During this age of rapid changes in economic structure and employment trends, more and more people are being forced to make mid-career transitions. Many are caught quite unprepared by a company's downsizing, relocation, or even closure. Others may find their careers stagnating or that they are not sustainable over the long haul due to lack of new developments in their sector or a gradual phasing out of certain operations.

If you are anticipating being caught in any such situation and, as a result, are contemplating a career change, getting prepared for your career transition is essential.

Self-Exploration

Whatever your reasons for considering a career change, it is important that you know what you are looking for. Before taking the crucial step, you should try to understand yourself and what best suits you professionally. Identify your passions, your likes, and your dislikes and be sure of what you want. Think of the types of work that interest you most and be practical about your choices. Assess your career history, experiences, and skills and make an effort to rediscover your true self. The self-exploration process could help you enormously in determining the best course of action, because once you have thought things through thoroughly, it will be much easier to develop a rational strategy for making the move.

Investigate Career Options

Research all the types of careers that suit you and zoom in on the careers that center on your interests. Take advantage of all available resources, including career information centers and career services offered by professional organizations and institutions of higher learning. Envision yourself in various roles and picture how well you would fit into each of them. Determine whether or not there is room for career advancement. Ask yourself what your goals are. Are you looking for a more permanent position with a clear career track or merely a stepping-stone to yet another job? If you are entirely new to the industry you intend joining, you may wish to opt for an entry-level position that would provide a good induction to the industry. On the other hand, if you are undecided and just wish to try it out, a temporary job would serve the purpose.

Repackage Yourself Suitably

Think of all the things that you can do on the prospective job. List them in your resume, neatly and concisely. Leave out unnecessary details--you can always provide additional information should your potential employer ask for it. Adapt your resume to what the employer wants. For example, if you are looking for a job in information technology, you may wish to highlight your experience or prior training in specific computer programs rather than your laboratory skills. Your competency in relevant computer skills may be a good selling point even though you may not have come from a pure computer science background. It is always helpful to find out beforehand some essential information about the company and the job you are interested in and know what is expected of the candidate. You must customize your resume for each application.

Leverage Your Transferable Skills

A career transition doesn't necessarily mean you have to shelve all your working experiences and start building another career from scratch. A surprising number of your current skills will almost certainly be applicable in many professions. Skills such as communication, management, information technology, and planning are all interchangeable. Even basic technical skills in R&D technology are often applicable in many other scientific disciplines. So are your analytical/statistical skills in science. Take the advantage of leveraging some of your existing skills in your new career. Look for careers that take advantage of both your skills and your interests. In that way, you will not feel totally lost at your new job.

Consider Additional Training

If you are moving into a new career field, you may want to get additional training to gain specific skills or simply to extend your knowledge so that you can be more competitive. If you are sure of the path you want to take, you may even begin training before entering the field. Explore for courses that will not only familiarize you with the subject but also increase your credibility for the job. However, make sure you check the accreditation of the school or courses you intend to join and find out if the training is recognized by the industries in which you will be looking for jobs. Some companies and organizations conduct in-house induction courses, attachment programs, and even internships for eligible candidates.

Tap On Your Network

One of the most reliable resources for job seeking is an extensive and well-maintained personal network. So tap fully on the knowledge and connections of the people in your network. They may be able to provide valuable insights into what you might do for your next career as well as useful tips and information about a particular job, company, or industry. Find a trustworthy mentor from among the people you know best--someone to guide you through the testing times and keep you focused on your goal so that you can make the right choice.

A mid-career transition is often more difficult than choosing your first career. Moving into new fields often means a lot of adjustments and hard work on your part. Career change is always a challenging process and it is even more so in times of economic uncertainties like these. Nevertheless, you can make that switch a little easier if you prepare yourself well.