Changing careers not unusual at all

Tomorrow, ask your co-workers what their majors were in college. There's a good chance they're not in a job that matches their diploma.

Statistics show that it's not uncommon for people to change careers several times in their lives.

There are many factors that can contribute to a decision to switch careers - a changing economy, new interests or a need for more money are some of them.

Here's a letter from a reader who "wants out" just one year after graduation:

Dear Joan:
I am a dental hygienist with an interest in changing my career. I graduated in 1985 from Marquette University. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in dental hygiene. I would appreciate any information on alternate career choices.

The first thing you must do is figure out what you don't like about dental hygiene and why. Do you want more money, more recognition, the ability to advance?

If you've been working this past year, decide whether it's the people you dislike or the job itself. If it's the people, you should try another job in the same field before packing it in.

If it's the job itself, you didn't do a thorough examination of your chosen field before you graduated. Many college students choose a major under pressure. They do no field projects of informational interviewing while in school. After graduation, they are dismayed to find their first job is not what they'd hoped.

If this sounds like you, don't make the same mistake twice.

Identify what attracted you to dental hygiene in the first place. This will help you find a common denominator that could lead you to satisfying alternatives.

For example, do you enjoy the medical field, helping people, or working with your hands? If so, which do you like the most? By listing your interests and skills and prioritizing them, you'll come up with several key things to get you started on a different track.

For example, if you like educating patients, talk to people who work in community health education, corporate trainers, health teachers and wellness consultants.

If you like the administrative details of your job, explore jobs in the insurance industry, medical clinics and medical coordinator positions.

If you have drive and a desire for an income that matches your energy, consider selling dental or medical supplies.

Most of the choices I've listed are in the medical field. That's because a new employer wants to see a relationship between your background and the job for which you're interviewing.

Once you've taken a detour from dental hygiene and gotten different experiences and accomplishments under your belt, your degree won't be as important.

While deciding on a career to pursue, talk to people who actually work in the field. Ask everyone you know for names of people whom you can call. Many professionals are flattered when asked to talk about themselves and their jobs. If you use the name of someone who referred you, you're likely to get in for an informational interview. Don't be shy. Networking goes on at all levels and in all professions.

Also, there may be some merit in talking to a career counselor and in taking some tests but, in the end, the direction still must come from you.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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