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A Career Changer's Checklist - 12 Common-Sense Questions to Find Your Career: Genesis

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Folks in IT are struggling with these questions:
—How do I make a career change?
—What do I do for a career?
—How do I advance in IT?

With Warren Wyrostek’s guidance through a series of targeted questions, you get a chance to diagnose and treat your career, providing you with an excellent career prognosis. Are you ready to make a change?

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In 2001 and 2004 I had the opportunity to write two articles for InformIT.com that focused on career changers in information technology. Since the response to those brief articles generated much discussion, I have played with the idea of expanding it to a series of articles that would ask those faced with a career change, or for that matter looking for a job, a series of focused, reflective questions illustrated with examples from my own experience.

The title for this series is A Career Changer's Checklist. The tone of this series of articles will be the same as it was in the first two InformIT articles — conversational and nonthreatening.

You InformIT readers are the intended audience. You are the folks in IT/IS who are struggling with these questions:

  • How do I make a career change?
  • What do I do for a career
  • How do I advance in IT?

Those who are in IT/IS are facing this quagmire, but so are the folks just leaving college and high school, and those stuck in non-IT/IS jobs that they hate but are looking to our sector with hope. People re-entering IT will find this series helpful as well.

This series can be used by guidance offices in schools and colleges, and by employers in the corporate world trying to keep their employees from getting bored and leaving.

If the truth be told, this series is being written for InformIT readers and those in IT, but it could just as easily be written for any sector: those in healthcare, those in education, those in government, those in the trades, those in publishing, and so on.

So if you are coming to this series from a non-IT point of reference, welcome!

The premise of these articles is simple: You are being bombarded with reams and reams of data concerning what is hot and what is not, what jobs are paying a living wage and which are not, which technologies are dying and which are getting ready to launch. Between all the salary surveys, expert opinions, gurus, and talking heads predicting where the sector is going, trying to make a career decision in this sector is mind-numbing.

You and you alone are the person who has to make the decision. No one else can make it for you. No guru or expert knows what you know, has lived your history, or has your needs. Only you know that. You are the only one who can say what you want to do, what you like to do, and what you need to live.

But to make the right decision, you have to ask the right questions. We often are so emotionally embroiled in the struggle that we might overlook the obvious: the questions that will direct us in the correct path.

My hope for these articles is to help you the reader by asking 12-13 focused questions. I will give you some ideas based on my experiences and history and then let you make your own decision. These articles will not be an expert's perception of the IT landscape, encouraging you to do this or do that. Instead, I'll be the unbiased coach who hopefully will ask you the questions that will trigger something in you that will move you in the right direction.

Your job is simple. As you read these articles and reflect on the questions I ask and the experiences I share with you, listen to your heart and mind. Consider what you're feeling — positive or negative. Write down the ideas that come to you. And then at the end of the series, look back at what you have thought and felt and do the research that is needed to take the first step to your new career.

Use these questions as a checklist. When you finish reading this series you should have responses to these questions written down. Based on your responses to this checklist of questions, you might see a path or a career that you have not even considered. Maybe you have considered it, but dismissed it because of X or Y. Maybe you asked only one or two of the questions. In my experience, you have to ask all the questions to arrive at the answer that is right for you.

For those of you who are familiar with the diagnostic procedures used in healthcare, the only way to correctly diagnose an illness and prescribe a treatment is to subject the patient to a series of tests, which in essence provide data. When the diagnostician has all of the data, s/he can diagnose the malady.

What I'm doing through this series/checklist is subjecting you to a series of tests/questions. You'll compile the results and come up with a course of action to follow to improve your lot in life. And if you do it well, without bias and objectively, the prognosis for your career will be excellent.

For some of you this sounds like hogwash. For some of you, going to a physician is hogwash. But what does a physician do when you go in with some malady? S/he asks you a series of questions, which is called taking a patient history.

Then a series of tests is ordered. It is based on good science and good medicine. What I'm doing through this checklist is based on good science and good medicine. You want your career to get better. Instead of going to a doctor, you are reading a series of articles. I'll ask the questions, order the tests, and you'll interpret the results and prescribe treatment that is unique to your situation. If all goes well, you and your career will experience remarkable improvement.

The layout for the checklist is a series of articles in which the question is the title of the article, and the content shares the ideas that have to be pondered when considering this question. It is similar to the method I use with students when they are changing careers and ask me for advice.

I heavily illustrate my responses to their questions with experiences and stories from my past. My questions are the jumping off point, but you will be encouraged to use these questions for research and reflection to focus on how to make the career change.

Although the title of this series focuses on career changers, it could easily be retitled A Job Seeker's Checklist.

Here are the questions that I will ask over the course of this series. There is nothing like being prepared!

The Questions

  •  Article 1: Genesis
  •  Article 2: What Do You Want to Do? (Goals!)
  •  Article 3: What Do You Like to Do? (Pleasure and Passion!)
  •  Article 4: What Can You Do? (Restrictions!)
  •  Article 5: What Can You Afford to Do? (Economic Reality! Ugh!!)
  •  Article 6: What do You Know How to Do? (Knowledge and Experience!)
  •  Article 7: Where do You Want to Do What You Want to Do? (Location, Location, Location!)
  •  Article 8: Who do You Want to Do This With? (Community?!)
  •  Article 9: What Is the Expected Life Cycle for What You Want to Do? (Time is Everything!)
  •  Article 10: What Do You Need to Get Started? (Laying a Foundation!)
  •  Article 11: How Willing Are You to Change? (Flexibility!)
  •  Article 12: What Is Your Chance of Fulfillment? (Not Success, but Fulfillment!)
  •  Article 13: What Are You Waiting For? What Is Stopping You? (Lift Off and Enjoy the Ride!)
  •  Conclusions: What Is Your Call? What Is Your Vocation? What Is Your Purpose? What Is Your Reason for Being?

Next Stop

So your career is the patient. I am the person taking the patient history through questions. You are the final diagnostician who will take the answers to the questions and come up with a course of action. The hope is that your careers' health will improve.

Well now that you know what is coming and what the questions are, it is time to dive in. The next stop will be Question 1: What do you want to do? (Goals!). So start thinking about it. What do you want to do? What are your goals? That is the subject that we will tackle next.

I hope many of you will not only read along but also share your thoughts and ideas with me through email at wyrostekw@msn.com and also through the comments sections provided by InformIT at the end of each article. I will gladly respond.

Now let's treat your career!

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