Changing Careers…Voluntarily or Not


by Jessi Eden Brown, MS, LMHC, LPC

According to a 2012 WBI survey, 77.7% of people targeted by workplace bullies leave their job. While it is a terrible experience to lose the job you love, it is also an opportunity — a chance to start again in a new position, or maybe even blaze a new career path entirely.

Choosing a career is one of the most important decisions you will make — a decision the average American faces several times over the course of his or her life. With so many options available for your career path and development, knowing where to look for information can be overwhelming.

We have combed the Internet to offer you some of the most valuable career development resources in cyberspace. Changing careers can feel like an enormous undertaking; just remember to follow a few simple rules:

  • Rule Number 1: Break career planning and decision-making tasks into manageable chunks.
  • Rule Number 2: Make decisions only after taking adequate time for reflection.
  • Rule Number 3: Ask for help and support when you need it. You may choose to consult with a career development professional for assistance with the career planning and selection process.

Where Do I Start?

Peruse the sections below to locate the most helpful resources for your current phase of career planning.

Oh, and don’t worry if you’re feeling a bit nervous — that is a natural reaction during the career change process. The resources discussed this article will help you build the confidence you need to move forward with your career development goals.


Out of Work?

Begin by looking into unemployment benefits.

Each state has its own unemployment insurance program and application procedures. You will need to research the eligibility requirements and file a claim as directed by the state in which you worked.


Looking for a New Start or Just Ready to Explore?


The most important skill you can have in this economy of change is self-awareness, especially when it comes to your interests, skills, preferences, and values.

It is time to ask yourself:

  • “What do I enjoy most about working?”
  • “What do I feel passionate about?”
  • “How do I like to spend my spare time?”
  • “What energizes me or gets me excited?”
  • “What are my interests, values, life roles, skills, developmental needs, etc.?”

To help you find the answers to these questions, consider taking an online career assessment.


Research Potential Careers

After building your self-awareness, take time to research the types of careers that are well-suited to your interests and passions. You can locate excellent career planning information and a skills-matching service at O*NET Online. Additionally, general information about hundreds occupations can be found in the Occupational Outlook Handbook.


Create Your Career Action Plan

You should consider developing a Career Action Plan to help you reach your career goals. Or, if you would rather do your planning on paper, you can use the California Career Planning Guide. This guide contains all of the steps, information, and resources required for a complete Career Action Plan. Note: While some of the information in this guide is specific to California, the vast majority of this helpful booklet is applicable for all job seekers, regardless of geographic region or career change goals.


Looking for Inspiration?

Take a Trip

Since 2002, hundreds of college students have toured the United States and traveled abroad with one unified goal: To interview people from all walks of life. These students are on a mission to discover how people built interesting lives and careers out of doing what they love. Visit Roadtrip Nation to check out over 700 interviews posted on their website.


Find a Mentor

To help you navigate the ups and downs of your career change journey, you may want to locate a mentor. Potential mentors are everywhere! Here is a website that may help you start your search. Your mentor should be someone who has the time and resources to support you, but does not necessarily need to be an individual with advanced career status. Find someone with whom you feel comfortable sharing your experience, someone with perspective, someone you trust and respect.



During your career exploration, you may decide it is time to enhance your knowledge and update your skills. Not ready to jump into the role of full-time student? We suggest you start by taking one or two courses as a way of exploring the subject area. If you decide you are ready to earn a new degree or certification, be sure to look into the school’s accreditation, thoroughly review the admissions process, and seek out some information about post-graduation placement successes. If the skill you need to learn is something applicable to your current job, see if your employer would consider assisting you with tuition expenses.

College Navigator has information about schools all across the United States.


Stay Busy and Gain Valuable Experience

Volunteer your time! This is a great way to learn the ins and outs of a new career, make valuable networking connections, and keep your skills sharp…All while enjoying that warm, fuzzy feeling you get from helping those in need! Check out: Volunteers of America and Volunteer Match to find out where your help is needed.

Obtaining a part-time job or internship in your new career field can affirm your career change decision and provide you with much needed experience in your new line of work. You might also consider taking a temp position in your new field as a way of gaining first-hand experience and improving your marketability.

Young people may want to consider job shadowing as a way of learning what a job would be like on a day-to-day basis.


The Importance of Networking

Networking is essential! This is a great way to learn about potential jobs, as well as gather relevant information about the companies and organizations you might consider for employment. Your network can be comprised of colleagues, family, friends, community members, etc. You may want to start by checking out these networking resources.



You’ve spent the time getting to know yourself, researching career opportunities, and reflecting on your options. Now, it’s time to hit the proverbial pavement!

Here are some tools to get you started:

Developing a job search strategy

Guide to researching companies

Writing your resume

Cover letter resources

Interviewing resources

Preparing for your next interview

Salary negotiation resources


Be Patient and Flexible

Given the current economic climate and the inherent challenges associated with a career change, it is essential that you remain patient and flexible. Try to be open about your employment objectives, work status, geographic location, and salary requirements. It helps to set positive and achievable goals for yourself. You should expect to experience setbacks and disappointment – and try not to let these events deflate you. Change is difficult, but it is also exciting. Remember, you always have options!


Additional Resources: is a one-stop, comprehensive resource designed to guide individuals through the process of beginning, furthering, or changing their career path.

The What Color is Your Parachute website serves as a supplement to the book “What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers.” It provides countless resources for job-hunting and career-changing.

There are many excellent career and job change books you may want to read.

The Riley Guide introduces users to the online job search, listing many online sites and services that are useful for job searching.

Here are some additional resources for specific populations of career changers:


Jessi Eden Brown, MS, LMHC, LPC is the professional coach for WBI and a licensed therapist in private practice. She provides targets with emotional support and customized strategies for effectively addressing workplace bullying.

If you would like guidance regarding career decisions following a workplace bullying experience, you are invited to schedule a coaching session with Jessi. Learn more about WBI’s coaching services here.


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