Last week, we discussed how it helps to approach career with some flexibility, without being locked to your academic background. As your passions and interests change and as the employment market changes, you may need to open your mind to new surprises. What we focused on last week was the justification for this principle. Today, as we promised last week, we will dwell on how you can make the journey into a new exciting area that slightly or remotely connects with your academic background-in some cases, into a path that has absolutely no connection with your academic background.
In general terms, there are two ways in which you can make the transition. The first way is where you are able to quickly gain an entry job in the new profession, without any new training or education. The second way is where you necessarily need to first gain some qualifications in the new field before you can even get a job in the new field. Either way, you will need patience and may require to raise some money to facilitate the transition.
The easier path is the second one-where you pursue some training in the new field. The good news is that since you already have some advanced qualification like a diploma or degree or more in your original field, it means that any training in a new field will be quicker and easier. You might be given some exemption or you may be allowed to just do some professional courses in the new field-and usually professional courses do not require the same length like degree training, which is in the order of four years or more. Within six to 24 months, you can gain enough professional skills and qualifications to gain you entry job in the new profession.
Once you gain entry in the new profession or field, you will need to keep learning so that you can catch up and even overtake those that originally trained in that profession. The important fact to remember is that in the case of a degree for example, you are already a graduate and, therefore, employers know that you have the required basic academic foundation. Any degree basically means that you have the required intelligence, mental processing methodology, deep analytical and problem-solving skills and that you are able to concisely and effectively communicate your thoughts and what you observe. Plus you are able to learn! These attributes are common to nearly all the different academic backgrounds. Engineers and scientists are trained to write technical reports based on experiments and projects they design and implement. Similarly, accountants and economists are trained to produce financial and economic reports. Lawyers write notes on court cases and draft legal documents. Marketers and sales professionals report on business. In all this, you can see that what differs really is the content, but the approach is the same and, therefore, transferable. Engineers design systems, accountants and economist ‘design’ business strategy, business plans and budgets. Medical doctors plan surgery, lawyers plan vigorously before delving into their legal cases and so on.
For illustration, let us go back to the two cases we had last week to explore how the two gentlemen made their move into information technology (IT) from backgrounds of degree in biochemistry and economics respectively. The biochemist worked in his field for a few months and then discovered that he had more interest in IT. He signed up for professional IT courses specialising in database system administration. After the certifications, he was able to get a job in the field and then he took more advanced courses in the field until he became a guru. Similarly, the economist signed up for professional courses in Cisco Networking. Half way in the certification, he got an internship and the employer started to pay for his fees and later he earned enough to pay for the rest.
Good luck to those that require to make career change into a new field that is different from their academic backgrounds. As you will have seen above, it is possible but you need to plan for the move and you need to invest time and some resources. Good luck! n