60-Second Coach: Why a Career Tweak May Be All The Change You Need

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I received an email from a person, let's call her Mary, who was laid off from an HR job and then substitute-taught, but the job's challenges and unstable income made her want to change from that.

Because Mary liked coaching students one-on-one, she sought and got a learning center to hire her as a tutor but only part-time and at only $15 an hour. That wasn't enough money so she tried to get a job as a student adviser at a college but hasn't landed one. Now she's asking for advice on how to get colleges interested in her.

Get real
Without a degree in counseling, that's a long-shot. After all, colleges are in the business of awarding degrees. They're very unlikely to hire Mary without the right piece of paper. To help Mary come up with a better alternative, these are the questions I'd ask her:

1. When you were laid off from your HR job, you chose to leave the field. Was that premature?

Might a career tweak yield sufficient career contentment so you don't have to go back to school or face the challenge of trying to convince an employer to hire you without experience or credentials? Examples of a career tweak:
  • Do you need to deepen your expertise in your HR specialty?
  • Do you need a different specialty? For example, you might consider a niche within HR that involves the one-on-one you enjoy: employee assistance or organizational development.
  • Do you need a different boss or organization? Perhaps you'd like one whose cause you more believe in?
  • Or might it be enough to focus on improving your out-of-work life: a relationship? A hobby? For example, I know people with a mediocre worklife who nonetheless feel good, overall, about their life because they volunteer to act in community theatre plays.

2. If you do want a career change and, assuming you don't want to go back to school to obtain the required credentials, would you consider a career in which employers would value your teaching experience?

For example, would you like to be a trainer for an organization or for a consulting firm to organizations? Trainers are used for everything from communication to customer service.
Perhaps less obvious, salespeople also do a lot of "training:" making presentations to individuals and groups to explain products' features and benefits.

3. If you want to tutor, rather than be a wage slave for $15 an hour, are you good enough and willing to market yourself enough to be a self-employed tutor?

Frustrated parents will pay $50-$150 an hour for a good tutor. But to get a sufficient number of clients, you probably have to, with vigor, do one or more of the following:
  • Give free talks at PTA meetings and libraries on, for example, the art of helping your child with homework. Give a handout that summarizes your talk's main points. It should be on letterhead saying, "Mary Jones, K-6 Reading Tutor," or whatever you feel best about tutoring.

You probably shouldn't just say "Tutor," open to tutoring everything.

We live in an era of specialization. It will be tough, especially in the beginning, to convince parents to hire a generalist. If you were looking for a tutor, wouldn't you prefer a specialist in your situation?
  • Write an article or, better, a regular column, for a local publication read by parents: the PTA newsletter, a community newspaper or website, etc.
  • Take an ad in such a publication or on Craigslist. Be careful to make it not feel too commercial. Just as when people choose a doctor or lawyer, they're looking for someone for whom it's a calling, not a business. So you might place a classified ad such as, "Local parent loves tutoring K-6 kids in reading. Your home or mine. $65 an hour. Mary Johnson: 510-222-2222."
  • An approach for schmoozers: Query everyone you know, even strangers in the supermarket line. Do a Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter blast. Take other well-connected people out to lunch. Throw a business-launch party.

Perhaps the most broadly applicable take-away from Mary's story is to first consider whether you really do need to take on the challenge of a career change. Might a career tweak do?

Marty Nemko welcomes your visiting his website: www.martynemko.com where lots of his writings and radio show are archived. And, if you need career help, you can email Marty Nemko at mnemko@comcast.net
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