With 2018 just around the corner, many of us are reflecting on the past year. Many might even be considering making few changes moving forward.
For some, that could mean a career change and possibly heading back to school. But what career would make the most sense? How would college courses fit into their busy lives? Where do you even begin?
Krista Richardson, director of career development with Rhodes State College in Lima, has broken the process down to answer a few of the most common concerns.
“To get a new job or change careers is often a New Year’s resolution; it’s actually one of the most common resolutions that an individual makes,” Richardson said. “And to change careers, you first have to select a new career by identifying your strengths, passions and transferable skills.”
A website called ONET OnLine (Onetonline.org) can match an individual’s abilities, interests, knowledge and skills to occupations.
“Sometimes I think people may have an idea of what their strengths and skill sets are. They may have an idea of what occupations they would enjoy, but I think using this tool can help match those together,” Richardson explained.
In the mean time, she advised those considering a major career switch-up to remain at their current job until they’ve secured a new job.
“A career change is a big deal,” she said. “And it’s not something that happens overnight. And so if someone is not satisfied in their current position, but they’re unable to change careers immediately, they might consider shifting into a different position with their current employer.”
Although keeping a full-time job and perhaps raising a family on top of making time for classes can seem like a daunting undertaking, many learning institutions are accommodating.
“I think we’re at a point now where even if your workplace isn’t flexible, there are still educational opportunities that would fit your schedule,” Richardson said, “Whether it be in the evening, or one night a week, or online.”
To get a better idea if an area of study is right for you, it’s helpful to do some in-depth research, Richardson advised. This might include connecting with professionals in your chosen career field via LinkedIn, conducting informational interviews or even experiencing it for yourself through a volunteer opportunity.
“In your mind, you may have an idea of what that career field is like,” Richardson said. “But you really don’t know until you talk to people who maybe are already in it.”
For those who already have a bachelor’s degree and are considering a career that requires a different bachelor’s degree, don’t fret; you won’t necessarily be starting from scratch.
“Those general education courses will typically transfer to another institution,” Richardson said. “You have to take a few qualifying courses — courses that are required for your new degree or program — but you don’t have to start from scratch.”
The same holds true for those who might have a four-year degree under their belt but are looking to earn a two-year degree.
“Sometimes, we have individuals that will graduate from high school, go on and get a bachelor’s degree, but then say, ‘You know what, I’d really like to be a physical therapist assistant or a nurse,’” Richardson said. “So they’re going to come back sometimes to the two-year college, transfer those general education courses back in and then get into their programs of study sooner and in a quicker time frame than maybe if they’d gone on for another bachelor’s. They can come here and get an associate’s degree.”
For those who have never attended college before — and might not be familiar with the process for getting started — here’s a general outline for the order of events that will go down:
2. Complete placement testing to get an idea of where you fall academically, so you can get advised to be in the appropriate courses for you.
3. Complete financial aid forms to see if you qualify for receive aid, grants or loans or if you can apply for scholarships.
4. Get advised, so you can get set up with classes.
“There’s always someone here in any of our student affairs, student services offices that are going to help the student navigate the process of getting enrolled at the college.” Richardson said.
Earning a certificate is yet another way a person can strengthen their skill set in certain fields.
“A lot of times, those certificates then will kind of lead into degree pathways,” Richardson said. “If they’re doing really well and enjoying what they’re learning in that certificate program, it’s very easy to kind of transition those courses into a degree pathway for an associate’s degree.
“Here at Rhodes State College, for example, we have degree pathways that are designed to go straight to work after you graduate,” she continued. “And then anything — from our business and public service degree pathways, to our health sciences, to our information and engineering technology — all of those things are geared for, if a student, they’re working in an environment, but they want to go to a new environment or maybe even move up in their current environment. They can come here and take courses with us to hopefully get them where they want to go in their chosen career path.”