Blazing the Trail to a New Career

Blazing the Trail to a New Career

Directions for Changing Your Career

As you take delight in the blooming flowers of spring, you might be inspired to plant some personal seeds that will blossom into a new career. Trying to figure out what you want to do with your life can be both challenging and exciting. You can often find clues to your future by stepping back in the past and reflecting on your experiences, accomplishments and those unique and special talents that you may have been taking for granted.

Think of your career as a life long process requiring a careful evaluation of your values, skills and interests. Most of us hope to find work that exercises our abilities, stimulates our ambitions and suits our personalities. This search is no easy task. If you take the time to focus on your interests, belief system and strengths, there is a good chance that you will be able to generate some novel career ideas that have the potential to be a good fit.

Below are some basic, but undeniably essential steps to help you identify and explore that new career direction:


A simple place to start as you begin to identify your skills and values is to consider what you have achieved. Look back through your whole life storybook from work to volunteering to family life. Nothing is irrelevant. If you are proud of designing and planting a garden in your backyard it demonstrates creativity, spatial ability and organization skills. If you have received promotions in your job, it may reflect leadership, analytical thinking skills and diplomacy.


Values highlight what is most important to you. These essential indicators signal how you feel about the work itself and how you might want to contribute to a work setting.  Do you want to work in a large organization or small company? Is working with other people more appealing than working alone? Do you like your responsibilities to be well defined or do you prefer some room for creativity? These are just a few examples of how to define your work values.

Think about work experience and any outside activities that you especially enjoyed and see if you can identify some common trends. Even the most unpleasant work experiences can provide insight into what drives your need to work and your personal satisfiers.


What you enjoy spending time doing can offer clues to solving the puzzle to your career. Some people are able to develop their careers based strictly on special interests.

  • What were some of the topics and subjects you most enjoyed studying in high school or college?
  • Think of a hobby or activity that you enjoy so much that time seems to fly by when you’re engaged in it.
  • When you catch the news or read a newspaper/magazine, what issues grab your attention?
  • If money were no object, what would you spend more or most of your time on?

Think of personal interests as another way to identify your values, skills and abilities. For instance, if you enjoy writing stories, this may reflect a talent for communication, creativity and a fascination with the motivations behind human behavior. There are many careers that would support this combination of interests, values and skills, such as journalism, social media and marketing.


A systematic assessment of your skills often reveals your strengths and how you might use these in a work setting. Functional skills reflect the ability to work with people, data and information or objects. You can further break down your skills by looking at your natural talents as well as your intellectual, creative, leadership and problem-solving abilities.

If you have a tough time assessing your values, interests and skills and how these translate into a career, a helpful resource is ONET ( ).  In addition, many local college career offices provide links to online resources that include career tests and general occupational information. 

A career transition requires patience, optimism, resilience and persistence.  At certain points you may feel discouraged. However, if you have a good understanding of who you are and where you have been, and are willing to persevere through the maze of career information, you are bound to discover some new and interesting career paths.


Hold on to Your Job


Eight Building Blocks to Succeeding at Work

Economic turbulence. Sluggish job market. Competitive workplace.  These words may have you tossing and turning on your pillow at night conjuring up images of your job on the chopping block. But it might help you to stop staring wide-eyed in fear at night if you take specific actions to increase your chances of achieving job success, and building a career that will make the future seem more rosy than scary.


Be open to challenge and show you are willing to take on new projects. As you work with, and observe senior level staff or your manager, determine how you might be able to assist them and further the organization’s mission.  Then suggest how you can employ your particular talents and skills to help achieve important goals.


In a world of rapid change, there is always room for new ideas or fresh approaches for the potential to streamline costs, increase efficiency or enhance marketability.  Creative thinking skills are in high demand. This adventurous approach may result in your coming up with an idea that might offer a perfect solution to a problem or improve a process.


Don’t expect your efforts and accomplishments to be magically acknowledged.  Keep your boss, supervisors, senior leaders and colleagues aware of the energy you are putting forth on a project and keep them posted on your progress.  If you include everyone on your radar, they will have a better idea of the scope, skill and time required to successfully complete the project or a major task.  For special accomplishments, update your LinkedIn contact list. You might grab the attention of a future employer or senior leaders in your field.

Connect with Thought Leaders

Discover who the visionaries or experts are in your organization or industry and meet them online or in person.  Doing this provides a great opportunity to learn more about current and future trends and opens the door to getting advice on how to advance in your career.  Don’t be intimidated by an industry leader’s position or experience; most successful professionals enjoy mentoring or providing advice and the reality is that most people just plain like to talk about themselves.

Support from Colleagues

Building and maintaining strong relationships with coworkers can prove to be highly beneficial when you are struggling with a problem or grappling with a challenging project.  Coworker support can be invaluable in helping your through difficult periods as they bolster your confidence and provide helpful advice and suggestions. In addition to building supportive relationships on the job, don’t hesitate to extend and expand your support system to other professionals in the field via networking events, LinkedIn and Twitter and professional associations. At all costs, avoid building counter-productive relationships that are based on bashing your boss or other colleagues.

Continue to Expand your Knowledge and Skills

If you don’t keep up with all the changes in technology, you will be left behind, so stay up to date on any programs or computer tools used in your workplace. Take advantage of any opportunity to strengthen your technical or job related skills. Read professional and trade journals and have discussions with your boss or senior leaders on current topics to demonstrate your interest and knowledge.

Confront Problems

Deal with conflicts head on and don’t let them fester. If you think your boss is upset with you, don’t go into hiding. You might approach your boss diplomatically by saying, “I have a feeling that you were disappointed with the way I handled the situation last week and I would like to talk with you about your observations and how I might approach this problem differently next time.” 

Work Ethic

Perhaps one the most ignored and important ways to succeed at your job is to demonstrate that you are responsible and conscientious and perform your tasks with integrity and a strong sense of professionalism. There is no replacement for being prompt to meetings, polite to both support and senior staff and completing your tasks with care and in a timely manner.

In a volatile job market, there is no guarantee that your job won’t be eliminated in the future even if you are a star performer.  However building a strong reputation in your field will lead the way to new opportunities in the future.



Creating a 30 Second Elevator Speech

If you are stuck about the whole career networking process, think about creating a 30-second elevator speech. This simplified approach provides an organized way to introduce yourself to a professional contact.  Think of the 30-second elevator speech as a personal pitch, or as a script that you develop with the distinct purpose of establishing rapport or a relationship with a potentially valuable contact. This short-hand introduction can also act to stimulate interest on the part of your contact.

Hopefully your 30-second speech will cultivate curiosity and generate questions from your contact that will provide more information about your background and interests.

There are many situations where the 30-second elevator speech can be useful from meeting a new client or colleague, to engaging with a former classmate or potential employer. When people meet for the first time, the initial exchange is usually based on, “Who are you and what do you do?”  If you have a well thought out introduction organized ahead of time, the delivery will be smoother and more cohesive … and might very well result in a greater chance to make a good impression at the crucial starting point.  Once you have created a basic introduction you can tailor it to any situation.

Basic Elements of 30-second Elevator Speech

Your Name and Title

Nothing complicated here.  A simple “Hi, my name is John and I am currently a business analyst” will do.  If you are a student or a recent grad, it is fine to use these terms as your title.  For the unemployed, the focus can be on past titles and capacities and the fields and industries that fill your resume.

Your Role

The description of your role can be an extension of your title embellished with more information.

“I am a nurse who specializes in emergency room patients and recently developed expertise working with patients who suffered traumatic head injuries.” Or for a college grad, “I recently graduated from Temple University with a fine arts degree in graphic design.”

Your Interests

Expanding on accomplishments or exciting developments in your experience presents a unique opportunity to build enthusiasm and more fully engage your contact.

“I enjoy working with my patients and have had the privilege of watching many seriously injured patients fight courageously to improve their physical condition.”

The positive energy that you display can prove to be contagious and can act to further your contact’s interest in finding out more about you.

Future Conversation

If your initial introduction and conversation goes smoothly with a contact, it can open the door to a more formal meeting or discussion via Skype or telephone.  As you develop your introduction pitch, it is also a good idea to think in advance about how to present your desire for an extended conversation.

“I am looking to expand my nursing experience and talents and pursue opportunities in Hospice care.  You have substantial knowledge and experience in this area and I wondered if you would be willing to talk with me further about trends in the field.”

Additional Tips

Practice your elevator speech with friends or colleagues and make sure your delivery comes across as natural.  Keep in mind you can use the pitch in building your network of friends, colleagues, leaders in your field and professional acquaintances. You can tailor the pitch depending on who it is you are trying to build a relationship with but a basic introduction will always help you break the ice with a new contact.

Avoid being blatantly direct by asking your contact for a job. In the same spirit, do not ask the contact if he or she would consider interviewing you. This kind of approach is a turn off since the contact does not really know you well enough and will consider your request an imposition.

The 30-second elevator speech is about developing a relationship which can simply produce a warm and valuable relationship or lead to an opportunity now or in the future.

Take a Stab at Freelance

Take a Stab at Freelance

It’s no fun pounding the pavement, wearing your shoes and your spirit out, looking for work opportunities. You dutifully post your resumes online, network your heart out and attend career fairs, all with negative results. If you are frustrated by a tough job market, consider freelance or contract work as way to tide you over.  With some luck, your temporary job could turn into a full time job. However, freelance work provides an opportunity to continue to develop your skills and earn some money at the same time. Many professionals in full time positions pursue freelance work as a way to enhance their salaries.

A Day in the Life of a Career Counselor

A Day in the Life of a Career Counselor

For most of my professional life I have been a career counselor and coach.  I spend countless hours guiding people through an intricate maze that includes their experiences, talents, skills and interests. The goal is to come up with job options that have the potential to be life changing and satisfying. I have had many opportunities to educate and advise students, young professionals, seasoned workers and Baby Boomers on all areas of career development. On a personal level, I have benefited from learning about the highs and lows of their experiences and found a deep sense of pride inspiring clients to take initiative and risks that have unfolded into exciting new opportunity and positive change.

Networking for Your Career

Networking for Your Career

The prospect of creating a professional network can be intimidating and confusing.  But the most compelling incentive for getting beyond your angst is the fact that a lot of folks are finding the right job because they developed a healthy and vital professional network. It is not really a new concept. Even before the economic downturn, many people found their jobs through connections.

While You Are Waiting for Something to Change

While You Are Waiting for Something to Change

The search for an exciting new career or even the less adventurous prospect of finding a decent job is a unique challenge in a sluggish economy. Admirable qualities such as patience, a positive attitude, creative thinking, a willingness to take the initiative and some old fashion finger crossing can only take you so far before the sturdiest, most optimistic personality crumbles a little at the edges. Even a sparkling, polished resume combined with an effective job search strategy no longer guarantee immediate success.