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How to Start a New Career from Scratch

Lindsay Olson

When it comes to your career, do you feel like a hamster running in a wheel without getting anywhere? If so, it may be time for a change. Realizing you're not happy in your career and doing something about it is life changing. But starting a new career isn't impossible.

To make a dramatic career change, it's important to have a clear direction. Making a complete industry/career switch isn't easy without any prior experience. You have to align your experience and demonstrate how it will translate into this new career. You should have a clear understanding of the areas where you lack experience and seek opportunities to gain training or certifications to position yourself for that next step. Browsing job boards to see what roles are out there and assessing their requisites should give you a good idea of what employers seek.

[See The 50 Best Careers for 2011.]

Once You've Picked Your New Career

Knowing what you want to do is half the battle. Now you need to find out what it takes to get hired. Your goal is to make yourself as smart as possible on this industry. Read:

-- blogs

-- career sites

-- books on this industry

-- forums and Twitter feeds with people working in this field

Many people assume that you need a degree in the field you want to work in, but maybe not. Is additional education a necessity for this career switch? Are there other ways to get experience? Sometimes you can start in an internship or entry-level role to learn the ropes and get your foot in the door. You can also volunteer to get more experience.

It can also be helpful to find a mentor in the industry to get insight about what you need to do to qualify for this type of work. If you don't already know an appropriate mentor, then join local industry groups and meet people who know this field inside and out. Ask around to find someone who has the time and interest to work with you one-on-one.

[See The 50 Best Places to Work for 2012.]

Qualify Yourself

Rework your resume to highlight any relevant experience you already have. For example, if you want to get into hospitality and tourism, but have been working as an accountant for years, find a way to mention any previous relevant experience and your keen interest in the area. Your introduction must explain the career change and why you should be considered. Don't make the employer figure out how you could fit the role. You have to put the pieces together and show your enthusiasm for this new career path.

Join industry organizations. You'll get access to workshops and seminars that will make you more knowledgeable, as well as get the opportunity to connect to people already established in the field. Not only will you learn from those who have forged this road ahead of you, but you will also stay up-to-date on industry tools and trends. Some organizations may also offer certification programs that will help you train in specific areas.

[See 6 Networking Tips for Your Job Search.]

You can also take a class at your local community college. It might not be necessary to earn a specific degree; see what you can learn with a course or two. Also look at adult education, which often offers quick courses on bookkeeping, computer programs and other business classes.

Starting a new career is a process; plan for it and take advantage of any opportunities you get to learn. It won't be easy; you have to be willing to start from scratch and work your way up. You'll likely feel very discouraged at some employers' lack of interest to give you a chance. Financially, this might put a strain on your family, as it may be a while before your earning power is what it was in your last role. But put in the time and hard work, and your persistence will pay off with a new, exciting career that you love.

Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs, a niche job board for public relations, communications and social media jobs. She blogs at, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.

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