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Jump-starting your career
5 Tips: Get a leg up on your colleagues or try a fresh start altogether.
April 25, 2005: 2:27 PM EDT
By Gerri Willis, CNN/Money contributing columnist

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Have spring fever? With daffodils and tulips popping up, warmer weather and spring rain, you may have found yourself getting fresh with your workplace.

You know it. You're tired of the doldrums, feel cramped in your role, and are far less patient with your co-workers. It's okay -- that's normal. Spring is a time for new beginnings, a time to recharge, a time to change. Why not recharge your daily routine-work?

Whether you change career paths completely or just change your attitude, jump-starting your career can only mean one thing: change will be a good thing. Here are today's five tips.

1. Position yourself.

Fact of the matter is there are a lot of unhappy workers out there. The Conference Board, a New York-based business research group, says that only 50 percent of workers are satisfied with their jobs, compared with 58.6 percent back in 1995.

Ken Goldstein, an economist at the group says, "Overall, job growth is the number one determinant of a workers' job satisfaction." With a rash of layoffs and off-shoring, workers aren't seeing much job growth. It has eroded loyalty to both employers and employees.

The good news is that experts say we're headed into a better job market where employees will have the upper hand. "Employers are starting to realize there is going to be a shortage of workers," says Kate Wendleton, president of the Five O'Clock Club, which offers job-coaching services.

If you're looking to make a job change, now may be the time. But don't expect a job to come jumping out at you: you have to position yourself for opportunities both inside and outside your company. If you are looking to change fields, learn the lingo. You won't be hired if you don't know what you're talking about. You also need to know whom to talk to.

Wendleton tells jobseekers to target the departments they are interested in and make many friends there. "Keeping in touch with one contact every six months is not enough. You need to keep in touch with several people in that department every two to three months." Don't skip the effort if there aren't any open positions at the moment. If you position yourself as a good fit for the department, you'll be the first on everyone's mind when something does open up.

2. Follow your passion.

The baby boomer generation is also less satisfied with work than they were ten years ago. According to Goldstein, it's because most boomers expected to be in better positions by this time in their careers.

One of the best times to consider changing careers is at the end of your career, says John Challenger, of outplacement firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Many boomers have lost their jobs to younger generations who have more technical skills to compete with. And now, as many people work into their late 60s and even early 70s, boomers are following their passions into the roles of teachers, public service officials, cooks, and museum guides.

Before you go jumping the corporate ship, look carefully at the financial ramifications, says Challenger. You still do want to retire one day. To check out how much you would earn in other jobs, log on to www.salary.com or www.careerjournal.com.

3. Leave the country.

If you love to travel, chances are you have dreamed of leaving your job stateside for work in another country. This would make for a really big career change, but you wouldn't be alone. Approximately four million Americans work abroad according to the Journal of Financial Planning.

The catch here: you have to be a marketable employee. Companies are more likely to hire individuals who speak the native and business language. They also look for candidates with business experience in their country.

As working overseas often requires at least a visa, discuss job opportunities first with your current employer, who may be more willing to sponsor you.

Wendleton also recommends you call the U.S. embassy of the country you feel you could work in and ask which companies tend to hire Americans. Make some contacts and plan a trip to meet with them. Web sites like www.Expatfocus.com and www.TransitionAbroad.com will help you take into account other issues such as: can your family handle an international move? And how do you deal with your taxes?

4. Take a class, or more.

If you can look around your colleagues and see you're one and the same, realize that it's time to get a leg up. Employers are really looking for workers with skills, says Challenger. The scary part is, if you don't have the skills that make you a stand-out candidate, you're often an easy target in a round of layoffs. You have to make yourself an essential team player in the workplace.

The good part is most employers are happy to pay for the classes you need to take to learn new skills. Employers want CPAs, computer geeks and solid managers. Better yet, some companies will pay for you to go back to school part-time and sometimes even full-time to pursue those goals.

But these opportunities don't come to you; you have to ask for them. When you talk to your boss, show how useful the class will be to the entire company. For example, tell her you want to be the department's guru on that new computer program coming next fall. You'll get the experience and a little something to add to your resume.

5. Lose the ego.

If your search for a new job has been fruitless, you might want to consider one small thing: your attitude. Wendleton says one major snag she sees in many job searches is job seekers' egos. While we all know ourselves as talented people, successfully finding a job involves a lot of humility.

"I see it with college grads and older workers. Both think they've proved themselves and think they deserve a job," Wendleton says. Employers want a good fit, a team player, and a good employee.

Remember not to let your ego get the best of you. Rather than tout all your greatest accomplishments and explain why this company needs you, explain what your talents can do for the company. If you really are as talented as you know you are, your true colors will shine through.


Gerri Willis is a personal finance editor for CNN Business News and the host for Open House. E-mail comments to 5tips@cnn.com.  Top of page

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