It's Never Too Late To Change Careers

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Welcome to the "AOL Career Luck Project." Inspired by you, our readers, this new weekly series offers practical advice by showcasing real-life examples of career makeovers. Learn to create your own career luck using the tips and techniques given to project participants. Every Thursday.

Meet Melissa.

After a delayed start into the working world due to illness, she found herself on a career path that didn't suit her. She's now trying to make the switch, but fears it's too late.

It's Never Too Late to Execute a New Gameplan

Many people think once you've gone down a particular career path you can't change directions. That's not true. If you can map out a plan to get there, you can make the switch. Unfortunately, many professionals don't know how to determine the exact steps to move to their desired career. They see too many roadblocks and no way around them (i.e. decrease in pay, additional education needed, employers wanting them to have existing experience, etc.). However, if you can work to remove the assumptions holding you back, you can create a strategy that will help you achieve your goal.

For example, let's see how Melissa can make the switch from administrative work to a job in marketing.

Career Luck Project: What To Do When Your Feel Behind In Your Career
Career Luck Project: What To Do When Your Feel Behind In Your Career

Create Your Own Career L.U.C.K.

To migrate herself to the marketing profession, Melissa needs to put herself in an environment that will let her do that naturally. She'll need to do the following:

Locate the Problem - Melissa became ill after high school and it delayed her entry into the workforce by several years. It also put her goal to get a college degree on hold. As a result, when it was time to get a job, the only thing she could land was administrative work.

Uncover the Issues - Melissa now has extensive admin experience and employers can only see her in that role. She is close to getting her Bachelor's degree, but doesn't have it yet. So, it's limiting her ability to apply for jobs requiring additional education. Finally, without any marketing experience, Melissa is assuming she can't be considered for the positions she dreams of holding. (Here's an article that further discusses in detail how to work through negative assumptions that paralyze your career.)

Create New Gameplan - Melissa needs to create a bucket list of ten companies in her local area that have mega-marketing departments. She's looking for the biggest companies in her area that would have marketing teams of 20+ people. She will research and gather as much information as she can on these companies and their marketing efforts as a way to prepare her to network with people who work there. She will also identify marketing associations and groups she can participate in locally as a way to network with her future peers. In short, Melissa is going to map out a way to land an entry-level job in one of these marketing departments by networking her way in strategically.

Know Your Next Steps - Melissa will use social media sites like LinkedIn to find at least five people who work inside the mega-marketing department of each company on her list. She will then customize her request to connect with them, citing information she learned about their employer and ask for an informational interview to learn more about how they got into marketing and what it would take to earn a job within their marketing department. Melissa will also ask them to provide feedback on how she can optimize her social media profiles and resume to be more attractive to these employers.

Specifically, she will inquire what she can do to showcase her administrative experience and how she could be of value to the marketing department with these skills. We know for a fact that 80%+ of all jobs today are gotten via referral. This strategy will enable Melissa to build relationships with people who can refer her into the employer. Then, once she has her foot in the door, she will learn a lot about marketing and hopefully be able to leverage the position to advance within the company and eventually get hired for a true marketing role. Companies love to promote from within, so even if Melissa starts out in an admin role, she can work to ensure her employer gives her the chance to do marketing in the near future. Who knows? If she does well, they might even help pay for the remainder of her education so she can get her degree in marketing sooner.

If Melissa follows the process above, she will become a marketing professional. Better still, it won't take her years to do.

Remember, Nobody Can Change Careers Alone

Melissa was brave enough to reach out and ask for help. Are you? The reality is none of us were taught how to create a successful career path, let alone learn how to change careers. You can't do it alone. Get some help. Team up with a peer, find a mentor, or hire a coach. Whatever it takes to achieve your goal. Don't waste time daydreaming of a better career, seek the resources you need to make it happen. Sometimes, like in Melissa's case, all it takes is a little help with the planning and you'll be on your way.