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There's help for those needing a change

March 08, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

Career change is an interesting thing, says Peter Thomas, executive director of the nearly 30-year-old Western Maryland Consortium.

The agency's mission is to provide employment and training services to assist unemployed individuals and dislocated workers.

Many of the consortium's clients have had career change thrust upon them because of layoffs or changes in the local employment situation because of changes in the global economy.

"What do I do?" they ask.

The Western Maryland Consortium helps them find answers.

Bob Simmers has been a case manager with the consortium for more than 25 years. He conducts workshops on career change and also works with people one on one, helping to guide them to a new way of life,

The tools provided can apply to career changes that come about for reasons other than losing a job.

One of the first of the client's tasks is taking an interest test.

Simmer's workshop asks the question, "What does it take to be successful?" in the proposed new career.

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Clients need to do some research, Simmers says. What are the pay expectations, working conditions, outlook for job security? What education and experience are needed? He recommends that his clients talk to people who work in the field - ideally, someone who has made a career change.

"Networking is key," Simmers says.

In many of the success stories Jo Giese tells on "Marketplace," National Public Radio's daily business program, the career changers are able to use skills they already have.

A New York advertising executive fought illness and decided that life was too short to deal with the stresses of the big city and fast-paced world in which she worked. She moved to Arkansas and opened a bookstore. Although that switch may seem like a huge leap, Giese says that woman was able to transfer her marketing skills to her new business.

Changing careers is not easy. There's a downside. Temporary financial setback is likely, Simmers says.

Jo Giese affirms that some financial cushion is helpful.

There may be some personal defeats and discouragement from friends and family. "People are resistant to change," Simmers explains.

But good things can result from changing careers. Positive outcomes include a greater sense of self-sufficiency, Simmers says.

And financial success often follows because people are doing something they like to do, he adds.

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