I have a job -- now what? That is a question we should always keep in mind.
With unemployment still stuck at unacceptably high rates, many working in retail or service feel lucky to have a job at all. But jobs can only take you so far in your future path toward financial security and wealth creation. Non-career track positions typically offer few opportunities for job advancement and growth. And unlike careers, jobs also less likely to offer health insurance, retirement plans, paid vacation and other long-term financial benefits.
If you're ready to start mapping out a career plan, begin by investigating what's out there. Identify potential areas of interest within your company and look up job postings for specific positions to get a sense of their day-to-day tasks and responsibilities. You can also look up jobs listed in the U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics to get a sense of their work environment, salary range and estimated future growth rate.
You can also uncover different career options available by networking through local professional associations, job fairs and other career events. Reach out to resources within your community -- local chambers of commerce, small business administrations and state job development programs and ask for help connecting with industry experts and more information on your chosen field. Sites such as careerpath.com offer tests that are helpful for determining possible career paths you may not have considered.
Consider volunteering or even freelancing if you want to get a sense of what it might be like to work at different career tracks. For example, if you're interested in graphic design, you can volunteer your services at non-profits, charities or even small businesses designing pamphlets and other business collateral. Similarly, you can volunteer your writing and editing services for local businesses. If you are considering a career in teaching, you can look into opportunities to help out in local schools or even consider teaching abroad.
Once you've pinned down a concrete career track you'd like to pursue, learn more about what it takes to get on that track. Does this position require more education? A certification? Do you need internship experience? Will it require a significant financial investment? Is it something you'll have to quit your current job to pursue, or can you do both at the same time? Logically breaking down the steps will make the process less daunting and more feasible.
One of the best ways to break into an industry is having the support and advice of an effective career mentor who can help you move up the professional ladder and aid you in your job search. Reach out to mentors within your industry by researching the field, finding out the people who are in it, creating a list and contacting the people on that list. You can also reach out to people through social media, joining job listing sites on LinkedIn and reaching out to industry contacts on Twitter.
Making the transition from job to career is a critical step toward financial security. Once you find your career path, your financial path will be much clearer.
By Dedrick Muhammad, the senior director of the NAACP Economic Programs. To learn more about preventing foreclosure and personal finance, check out the NAACP Financial Freedom Center Facebook Page or on Twitter @naacpecon.