Returning to school to advance your career may seem daunting, especially if you are working and have family obligations. It can be even more challenging for career-changers like me who are pursuing a master’s degree full-time and not only sacrificing income but also taking a career leap into the unknown. Here are 11 strategies I have used to increase my chances of finding the ideal job after graduation.
1. Assess your abilities: Take a look at your competencies to assess your key skills and knowledge. You can do this by examining job descriptions, job applications and consulting the ASTD Competency Model to identify your skills gap.
2. Feed your portfolio. When you complete a course, update your assignment to reflect feedback from peers and your professor. Also, complete the “Supporting Theory” form and save an electronic copy of both documents for 499.
3. Network with fellow students. Many students are working full time and their employers may have internships or positions available.
4. Find a mentor. Find a professional who can guide you in the right direction. Obviously, make sure this person wants to work with you, but also find out if they have mentoring experience and can commit their time. I found my mentor through the Chicago Chapter of ASTD’s mentoring program
5. Seek centers of influence, trusted advisor, advisory board. These are terms used in my financial services background, where financial professionals seek out experts in related fields for networking and advice. I am adapting this to my new career path. I want to develop a group of key people with backgrounds and experiences outside my expertise to get ideas, advice, feedback and coaching.
6. Join industry organizations. Try Chicago Chapter of American Society of Training and Development, Organizational Development Network in Chicago, Chicago’s International Society of Performance Improvement, Chicago Organizational Development Institute Chapter, and the Chicago Coaching Federation. Attend meetings before joining to see if there is a fit. Find information on these organizations’ upcoming events here.
7. Sample industry organizations. Many of these groups need help with greeting and registering members, and being “buddies” to first-time meeting attendees. This is a great way to meet people and deepen relationships. The board members and the regular members will notice your effort and willingness to help the organization. Consider taking your involvement a step further by joining a group’s board.
8. Get an internship. This is a great way to quickly build experience in the field. Check the internship section of this blog for opportunities. For further questions and suggestions, contact Training and Development Graduate Program Coordinator Tara Hawkins at 847-619-8734 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
9. Volunteer. If you help out at a charity or belong to a religious group or church, see if you can create a training program or leadership development program for its volunteers and employees. Some churches have religious education programs for new members. If you are working at a part-time job, ask if you can do an internship with that employer. If you are working full-time, ask your boss if you can help with training in your department or assist the training department on projects. Also, meet with key people in the training department and develop relationships with them. When a position opens up, you just might be the first person they think of.
10. Link up on LinkedIn. Create or update your profile to reflect work experience and career interests. Use LinkedIn to connect with fellow students, industry experts and stay abreast of career opportunities.
11. Update your resume. Since I am in process of changing careers, I updated my resume to reflect my new field. I used ASTD’s Infoline Series on Career Management (February 2007), Building Career Success Skills (June 2005), Build Your Training Portfolio (May 2009), Tune up Your Resume (January 2009), and Jumpstart Your Career and Get Hired Faster (September 2011). You can purchase these at http://www.astd.org.
I hope these suggestions help your transition into the field of training. The best advice I can give you is to network and build relationships. Getting a job is not only about having the correct skills but also the right connections. The people you meet in your graduate studies can be a valuable source of advice, coaching and mentoring in your career path.
What suggestions and tips can you provide others who are entering or trying to advance in this field? Can you recommend some resources that have helped you?