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New Year, New Career

January 12, 2016

It's a new year, a perfect time to find the new you. For many, that means a new career that can turn job frustration into employment elation. Of course, a new career can mean different things: changing what you do at your current company or maybe tossing everything aside and diving into an entirely new industry.

But before you do anything, consider the following advice from Kirwan Rockefeller, an academic advisor and career coach at UC Irvine Extension who has worked with thousands of mid-career job seekers in his nearly 20 years at the university.

Identify your strongest skills. Many people have trouble articulating their skills and strengths. And some can't differentiate between traits and skills. Skills show what you can do; traits describe your personality. The better you are at defining your skill sets, the more success you'll have at discovering what you might be best at and what you truly love doing.

Identify your transferable skills for a new career. Some professions may not be as different as they first seem, Rockefeller said. Journalists, for example, are excellent communicators. Those communications skills are transferable to other careers, such as government affairs. Anyone who has experience and success in project management could find themselves in demand in myriad professions.

Ask yourself what you want to do. Examine the positions or industries in which you'd like to work and the reasons why they appeal to you. Which careers seem like the most comfortable fit, matching your skills, lifestyle and personality?

Join professional associations. "People really need to identify organizations, events and industries that match up with their skills and competencies," Rockefeller said. "You need to network. People don't hire resumes, people hire people." A recent Pew Research Center survey found that a little more than one third of recent job seekers said that online information and resources were the most important factors available in their search, while 45% said personal or professional contacts were their most significant resources.

Manage your online reputation. "In this day and age, what you have presented online never goes away," Rockefeller said. "Clean up anything that might be embarrassing. Most employers recognize that Facebook and Twitter are personal, but clean it up anyway and be prepared for questions about anything you may have posted."

Develop a branding statement. "You need to be able to articulate to others about who you are, what you're good at and what sort of value you could bring to an organization." Having a strong (and brief) branding statement locked and loaded is important for job interviews as well as networking opportunities.

Build a strong and effective resume. Creating a nice-looking resume isn't enough. You need to craft and edit your resume so that the skills and experience listed fit perfectly with a particular industry or trade. Keep it as concise as possible. Potential employers have a very limited amount of time to read each resume that comes in. "Even though it will only get you five to seven seconds of attention, you still need to have a resume."

So what's the biggest mistake job seekers make? Said Rockefeller: "Confining your search to online tools and not embarking on a critical self-assessment to find the value you could bring to an organization."

–David Ogul, Tribune Content Solutions