03/20/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Uncertain In Uncertain Times

Dear Christine,
I saw your recent post about being out of work but staying hopeful and was wondering how you felt about changing industries during this job market. For those who are out of work, and even those seeking better opportunity, is it better to remain in the field where you are or use your transferable skills to move on?
- Uncertain About Switching Industries

Dear Uncertain About Switching Industries,

If you are out of work or want to make a change in this job market, it's imperative to expand your career search and open your mind to a variety of options - both within and outside of your current industry. These days the job seekers who are the most proactive and willing to adapt to change will lead the race to employment.

It's not a question of "better or worse" in terms of whether to stay in your current industry or move on. Rather, it's a question of what do you want combined with the reality of what is possible and probable. If you really love the industry that you are in and want to stay there, then do everything in your power to find a job within your current field. Step up your networking efforts. Hone and expand your skills by considering extra responsibilities and/or training you could take on. If you really love your industry but cannot find something where you live now, are you willing to relocate? Often the best career move involves a physical move to another city.

Changing industries during this time many be unavoidable for a lot of people as corporations and even industries as a whole continue to downsize. Many are living with the reality of not even being able to find jobs to apply for in their current field. Instead of getting discouraged and hopeless, it is indeed a great time to leverage transferable skills and look to new fields. Consider engaging in some kind of psychometric testing to kick off your exploration.

To those seeking better opportunities, consider how you can make your current position more fulfilling. Can you be grateful for what you have now and focus on creating fulfilling opportunities outside of your cubicle? If you just cannot resist scratching the itch of "more, better, different" then I encourage you to first look at possible moves you can make within your current company first - especially if you have some seniority there.

Lindsey Pollak, Gen Y career expert and author of Getting from College to Career advises: "We are living in unprecedented and very uncertain times. While I would encourage you to explore a career change - through networking, additional education, professional association membership, internships, part-time work, etc. - I would not recommend giving up a stable job without a very clear direction. In other words, you can take active steps toward a career change and make a move if a real opportunity arises, but in this economy I'd be careful not to give up a decent, paying situation for an uncertain path. Also keep in mind that the last hired is often the first fired in a downsizing, so it's not a great position to be a new hire in a new industry."

And my advice to remain hopeful comes with clarification that securing a new or better opportunity does take an investment of your time and effort. Sitting at Starbucks sipping a latte while sending out a few resumes in between updating your Facebook profile while really, really hoping for a job with all your might is most likely not going to be effective or productive (not to mention a waste of $3). In this competitive job market think about the things that set you apart from other candidates - everything from your approach to the job search, your experiences and your attitude. And if you have a current job, stick with it until an actual job opening/offer arises as a result of your efforts.


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