Changing Careers: Everybody's Doing It

My hometown newspaper (The Los Angeles Times) has a regular business feature called "Career Makeover." The concept is simple: A reader who is contemplating a change of profession is matched with a panel of experts which devises a game plan for making the move.

What I always find fascinating is the number of people I would call "successful" who are not feeling satisfied with what they've achieved.

Some of these folks have had life changes that have prompted them to re-examine their careers. Others are disillusioned or burned out. And others simply want to have more fun!

I guess I find it reassuring to see that I am not the only one who has changed my career direction midstream.

One profile that really hit home was that of a doctor whose earnings were in the low 6 figures. He confessed that he only went to medical school to please his parents and now that he is in his forties, he yearned to try something else.

He had an idea for a product that could be marketed as a hangover cure, and wondered if it was something he could someday generate enough income from to quit medicine.

A career counselor helped him evaluate his background, abilities, likes and dislikes. Marketing experts advised him on the pitfalls of bringing a new over-the-counter drug to market -- such as getting FDA approval and fighting for retail shelf space.

In the end, the experts concluded that entrepreneurship was not for him, and the good doctor was pointed in another direction.

I don't know if I would have dismissed his idea so easily. His instinct to market a product related to what he knows was a good one. In fact, I've come across several health care professionals who are enjoying a substantial extra income by doing just that.

Of course, you can't assume that a course of action that works for one person is the same one for you. An assessment of your interests, abilities, likes and dislikes is a good first step in finding your direction ... and thanks to the Internet, you don't have to spend a fortune finding a consultant to do it for you. Here are some starting points:

Professional career guidance counselors swear by the Birkman Method Career Style Summary, part of The Princeton Review. There's no charge to take the pared-down online version of the test.

The Keirsey Temperament and Character Web Site measures these two components of your personality to give you a rough indication of where you stand.

Try running a Self-Directed Search to see if your individual type matches your chosen field. You can take this professional quality test in its entirety for $7.95.

Life is too short to spend it toiling away at something you don't enjoy. Sometimes you need to figure out what your alternatives are. You owe it to yourself to do it!

Donna Schwartz Mills is the editor of the NOBOSS ParentPreneur Club, an online resource for moms and dads with home-based businesses and those who are thinking of starting a home-based business.