3-step approach to a successful career switch

Question: I am an out-of-work land surveyor with skills in construction and fabrication. I’m on good terms with my former boss, but the business is too small to pay for tuition, even though it would greatly benefit me and the company. I looked at education options, but with three small children, money and time are tight. I tossed my resume on the Internet, and check out weekly job ads, to no avail. I can learn new things, but switching careers right now could be fatal. Help?

C.M., Lake Stevens

Answer: The downturn in the economy has put significant pressure on the real estate industry. Many construction, engineering and real estate agencies are tightening their purse strings, forcing employees to look for new jobs.

But you can still find employment, even in a tough job market. How? By opening your mind to new ideas, capitalizing on every opportunity that comes along, and launching a goal- oriented job search effort.

Get moving with this three-step plan:

Focus on the present. First things first. Take care of yourself and your family right now. Cover the basics (food, electricity, monthly bills) before you do anything else. This might involve accepting a less-than-ideal position to sustain you and your family. Sometimes job hunting is about building your career; other times it’s about adapting to current circumstances.

Prepare for next year. Time is precious, especially for a father of three children. Once your immediate needs are met, plan for next spring with an assertive job hunt.

Stop tossing your resume around the Internet. Instead, research 10 to 20 businesses that could profit from your expertise. Don’t bother asking about job openings. Remember, you’re seeking a good, stable position for next year. You want to be the person they call as soon as a new job comes available.

To achieve this objective, you must develop relationships with people in your field. Stay in touch with your former boss. Network. Talk about your qualifications with as many people as possible. Send a strong, persuasive cover letter and resume to the companies on your list.

When you talk to people (or send your resume), make sure that employers know how they will benefit by hiring you. What’s in it for them? With your broad skills in construction, fabrication and surveying, you can save them money by performing the jobs of three workers. Plus, you don’t require much on-the-job training. These details are important since they’ll put you in the running for your next job.

Long-range future. When you’re ready, start thinking about your future. Choose a direction and define your long-range goals. For example, let’s say you want to move ahead in surveying. You can study up on instrumentation and technology, and move forward in the field, taking on the role of party chief. With additional training, you can serve as survey technician, or advance to RPLS (registered professional land surveyor).

You may not be able to afford classes today, but the economy (and your household) will change substantially in the next five years. Find some scholarships, or plan to pay for tuition class by class.

In the meantime, prioritize your job search and hit it hard. Then, when the time is right, consider the arc of your career. The industry will pick up again. Be ready.

Send your job search questions to eve.getajob@gmail.com.

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