Making the Leap to Your Dream Career

The biggest factor in your transition from one career to the next is money. Although you'd love to just quit your current job and dive headlong into your new career, financial realities keep you from acting rashly. The truth is that you need to continue to make a certain amount of money to survive as you make your move.

To transition as gracefully and effectively as possible, think through the best way to choreograph your entry into a new job, your own business, or back to school.

Using your current income wisely

If you know that a career change is in your future, be proactive in getting your financial house in order. An honest assessment of your financial situation, while you're still employed if possible, gives you far more options in the long run than assuming you know where you stand.

Before you initiate your move to change careers, make as much progress as you can toward the following four initiatives:

  • Increasing your savings: Sign up for an automatic transfer to your savings account. Create a monthly or weekly savings goal and do everything in your power to reach it.
  • Reducing your monthly expenses: Look at every monthly expense you have. Does the value it provides match what you pay for it? Is it an essential expense? Eliminate bills where you can; downgrade others if possible. Don't focus only on your small expenses; take this opportunity to evaluate your biggest expenses as well to see whether you can find a creative way to restructure them.
  • Eliminating, or at least significantly reducing, your debt: Whether you make payments toward student loans, a car loan, or a credit card balance, your income requirement is likely to decrease rather dramatically as you eliminate each source of debt.
  • Practicing living within your means: When you launch your new career, you don't want to rack up new debts to replace the ones you've just paid off. Instead, you need
    to get in the habit of living within your means — without the use of plastic. When you begin acting on these initiatives, your discretionary income, the money you get to use for whatever you wish, decreases dramatically because most of it is going into savings or to pay down your debt.

Supplementing your full-time position with part-time work

Taking on a part- time job on top of your regular job can be a viable strategy if you want to do any of the following:

  • Build your cash reserves
  • Gain some experience in your new field
  • Develop a particular skill
  • Strengthen your network of contacts within a new field
  • Add new breadth to your resume

If you're going to invest your time and effort in a second job, get some extra bang for your buck by finding a part-time job that's in alignment with your target career in some way. Think about what you want this job to do for you. Do you want to use the job to get a look at your target industry, to strengthen one key skill you need to move forward, or to check out the competition of your target company?

Doing contract work

Although you may think that your only option is to seek out a full-time job, your chances of landing a job improve if you open your mind to include the possibility of taking on project or contract work. Although a series of short-term gigs may not fit your ideal picture, having some money coming in while you gain some relevant experience isn't anything to sneeze at.

More and more companies are turning to a project-based philosophy that allows them to hire just the talent they need to complete a particular project. As soon as a project is finished, the company releases those they no longer need.

Although there's always a chance that your contract will be extended or converted to full-time, you can't know that for sure. Given the fluid nature of the economic climate, you may move from contract work to a full-time position, and back to freelance work over the course of a couple years. Living with this level of unfolding security takes a certain level of confidence and trust.

Strengthening your position through consulting

If you decide to use your key strengths in a consulting role as you build toward your dream career, use your consulting gigs to get to know your ultimate target customer. Consciously take projects that allow you to use your talents to get into your target market's world. When you're inside, make good use of the opportunity to observe, ask questions, and get a feel for your target market.

As your knowledge increases and deepens, you have a great opportunity to fine-tune your plan. You might refocus your approach based on new information. You might identify a need that no one is filling, or you might see that your competition in the market is losing its edge or missing the point. The insider perspective gives you the background you need to make a big splash when you open the doors to your business or go after your dream job.

This strategy increases your chances of success because you're building your venture on real-life observations and knowledge rather than assumptions and theory. Knowing what your clients or employer need and are willing to pay for is what takes you to the bank.

Working full time while attending school part time

Face it: Returning to school while working full time is no easy feat! You need a fair amount of motivation and stamina to work all day, attend classes at night, and spend time with your studies. Although you must put some aspects of your personal life on hold while you enhance your training, taking on this lifestyle is well worth the effort if you need a degree to go for your dream!

If you truly want to enter your target field, look beyond the short-term costs to see the long-term benefits. In the end, you'll be more fulfilled having trained in your field of choice.

Attending school with a part-time job on the side

Another education option is to attend school full time with a part-time job to cover at least some of your expenses. This option may take some creative financing and require that you change your living situation to lower your rent, but the big benefit of this option is that you get through the education phase more quickly.

Look for funding at Free Scholarship Search (www.freschinfo.com). Perhaps you can find a way to go to school full time and not work at all during certain key semesters. Although this idea may seem far-fetched, do yourself a favor and at least check it out, especially if you're more productive when you devote all your time and energy to a single goal.

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