Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Pre-Christmas Career Changes

It's a hard time for over a thousand Air New Zealand engineers whose jobs are being offshored. Perfect timing, don't you think? Why do redundancies always seem to happen around Christmas time?

The engineers' plight is this: most of them have highly specialised jobs (I imagine). They can either follow the work overseas, or try to adapt their large commercial aircraft engineering skills to other industries, such as small aviation or automotive engineering.

Yet still, New Zealand is suffering a shortage of vital skills in the workforce. There's a fundamental mismatch of skills to jobs available; we have immigrant nuclear scientists delivering junk mail to make ends meet. Not too many nuclear facilities here in New Zealand.

So a growth area in New Zealand, it seems, would be retraining - taking your transferable skills and adapting them to a new area, or developing completely new skill sets.

I'm doing a kind of career change at the moment, too. It's not because of redundancy, more a case of me maturing and discovering a bit more of who I am. And yet it doesn't sound that much of a change: from freelance copywriter to freelance screenwriter. But the change has been harder than it at first seemed.

As a freelance copywriter/journalist, my focus has been on providing a service, if necessary an ad-agency style service involving lots of project management as well as the writing. This has all come about from necessity, because people wanted it, and not because I was crash-hot at it.

As an aspiring screenwriter, however, I have the opportunity to focus on writing. Which is both a blessing and a challenge. A blessing because the other job rarely affords the opportunity for real focus; a challenge because it's easy to 'multi-task' without actually achieving much.

The most important thing is that screenwriting seems a better "fit" for my personality and ambition. It's also something that I can see my whole life pointing towards - the kind of thing I wanted to be when I grew up.

Having said all this, and made it public here, I'm aware that it's a very gradual change process; that I'll need to continue with the copywriting and journalism while I learn more about the screenwriting side of things, because in New Zealand, there aren't too many trainee jobs going in the writing-for-TV-or-movies industry. This is a long haul project.

Other career change resources

I haven't read it all, but What Color Is Your Parachute has some good exercises for discovering just what your "transferable skills" are.

The trick comes from not defining your skills by industry, but by what you actually do. This can help break down mental barriers and introduce you to possibilities you'd previously ignored.

If you have slightly less time but still want very specific career change help, Changing Careers is very helpful. It gives you lots of exercises to define where you want to go, and what you have to offer future employers or collaborators.

Changing Careers is also a very good read for employers who care about making their workplace an engaging place to be for each employee. These days, every employer should be interested in that.


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