How to Transform Your Career in 10 Steps
A college education is extremely important to many employers. Facebook and Google, for example, won’t even talk to you about a job unless you have an advanced degree.
Having said that, lots of people today are looking to change careers, up-level their skills, or add new competencies that will allow them to follow their passions in art, publishing, or other endeavors. Many do not have the resources necessary to attain a new degree.
How do you up-level your skills at minimal cost? By teaching yourself. Here’s a 10-point plan that can get you well down the road in almost any occupation or skill set.
- Create a blog. Go to WordPress or Google and create a blog, for free. Use a name for your blog that is in line with what you are trying to learn, for example, “Screenplay Writing”. Set your blog as “private” so that it is viewable only by you. This blog becomes your primary repository for research and will be a handy resource whenever you need to refresh your skills. (Optionally, you can create a Pinterest board, but it may not be as interactive as you may wish later.)
- Create some initial categories for your blog. You can reorganize these later, but it’s good to have a way to categorize your research from the start so you have a methodology for studying. For example, if you are studying screenwriting, you might have categories such as writing tips, marketing, case studies, competitions, etc.
- Create Google +, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook accounts. Make sure your profile mentions something about what you are studying or aspiring to be, such as “novice screenwriter”. Don’t make the mistake of claiming to be something that you are not, yet. This could damage your credibility in the short term and make it harder to gain followers later.
- Use your accounts to find and follow people, organizations and associations in your career path of choice. Following people on Twitter, liking them on Facebook or adding them to your Google+ circles allows you to keep in contact and learn from them. You’re basically subscribing to their feeds, which, in many cases, is as good as subscribing to an industry publication. (Warning: There’s a lot of riff-raff out there. You’ll figure out who they are pretty quickly. Drop them sooner rather than later. They will just drag you down with B.S. if you allow yourself to stay connected.)
- Follow industry publications. Lots of publications will post information online that is as valuable – if not more valuable – than some information you would find in a classroom. Writer’s Digest is one such example. (Another warning: Avoid multi-level marketers, also known in social media parlance as affiliate networks, unless you really want to play that game. Affiliates will try to sell you “start-up kits” to get you started in a job or create a social site for your career, but in the end you’re going to end up being a peddler for their products and your personal contributions will be lost in the noise.)
- Read everything and archive the best materials as posts in your blog. Simply copy the post and paste it into your blog. Don’t forget to copy the URL to the original post so you will have a reference for where it was found. Doing this methodically over time will allow you to build a considerable library of resources, perhaps hundreds of pages…certainly competitive with anything you would find by way of a classroom textbook. Make sure you categorize each post so your blog remains well-organized. (Caveat: Don’t fall to the temptation to copy an article to your blog with the intention of reading it later. You may not get around to it for a while. Read first, post second.)
- Sign up for courses. If a software publisher has a free or even at-cost webinar involving some software that you need to learn, by all means sign up for it. Many colleges and universities also have online courses, and some are free. These courses can last from a couple of hours on a Saturday to many weeks, and may require a lot of homework. In many cases, you don’t need to be enrolled in the school or committed to a field of study. If it’s appropriate to your required skill set and affordable to you, go for it.
- Join meetups and social clubs. Many clubs, meetups and groups are being created on the local level all over the place, to allow like-minded people get together and talk about their experiences. This is not a competition, it’s a peer group, very much like a student gathering. You’ll find it immensely valuable to build friendships with some of these people. They will also help you build your ecosystem. For example, if you want to write childrens’ books, you will likely find publishers – or someone who can introduce you to them – at these meetings. Stay in contact with them on your social networks.
- Get the tools. Almost every occupation has its own set of specialized tools and processes. Learn what these are and acquire them. Study the handbooks and instructions and practice using them. Start out with small projects and build from there. If you want to learn how to be a tech on wind power generators, for example, you might want to practice rope climbing techniques at a local climbing club while also studying plastic composites. Blog about your experiences. Videotape, photograph or archive your work and upload it to your blog.
- Share your accomplishments and updates frequently with people in your network who are on the same path. Again, don’t pretend that you are further along, just be genuine and show people your progress. It may be scary and more than a little humbling at first, but everyone has been through that and it never hurts to learn from your peers.
- Bonus tip: Find a mentor. Despite your best efforts at researching, practicing and sharing, there are going to be some things that you won’t know except through experience. The only way to accelerate this process is to find a mentor – someone who has been there before. Many leaders in your target field, or even junior level personnel with acclaimed skill sets – will set aside time for a student who demonstrates potential. The research you have collected in your blog, along with your personal observations, notes, trial runs and social associations will go a long way toward demonstrating that potential.
If these 10 easy steps don’t get you all the skills necessary for a new career, they will at least have provided you with a much deeper understanding of what you do need, and how to get it. Clearly, you’re not going to be able to practice brain surgery because you did a little research on the Web, but by doing that research, you’ll have a good understanding of where your present skills fall short of what is needed, and you may even find resources that will help you get there.
Not every career path can be achieved without a college education, but not every college educated person ends up in the career path they studied, either. Your chances of transforming your future to achieve the goals you are passionate about are greatly enhanced when you have a methodology for getting there. The rest depends on your diligence, passion and commitment.