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Don't Let a Lengthy Search Lead Your Career Astray

By Deb Koen

Question : I am 48 years old and have been employed as an information-technology professional for the past 16 years. I am being laid off in a month and have actually been looking for a job in my field for more than two years. I am thinking about getting into the health-care field, perhaps radiology. This would cost me two years' time, although I could afford to pay for the program I am looking at. Should I give my IT career another year's fighting chance, or start a new career in health care now?

-- Robert, Cherry Hill , N.J.

Robert: It sounds like IT is still your first choice, so don't give up on it without a fight. Radiology may end up being a perfect second career for you, but you owe it to yourself to first do a full critique of your job search up to this point. What you need to determine is whether you haven't landed a new position because there are slim pickings out there at your level in your field, or because you have conducted a lackluster job search to date.

Have you been networking? If so, can you better connect and convert referrals to offers? Can you expand your search geographically to open up additional options? It is time for a full-court press; everyone you come in contact with is a potential referral source to an opening of interest, so focus on your presentation skills. Make sure you are conveying the image that will leave the impression you are seeking. Don't rely solely on your own assessment; get direct feedback from others.

If you have had interviews that have ended in favor of other candidates, you will need to assess every angle and determine where you are coming up short. With effective networking and a polished presentation, you should be able to position yourself for existing openings. After six months of your undivided attention, if you find that there still are no takers, it is time for Plan B.

Having researched radiology as a promising path, if it seems to fulfill both your interests and your skills, develop a strategy to move into the field. While completing your studies, build a network and gain hands-on experience to pave the way upon graduation. Also define ways in which your existing IT skills could complement your new career in radiology and differentiate you from other entrants to the field.

Article fromCareerJournal. December 2004