James, I think your cover's blown!

Ludovic Bertron via Compfight

Last week, a client started her new job in a new field. It took her about 4 months to make the transition – from being laid off in her old field to landing a job in her new field.

Yes, that is fast! I have helped other people make transitions to other fields and it usually takes about a year.

It actually took her about 18 months ago.  She tells me:

I do realize how quickly I was able to find the position, although to be honest I have been thinking about it for some time.  As we discussed, getting laid off was a real opportunity, and fortunately I knew what it was that I really wanted to do next.  Today a friend reminded me that we had discussed this change in the summer of 2010.
So the seed was planted about 18 months ago. And that makes sense. The actual job change is the end of a transition process. My client had to see herself doing the new job. And before that, she had to assess what her skills and interests were. And before that, she had to look at what she was actually doing that could transfer into a new field.  What did she naturally gravitate toward? What was consistent throughout her work life?

My client knew what she wanted to do AFTER going through some assessment. She noticed what she loved doing.  In her case, she was already doing some work in her new field while in her old line of work.  And she’d gravitated toward it in every single job, because it gave her joy. (She was in financial services, and as part of her work, had done recruiting work for her alma mater – and now she’s doing recruiting for a university!)

If you want to change your field, look at what interests you deeply. What do you love to do in every single job you’ve had? There are definite clues there.

For example, I got into coaching because it was a consistent thread throughout my work life.  I’d had a business coach for many years, had adopted the “coach approach” to management, loved developing people, always got “right fit” jobs myself, and my father gave me the gift of a career assessment with an adviser who helped me know for sure that I wanted to be a non-profit executive director.  (BTW parents, good career coaching is a GREAT gift for a young adult, that will pay off for years to come.) So it made sense for me to transition into being a career coach.

My client and I worked together to capture her experience and package all her skills so she could attract the right fit job for her. And she did a few other things, like volunteering for the university that eventually hired her, to get hands-on experience. It turned out she impressed people who then recommended her for the job she now has. And she networked with a number of people in the field who told her about the position and spoke well of her to the person hiring.

Lessons: following her heart, volunteering and relationship-building were key tools for my client to make a career transition. They will work for you, too.