How Do I Change My Career?

“I have 15 years of experience in higher education administration, specifically in international education. This includes foreign student advising and international admissions. My international admissions responsibilities require me to travel abroad and represent my institution at college fairs. I’m tired of higher education and the low pay and recognition it gives administrators and I’m wondering if it’s too late for me to think of a career change into the corporate world? I think the marketing and strategic planning skills I’ve gained could be transferred to corporate.

“Does anyone have any thoughts or advice? I don’t even know where to begin or how to market myself.”

Ellis Chase’s response:

This is a good question…tough to answer concretely, but I’ll give some starting points:

First, NO, it is not too late for you to change careers. (By the way, when you are actually doing a career change, never refer to it as anything but a “job change”; “career change” always implies entry level and low pay, and you certainly don’t want that perception.) You are also right in assuming that your skills are transferable.

Now comes the hard part. That means assessment. You must first figure out exactly what your target is – what job function, what location, what kind of culture, what kind of organization – if any, what you figure are your primary skills, etc. There are many ways to go. I could suggest some excellent books (my favorite is Kate Wendleton’s Targeting the Job You Want, which is extremely thorough and requires a lot of work). You can find others in any “careers” section of a Barnes and Noble or a Borders Books. Or, if you’re not the person who can do it yourself (always difficult), then I’d suggest finding an individual career consultant. The Five O’Clock Club (212 286-4500) has a national network of certified counselors. Or, a local university might have a continuing education program (at New York University, for example, it’s The Center for Career, Education, and Life Planning, 212 998-7060).

The biggest mistake in attempting this kind of transition is to jump into something without thoroughly assessing your career to date – and subsequently thoroughly researching your targets. For example, if you decide you want to be a network anchorperson, those 7 or 8 or so positions that exist are not enough to justify an entire search, and I think that at this point you’re not up to going through graduate school in journalism. Or maybe you are. That’s what you need to determine. Specificity is very important in making career changes and you certainly don’t want to waste time in a vaguely defined search. A systematic approach is the only approach.

About Ellis Chase

As an original Five O’Clock Club counselor, Ellis Chase has directed one of its branches, run groups in two other Manhattan branches, and written articles that have appeared in several Five O’Clock Club publications. He has appeared on CNBC and CNNfn frequently and has been heard on many Northeast area radio programs. He has been an instructor at New York University since 1989, and a speaker at Columbia University’s Graduate School of International Relations, the Wharton Club, the Business and Financial Women’s Financial Association, The Chase Manhattan Bank Career Center, and many other local organizations and panels. He also has been a regular contributor to Career Mosaic and MBA Free Agents.

Ellis’ work in career and management development has included an extensive experience in human resources and outplacement consulting firms, as well as manpower planning and staffing in financial services. He is a founding member of the New York Chapter of the International Association of Career Management Professionals, holds a B.A. and an M.A., both from New York University, and operates his private consulting practice in New York City.


by Ellis Chase



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