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Walking A Fine Line When Switching Jobs

Changing workplace can mean better opportunities for those who stay connected to their industries

June 15, 2005|By Dana Klosner-Wehner | Dana Klosner-Wehner,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

"It helps keep me plugged in," Bal said. "Apart from skills, it's also important to know people. If I have a specific problem, I can call upon people to give their suggestions to develop solutions.

"Even if I have a job, I keep on thumbing through job boards and magazines to understand the skills employers are looking for," he said.

Face your fears

There are some fears that people need to address when making a job change.

Financial security and upward mobility were on Douglas Crocker's list of needs when he took the leap from a full-time, salaried systems engineer for a Roslyn, Va., firm to working as a contract employee for TAC Worldwide Cos., a technical staffing company.

The change took place about two years ago after the birth of Crocker's son. He took time off to be with his newborn and was told that he would be moved to another division upon his return, he said.

"I was working as a systems engineer and was being transferred to the communications group," said Crocker, who lives in Columbia. "[The move] didn't fit with my career development goals."

He posted his resume on job search Web sites and received four or five calls a day from prospective employers, he said. When Crocker compared salaries, he realized he could make more money as a contract employee even after paying for his own benefits.

"The advantage is there is much more flexibility," he said. "If a company tells me they need me to relocate and I'm not interested, I can ask for a new contract. I also get to see from the inside what it is like to work for a company before I make a decision about taking a permanent position if one is offered.

"The down side is there is no security," Crocker added. "I wouldn't do this if I didn't know there was a high demand for my profession." Still, Crocker said he always keeps a lot in savings as a backup.

Most experts said workers can upgrade their skills by taking advantage of tuition reimbursement plans at their job. They also can visit free career centers throughout the state to learn more about job trends, attend resume and interview workshops and look for positions with other companies.

"We help people focus on their transferable marketable skills," said Rosemary Woren, senior program development specialist for the Mayor's Office of Employment Development in Baltimore. "We can help them look at labor market information to see what the new trends are and help them extrapolate what will be needed in the future."

She said more people are visiting the centers in hopes of switching careers.

"We are seeing more people [in mid- to upper-level career] come in now based on changes in the economy," Woren said. "We see banking" and other professionals, she said. "Some see the handwriting on the wall. They want to do their own career exploration and look at labor trends," she said. "There is a constant need for change."

Know your market

That's why workers should always be looking for ways to make themselves more competitive and identify the next post for themselves by knowing the job market well, experts said.

"There are many good ways to hear about new positions," said Carol J. Vellucci, director of the Career Center at Towson University who also has a private practice as a career coach. "Reading the business sections of local newspapers, business journals and magazines provides some up-to-the-minute information that can help the creative job-seeker. The No. 1 complaint of employment recruiters is that candidates do not do enough research about the company.

"When you set up an interview, Google the name of the manager [to get his background]," said Randy Block, a career coach in San Francisco. "If you know anyone [at the company], ask them what they can tell you about the company."

Spatner, the recruiter, has changed executive positions three times. He first worked as vice president of corporate communications for Nissan North America Inc. and later moved to a similar role with Sun America, which was bought out shortly after he started.

Besides networking, Spatner said workers need to make sure their bosses know about the passion they have for their work and their hobbies. Offering their expertise to help make the company more competitive can only be seen as a plus by an organization, he said.

"It's just like high school," Spatner said, "You have to raise your hand."

Tips for branching out

To find an executive search firm, visit the Association of Executive Search Consultants at www.aesc.org or phone 212-398-9556.

To find a career coach, visit the International Coach Federation at www.coachfederation.org or call Terry Shafer, president of the Baltimore chapter, at 410-728-2522.

To find a career center in your county, visit the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation at www.dllr.state.md.us/county.

Contact the university you attended to take advantage of the school's career counseling services.

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