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By Beverly Stewart, M.Ed.

Earlier this year, the Huffington Post released a well-received article offering proof positive that it is never too late to change your career. Highlighted were 13 iconic individuals, each whose careers took a 180 degree turn – sometimes several – before ultimately finding success and career satisfaction.

From Walt Disney (a newspaper editor), to Ellen Degeneres (a paralegal), to Andrea Bocelli (a defense attorney), these folks made the courageous leap to leave a steady job and pursue a career that they loved and that offered personal fulfillment.

Is it time you said goodbye to your current career? Or maybe your skills or job position have become obsolete? Then, it’s time to do some research! According to Careerealism.com, the year 2013 has the best outlook in recent years for those changing careers. But… how to choose?

A popular tool is What Color is Your Parachute? – the job hunter’s bible. The original, by Richard Nelson Bolles, has been in print continuously since 1970 (as well as thoroughly updated). It now includes an online aptitude test, as well. The success of the book stems from the fact that it’s not a guide to “Hot Careers for 2013” or “Top Career Moves,” but rather, a guide to finding what you personally find rewarding. The result is that your new job becomes more than simply a paycheck at the end of the week.

Have your new career or options picked out? Now, it’s time for the grown-up version of “Take Your Daughter to Work Day.” A day may (or may not) change your idea of what exactly a court stenographer does all day but “shadowing,” interning, or visiting various jobs can help you see the picture a bit clearer. Don’t know anyone in the specific position? Network. Ask everyone – including the mailman – if they can introduce you to someone in your target career.

This step should not be skipped! Many college students graduate with degrees in a majors that they chose as 18-year-old high school seniors simply because “they were good at it.” Then they realize with dismay upon graduating that they find accounting deadly dull, classroom teaching overwhelming, or high finance too much stress.

Once you’re certain that you are on the right path, you’ll need to determine your strengths — and more importantly, your non-strengths. If your dream career is in rocket science, molecular biology or corporate law, for example, you may have a few necessary steps to take before you can begin sending out resumes.

Earning either an Associate Degree, Bachelor Degree or even graduate degree is often a mandatory step for the career changer. But, depending on the target career, resume-building skills such as learning a second language, gaining computer expertise, or commanding a more thorough understanding of math or science principles can help make you more marketable. Updated skills can also make the transition into new career territory flow more smoothly.

Once you’ve done your research, “tried on” the job, and updated your education and skills requirements, it’s time to embark on that exciting new career. Bask in the glow of gratifying work!

This article originally appeared in News of the Brandywine Valley Magazine.

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