or Intern

Hosts of non-profit companies like Taproot Foundation will happily accept your services pro-bono and this gives you a chance to practice your skills, build connections and add to your career resume.

When choosing to intern -look smart, not hard.

Start-ups are hungry for talent at low or no cost, so seek out Start-up events, recruiters or job sites.

Both these options offer an opportunity to start playing in your chosen field right away, while you look for more permanent choices.

Carol Luongo connected with many influential people during her volunteer stint at a non-profit for women’s advocacy. Even better, the agency offered her a full time job fund-raising, after seeing first-hand how good she was at PR (though she had no prior experience).

Know thy Digital Media

Social media is not optional anymore.

Your online presence is Googled and across industries, you are expected to know how to leverage Social Media for everything from branding, sales, networking, media and connectivity with a younger generation.

Read and familiarize yourself with the top social networks. Go the extra mile and create an account. Why not use email effectively for jobs and prospecting. Incorporate a signature (a link to your work, portfolio or Linkedin) as well as thoughtful and catchy subject lines.

Be Vocal - Ask and then again

Spread the news to anyone who cares to listen. I’m looking out or trying to start anew.

This gives you two clear advantages. First, you never know who knows whom and can connect you just because they got to know of your intentions.

Plus, and importantly, it allows you to capitalize on people’s natural instincts to share their opinions on what they think you should do.

A smart individual takes feedback and filters it to their advantage.

Thoughts, Ideas and Research only get you so far. Commit to action -little steps that add up.

Use online tools to start crafting and sharing the message that you love within your chosen field. If writing is not hard for you, why not start a blog on Linkedin. It could be a simple round-up from subject experts in your chosen area.

If yours is a visual field, then use Youtube or Facebook Live to demonstrate how-to videos. Or display your work in an online portfolio or even a beautifully curated Instagram feed.

Hopefully some of these ideas will help plant the seeds for your next professional innings. Good luck with nurturing them!

This article was originally published on Maroon Oak.

It’s a Free Business and Skills Listing platform for #WomeninCareers to Connect, Collaborate, Hire, Get Hired and Peer Mentor.

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