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Learning Center Experience
By Jennifer Lasater, Executive Director of Career Services
As the executive director
of career services at an online university, a majority of the students we
serve are non-traditional college students; adults with some college experience,
who for a variety of reasons, never finished college. It’s not until they decide to make a career change, or advance
in their current career that they realize they
need a college degree.
Most career changers I talk to are looking to
switch jobs or professions due to dissatisfaction with their current job, or a
desire to make a lifestyle change. Whether it's a young parent who decides
they want a better opportunity to support their family, a dedicated
professional who sees their chosen career changing, or someone who wants a
better work/life balance so they can spend more quality time with their family. The reasons may be very different, but the
path to achieve those goals is usually the same—a college degree.
Since aging baby boomers tend
to stay active and involved, I sometimes encounter those who are entering a
second, and in some cases, a third phase in their life. These students are
willing to embrace change in order to follow their passion. This reawakened or newfound passion is often the
key to a careers changer's decision and commitment to a new career. However, charging full-steam ahead towards
your new dream job, or career change based strictly on an emotional desire to
change, without proper research, is ill advised. Such spontaneous decisions can
lead to disappointment and prevent you from achieving your goal.
The decision to make a job
or career change requires thorough research. Proper research will help you make
sound decisions, decisions that are right for you. Good research will also help
you establish a game plan and timeline for achieving your goal. A realistic
timetable is an important part of any career change process. It helps you set
and achieve milestones, and should help prevent you from extending your college
degree program beyond a reasonable timeframe. Following this process should result in a
smoother and more productive career change journey.
Good research starts with talking to the right
people (career advise). Kaplan University’s team of experienced career advisors can help guide aspiring
career changers through the appropriate steps. They
can help you research career options based on your prior college credits,
previous or current work experience, and your desired career outcome. The
important thing to remember is; whatever your reason is for initiating a job or
career change, you do have options. The proper research and support can help
you achieve your career change goals.
There are several
government resources, industry organizations and sites that provide information
on professions and occupations. O*NET is a great place to start. This career
tool site is powered by the Bureau of Labor statistics. The site allows
you to search by profession and common career titles. You’ll find information on
common job skills in a variety of fields, as well as the activities and tasks
performed within a particular job. The site provides a good perspective on
the daily job requirements, as well as, the personality and demeanor expected
in each field. For example, an extreme introvert with no desire to change
their ways should think twice about a career in Public Health Education that
requires public speaking and presentations. O*NET also provides median salary ranges and forecasted
job growth by profession.
There are also several LinkedIn groups related to specific careers and topics within the fields that you can
join. A LinkedIn search within the
group’s category should list several options.
You’ll also find professional societies and organizations for different
professions. Joining a career group or
visiting the individual sites is a great way to learn more about a career you
are interested in pursuing.
Check out job boards and
look at job requirements and the qualifications requested within the job descriptions.
This will also help you begin to identify potential employers. Look
at both national and local job postings. While local employers in your
area may not be hiring, a national search can provide insight into those
companies or the types of organizations and companies that are hiring in your
area. These include locally advertised jobs
to larger job boards like usjobs.com,
careerbuilder.com, indeed.com and monster.com. There are also profession-specific
job boards like, Dice.com for IT professionals and Care.com for caregivers. The professional
society and organizational websites mentioned above may also include a job
board on their site.
Research your industry of
interest and it’s particular job market in your state and/or community. Many
states provide state specific information on current industry trends and industry
job growth within their state. Demographic and census data at the state,
regional and county level may also be available. Census sites such as www.census.gov can be very helpful in gathering such
information. Their County Business Patterns page provides
economic and job specific data by state, right down to local zip codes.
You may also want to check your state's website.
If you don't find anything, call and ask where you can find industry and market
trends for your specific states. Remember; think strategically.
Teaching is a great example; while there may be an overall shortage of teachers
in a state, there could be job openings within certain districts, grade levels
or at the secondary level, or subject area.
Finally, careerinfonet.org, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, offers
employment trends and forecast at the state and national levels, wage charts,
and employment levels/ percentages for certain occupation at the different
It’s important to stay
current on specific educational and/or certification requirements per industry
and state because they may change, or can vary from state to state. It is
important to understand what is required to practice or work in the field you
are considering. For example, the
requirements to become a substance abuse counselor may differ from state to
state, as might requirements for teaching, fire service, criminal justice and many
other professions. Also, certified professions often require an internship
or practicum. You should identify whether the field you are considering
requires them. Careers and certifications in industries such as information
technology are consistently being updated as technology evolves, so new
certifications may be needed to find work or advance within that field. The
one-stop career site mentioned above offers a licensed occupation career tool to help you identify license requirements in per
As you develop a career
change plan, keep in mind some careers will demand continuous development,
which might require an additional investment in time and/or money. In many
cases I found students’ are attached to the dynamics associated continuous
development and their vision, excitement and passion for their new career helps
them easily overcome any obstacles. Some sage advice; keep your eyes on the end
game. Understand what the job requires, the challenges you may face, and
rely on your training, knowledge and passion for your new career to help you
achieve your career goals. On the other hand, if don’t do the proper research,
you might be surprised by what you encounter and quickly become derailed from
reaching your career goals.
If you are considering a career change, speak and
listen to others who are currently in your career of choice. It's easy to
romanticize about your new future, but speaking and listening to someone who’s
doing it can go a long way in helping you make a more informed decision about
your career change. A dose of reality can go a long way to putting a potential
career change in perspective. People who are on the job can provide a perspective
you don’t have about the job. Discuss with them the positive outcomes and
motivators that helped them achieve their career goals. Try to gain insight on
options within those professions, which you may not have considered. Discuss challenges
they might have encountered along the way and how they overcame them. At Kaplan University we encourage new and potential students to view our testimonial videos related to different degree programs, speak to our practicing
faculty, who have their own professional experience, or connect with peers
within their social networks. Those are all great sources for career perspective. Check out the Kaplan University You Tube Channel for
interviews of our graduates and the faculty and staff at Kaplan University.
Industry or topical
webinars on the latest industry trends and challenges impacting professions are
also a great resource. Kaplan University and their respective programs periodically
offer Kaplan webinars free to the public and current students. Participants are encouraged
to ask questions. This is a great opportunity to engage experts in the field
about trends and changes they see in their industry. Taking advantage of these
types of opportunities will serve to further your understanding of what it
takes to succeed in a particular field. Kaplan
University webinars are recorded
and available in the media section of our website.
You can also seek out industry organizations,
consultants and vendors for similar webinars. Listening to potential future colleagues can
be incredibly valuable and help you gain a deeper understanding of your desired
Speak to your friends,
family and acquaintances about your career change plans. They may know
someone who is currently working in your field of interest. If you use LinkedIn, see if anyone in your primary or associated network works the field
you are pursuing. Professionals usually don’t mind guiding others and can be a
good source of advice. If you don't know someone personally, or
professionally, don’t despair. Share your interest, and request an introduction
to someone in the field. After all, you're not asking for a job—not yet.
A critical, key step in any successful career
journey is a personal inventory. This includes being realistic about your
needs, professional experience, and long and short-term objectives you are
seeking with this change. This should be the first step career changers
take, or anyone who is just considering a move to a different career.
Above all, you want to make sure you’re
leveraging your passion and desires as well as your talent and strengths in
your new career journey; to help you develop the most effective and efficient
blueprint for getting you to you ultimate goal. Given the research
outlined above, you should have a much better understanding of what it will take,
the skills and knowledge required, the questions to ask and the degree gaps you
might have to fill. O*Net, mentioned
earlier, allows you to search occupations and professions based on your
abilities, knowledge, interest, etc.
Helping you sync your profile to available opportunities is a great
It’s also important to remember, not all career
changes are created equal. Some may only require formal, or basic training and
single courses, while other might require certifications and\or a college degree.
But previous college credit (transfer
credits) and work
experience can help you take a giant
step forward towards that degree, if one is required. Previous college credits and\or your previous work experience can save
you both time and money, so make sure you consider those in your career audit
and when deciding which university to
I encourage all those considering a career
change to start researching your program of interest and the available program
options before you enroll in college. This will help you make a more informed decision when
selecting your degree program and will better equip you with insight to ask the right questions when selecting
a university and program to attend.
This will always help ensure you choose a university that will help you achieve
your career change goals.
Make sure to share this personal inventory
assessment with academic advisors in your program. This can be used to
fine-tune your degree game plan and align it to your career plans. This will provide
a strong foundation, and potentially a competitive edge over other job seekers
with similar aspirations.
Gaining a comprehensive understanding of what
is required and systematically filling in your skills gap with the
knowledge and training needed to change your career is a game plan for success.
It's time for a repackaging of yourself and your experience. This requires a
different blueprint to start your job search. Stay tuned, in future
articles I'll be covering job search tips related to career changers. Plus, we’ll
address the comprehensive step-by-step repackaging you’ll need for your new
career, and we’ll detail the job seeking process for career changers.
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