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Use vacation time to evaluate career future

by Dr. John McFerran, PhD, CMC, CPsych, FCHRP

There are two times of year when droves of people tend to make career moves: after Christmas holidays and following summer vacation.

The need for change seems more likely to occur when we step away from the workplace for several days, take a deep breath and evaluate the important things in life, including where our career paths are leading us.

A career change can be rooted in boredom or frustration with the present work situation; or it can simply come from sitting on the beach, swinging on the hammock or watching the sunset and contemplating, "How can I enjoy more of these peaceful, happy moments?"

Changing careers is not always simple, especially if you're considering an extreme jump from, say, being an actuary to becoming an aromatherapist. It's not impossible, but there is quite a distance between Point A and Point B. Some experts shorten the distance by finding a job that will overlap both careers, allowing you to apply what you know while learning new skills you will need. This will better position you to move to Point B.

In the meantime, if a career change is in your future, spend your summer pondering these questions:

What do I want to be "when I grow up?"

Create a list of career options you want to explore, and then research the expected requirements of people in these fields, as well as current hiring opportunities. You might discover a benefit that you hadn't considered, just as you might uncover some aspects of the job that do not appeal to you. You may also realize you need to further your education or upgrade your skill set in order to be qualified. If so, map out a plan of how you will get from A, your present situation, to B, your dream job.

Why am I making this move now?

Before you make the jump into a totally new career, consider your motivation for making the transition. The wrong reasons for making the move include pressure from other people, the allure of the mighty dollar and because you hate your boss. You may actually like the career you're in, just not your present environment. If that's the case, switch employers and apply your skills and knowledge to a related job within your industry where you will feel better appreciated.

What do I have to offer a new employer?

As you assess the reasons you may be considering a move, take stock of the abilities you already own that can be applied to your next career. Because most employers can teach you how to perform a particular job, they are looking for in a candidate with "soft" skills, such as flexibility, communication, leadership, ability to solve problems and ability to work well with a team. You can also win over a prospective employer by selling yourself as someone with a great attitude, strong ethics and plenty of initiative.

What can I do now to prepare for the future?

Use your downtime wisely by learning something new! Read books that will help you grow personally and professionally, volunteer your time or take a summer class to learn a new skill or meet new people. Invest your time in worthwhile activities that will help bridge the gap between your Point A and B.

If it has been a while since you successfully landed a position, take charge by finding out how the job market has changed and polish up your job-hunting techniques and tools. Summer is really an ideal time to update your resume, touch base with people in your business network (to generate leads as well as drum up references) and even to shop for new clothes to wear to upcoming interviews.

Summer vacation gives us an opportunity to get away and gain perspective that is otherwise clouded by the daily grind. Whether you decide to make a major career change or renew your commitment to your current job with a relaxed body and a refreshed mind, the best way to spend your holiday is to step back and consider what makes you happiest.

-- With reporting by Barbara Chabai


This article was originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press.