Learning new skills and adding to your knowledge is something that has become a life-long project for most professionals. Economic changes combined with many rapid changes in technology have taught most of us that learning is not optional if we want a good paycheck.
The days of depending on one skillset for 30 years of solid employment are gone. Just ask the people who ran offset printers, installed and maintained pay telephone booths, worked in bookstores, manufactured the once very popular "instant" cameras (think Polaroid), or published maps and map books...
On the other hand, I've spoken with too many job seekers who took the leap into a new field, investing time and money in training that has not resulted in a great new job. So they have not improved their career prospects and have the added issue of loans to pay off. Not good.
With most careers, you can migrate into the new field choosing your jobs and employers carefully, as described in this column (see the articles in the list on the right).
After sufficient research (below), set your goal, make a plan, and then implement your plan to change your career.
Many careers may require that you invest additional money in education or training to meet the professional requirements of the career or the entry-level jobs for that career.
You don't want to spend a great deal of time, effort, and money on a degree or a program which will not pay off for you when you have graduated.
Before you invest in a degree or certification program, do some careful investigation about demand for people with that degree or certificate:
You can start your research at giant job board, Indeed.com, a Job-Hunt sponsor. Indeed's JobTrends allows you to search through millions of job postings to see what skills are required (and many other things, too, as described in How to Identify Exactly the Right Keywords for Your LinkedIn Profile).
In the example above, Indeed is showing us demand for the Project Management Professional certification from Q1 of 2012 through Q2 of 2016, based on the millions of job descriptions they have analyzed during that time frame.
We searched using both the full term as well as the acronym to get as much data as we could, and while it looks like the trend may be dropping a bit, still a good portion of jobs are including the terms "PMP" or "Project Management Professional." So, if that certification was required by target employers for the target job, getting that certification could be a good investment.
In the example above, over 0.4% of jobs included one or other of the terms, possibly both. When you check out the job postings (below), you can see more information about the jobs.
Leverage Indeed.com, again (a Job-Hunt Sponsor), to see how much a job currently pays, who is hiring (currently), and where is demand the greatest. For this analysis, type your target job title into the "what" box. Erase what is in the "where" box to see results for the whole country or plug your location into the "where" box to see what is happening where you are looking.
In this example, the job we searched for is "network security engineer" (circled at the top in the image below).
Find this information in the left column of standard Indeed search results.
NOTE: This data reflects the jobs currently open on Indeed, across the USA, on this date (April 27, 2016). So, the information will change depending on the job postings for a particular point in time. Do this test over time to get a better idea of the employers who are hiring and where most of the jobs are located.
See the "Salary Estimate" with the number of associated job postings. Also, note the "Job Type," "Location," and "Company." When you click on the "More" links, you will see more results for that category of information about these jobs.
Use these searches ONLY for research. Do NOT apply for any of these jobs because you probably don't qualify. Yet!
Applying for jobs that are not obviously a good fit for you means you are training employers (and their technology) to ignore you as someone desperate who applies for everything.
Before you invest in training or education that seems to be in demand, based on the research above, also check out the schools you are considering. Perhaps you don't have many schools or training options nearby, and must consider online training. Or, perhaps you prefer online training.
Start by Googling the schools, and examining the search results.
Perhaps start with a test class to see if you like the venue or process before signing up for the full program.
Do your best to choose a field that is growing and, if additional education is required, choose a school with a good rating, successful graduates, and long-term career support for graduates.
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.