In difficult economic times and with the national unemployment average holding steady in the 9 percent range, making a career change may be a scary prospect. It is certainly not impossible, but the possibility must be approached strategically and realistically.

Statistically, people change jobs 9 times during their lifetime and change careers 4 times. There are many reasons why; downsizing/layoff, relocation, lack of satisfaction, burnout, change in finances, or pursuit of a passion. Regardless of the reason, changing careers can be both challenging and rewarding, when the process is attacked with a clear vision and a plan.

Step 1:

When I begin the career coaching process, I ask my clients some telling questions:

· Why are you looking to make a change?

· In five years, what does your life look and feel like if you stay where you are?

· In five years, what does your life look and feel like if you follow your passion?

· Who does your change affect and how?

· How will a change affect you financially today, in 1 year, 5 years, and 10 years?

· What are you good at?

· What do you like to do? (Not the same questions as above!)

· What are you NOT so good at?

· What do you NOT like to do? (Not the same questions as above!)

I then recommend that we dig deeper before we discuss by completing a validated career insight assessment, to make sure the client is true to his/herself and to uncover additional, crucial information that the client may not even be aware of, and generate a snapshot of the client’s personality, showing which careers might suit them best.

Step 2:

We evaluate the financial situation. If a career change means an initial investment or pay reduction, is it feasible? For how long? What else might you need to do in order to pursue a change and “fill in the financial gap?” Are you supported by the people in your life that this will affect?

Step 3:

After we have identified a new career path we want to do our homework on that career. What is the forecast? What are the responsibilities and do they match your abilitites/interests? Do you have the tools and education needed? What are the pay scales / earning potential? The internet has several great sources for gathering these insights.

Step 4:

We ask the question “Am I being realistic?” Certain careers require education, certifications, training, and licenses and so you must ask yourself “Is it realistic to go back to medical school to become a doctor?” “Can I attend continuing education courses to update my computer skills or obtain a certification?” “Most of the jobs that interest me are in another part of the country, can I relocate?” Questions along this line will help you to see if the change is viable.

Once you have walked through the 4 initial steps, it is helpful to organize everything that you have answered and gathered, and create a plan. If your decision is to make a change, then be strategic, create your own action plan, and step into phase 2… making it happen.

The process can be overwhelming but it is manageable. A good career coach can partner with you to lay set you on the right path, and hold you accountable for… making it happen.

Author's Bio: 

Michelle A. Riklan is an author, public speaker, certified professional résumé writer, career coach, and employment interview consultant. She is co-author of “101 Great Ways to Enhance Your Career” and can be reached at . Her website address is