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Switching Gears: Learning to Plan Your Career Change With Karen Okulicz [interview]


If you are stuck in a work rut or have been out of a job and can’t seem to find a position in your field, it might be time to consider a career change. I recently interviewed author Karen Okulicz, who, after having to navigate the world of unemployment herself, now offers advice on how professionals can make a successful career transition. She’s written three books on the subject: “Try! A Survival Guide to Unemployment,” “Decide! How to Make Any Decision,” and “Attitude! For Your Best Lived Life.”

Okulicz says the key to a successful career change is the five W’s: Where do you want to work? Who do you want to work with? When do you want to get there? Why do you want to work? What do you want to be? I wanted to hear more of Okulicz’s advice on changing careers; our conversation appears below.

1. What single idea would you remove, insert or alter in the minds of the masses?

That you don’t have a choice in what you are doing. There is always a choice. Be it work, health or love. There is always a choice to change your current situation, even if it is that you change your view/mind. When we alter our perception, we create our view to be more acceptable.

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2. What is the No. 1 mistake people make when planning a career change?

The mistake is that people do not plan at all. To plan change, it is not the big “I’m going to quit.” Ok, then what? You have go back to the basics and ask the questions. Not happy where you are? Let’s ask some of the basic questions. And what are some of the parts of what you do that you like. Build on the likes and delete the dislikes. Same goes for retiring. You have to have a plan of how to spend your time.

3. What ongoing education, training or skill development would you recommend for those who are planning a career change in the next 12 months?

I am a big believer of the “dual system,” which means look while you are employed, take advantage of all schooling offered to better your skills, and my favorite is to volunteer outside of work to see if something is a fit for you. On the volunteering or even with the schooling that may not be in your field, keep this to yourself. People are always dreaming of their own business — “I want to own a…,” “I want to be a…,” “I would love to work with…” Try it. This is the fastest way to know if the new something would be best for you — and the most inexpensive. The volunteering may also help you just to stay sane where you are currently working.

4. What can frustrated workers do to discover a career more aligned with their interests?

To, again, know what your interests are. If you love sports or airplanes, you may never be the ball player nor the pilot but you could work for a team or for an airline. Look at your hobbies — could they become a life’s work? I had a client who loved crafts. She worked part-time in a craft store. She eventually became part owner and is no longer my client.

Again to get close to what your are drawn to, volunteer to see if you could work at this interest.

5. What can people do today to start down a path towards a fulfilling career?

Really take some time to review what is and what is wanted, and keep asking yourself the questions of your own personal nature. This is the best time in history to have such a variety of working conditions. Not what work is but, how it is done. Don’t want to commute? Have a virtual office. Where do you fit? As a team? Work out in the field. The basics. Once the basic outline is drawn, then you can fit “what” the work is.

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Marissa Brassfield
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