5 secrets of successful career changers

By Carolyn Bigda and Donna Rosato

(Money Magazine) -- Tolstoy wrote that unhappy people are each unhappy in their own way. The same can be said of American workers today.

In a bleak survey out earlier this year, the Conference Board reported that job satisfaction was at its lowest level in more than two decades. And the sources of employees' unhappiness ranged across a broad spectrum of misery, from job insecurity to meager pay.

Maybe you feel it too: the weariness that comes from doing more with less, the nagging feeling you could get a pink slip at any time, or the futility of being unemployed and unable to find work in your field.

All this unhappiness has a lot of people rethinking their paths. Nearly 50% of job seekers recently surveyed by employment site Monster.com said they wanted to make a career change; 89% said they'd consider it to find work.

To figure out what such a switch takes, Money interviewed dozens of people who successfully moved to more stable, satisfying careers in the midst of the worst (though slightly improving) employment market in nearly 30 years. We've zeroed in on five whose smart strategies could help you too.

Secret 1: Show how your talents translate

Secret 2: network outside the box

Secret 3: get the skills you need on the cheap

Secret 4: get your finances in order

Secret 5: turn your passion into an asset To top of page

Compensation experts PayScale.com analyzed the 30 biggest industries to show how pay changes as you gain experience. Here is a look at the industries where you have the best potential to make up for a midcareer salary cut - and the worst.
Untitled Document
Industry Median Pay (1 Year of Experience) Median Pay (5 Years of Experience) Median Pay (15 Years of Experience) Pay Growth from 1 to 5 Years of Experience Pay Growth from 1 to 15 Years of Experience
Information technology$36,800$58,300$104,00058%183%
Retail Trade$35,500$51,300$91,00045%156%
Securities, commodies and other financial trading activity $46,100$65,200$114,00041%147%
Funds, trusts, and other financial vehicles$42,800$60,700$103,00042%141%
Hospitality (hotels and other lodging)$29,200$42,000$68,80044%136%
Real Estate, rental and leasing$35,000$46,300$82,20032%135%
Wholesale trade$41,000$56,300$92,30037%125%
Professional, scientific, and technical services$41,400$57,000$92,10038%122%
Arts, entertainment, and recreation$30,600$42,200$67,70038%121%
Insurance carriers and related activities$38,900$54,000$84,70039%118%
Administrative and support services$35,000$48,400$73,40038%110%
Food services and drinking places$30,600$40,200$61,80031%102%
Transportation and support activities$39,900$53,300$79,00034%98%
Postal service, couriers and messengers, warehousing and storage$40,000$51,200$78,30028%96%
Management of companies and enterprises$40,000$50,300$76,80026%92%
Agriculture, forestry, fishing anhdunting$37,100$46,900$70,30026%89%
Other Services (except Public Administration)$33,900$42,200$62,00024%83%
Federal government$46,000$61,500$81,90034%78%
Public administration$43,500$55,700$75,90028%74%
Educational services$36,300$43,000$59,40018%64%
Nursing and residential care facilities$38,100$46,700$62,30023%64%
State and local government $38,200$47,200$62,10024%63%
Social assistance$30,000$35,200$47,00017%57%
Ambulatory health care services$42,700$49,700$66,00016%55%
Notes: Data is for medican pay based on the number of years you spend in a field for people with a bachelor's degree or higher.
Source: PayScale.com
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