What to ask before investing in a new profession
If you're looking for work, retraining is an attractive and popular option. In fact, increasing numbers of older students are attending community college. But you want to make sure you're getting good value for the time and money before investing in a new profession. Some questions to ask before you begin preparing for a new career include:
1. What jobs interest me?
A good job pays the bills. A great job makes use of your skills and talents and holds your interest for years. Check the library for books on switching careers, like What Color Is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles. Government and non-profit job agencies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Career One Stop (www.careeronestop.org) can also help.
2. In this a growth profession?
Employment statistics and resources like the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook (http://www.bls.gov/oco/) can help, but also talk to people working in the industry to get the inside scoop.
3. How many other people are moving into the field?
Booming industries offer more jobs, but they may also attract more applicants. Do some research to ensure that there will still be demand for new employees by the time you are finished preparing for a new career.
4. What advice can I get from employers, recruiters and current employees?
Before training for a new career, talk to people working in the industry. What skills and training are required? Look for opportunities to shadow someone doing the job you want to see what it really entails.
5. What is the cost of retraining?
Include tuition, books and money spent commuting. If the cost of training for a new career through colleges is too high, consider free or low-cost retraining programs offered by non-profit agencies in your community.
6. How long will it take to train?
Short training programs let you get back to working quickly. However, a longer training course might teach you more and improve your job chances.
7. Are graduates of the program finding jobs?
The training program may have statistics on the percentage of graduates who are working in their chosen professions. Also, ask former students what they think of the program and the career, and whether the program offered job placements or connected them with potential employers.
8. How will I finance the training?
Check whether your state has a training program that you're eligible for. Your retraining budget can also include savings, wages from a part-time job, and loans.
9. Are there alternatives to retraining?
Don't underestimate the skills and experience that you already have. Talk to a career counselor to find out if your skills are transferrable. If your old profession is in high demand elsewhere, consider relocating. And look for apprenticeship programs, volunteer positions and internships that let you to train on the job.
All this research takes time and effort. By finding the answers to these questions before choosing a retraining program, you'll be more likely to get the skills you need at a price you can afford.
What's next? Saving for college and retirement