How to Make a Successful Career Change - Six Steps to a Successful Career Change

December 8, 2008

Seattle, (December 8, 2008) - Difficult economic times motivate many individuals to consider a career change, and returning to a career school is one option to make a smooth, and often relatively fast transition. The International Academy of Design and Technology—Seattle (Academy – Seattle) serves a diverse group of students, including career changers. Over the years, the Academy has learned from the success of its students the crucial steps to making a successful career change. Those steps and the experience of Academy alums can help others considering a career transition.

Deborah Towner had a twenty-five year career in commercial real estate. But Deborah had always had an interest in the creative; particularly in textures, textiles, color, fashion and the environment. Once Deborah made the decision to pursue a career in interior design, she says she began to uncover an innate creativity within herself that had been there all along and was just waiting to be uncovered.

In December 2007, Deborah graduated, with highest honors, from the Academy with a BFA in Interior Design. It took Deborah only two years to graduate because she had already acquired some core subject credits when she had earned an earlier degree. Because of her prior successful work history, Deborah was savvy about networking for a job. She had already been keeping an eye on about 20 websites for job openings. She also utilized the full services of the Academy, which helped her to put together her portfolio and included consultation with Director of Career Services Laura Nielsen. Now Deborah is with Burgess Design, a full-service, commercial interior architecture firm based in downtown Seattle. Founded in 1992, the 30-person firm is led by its President and founder Jim Burgess. She is an integral part of the interiors team, working on commercial office interiors, which connects her newly found passion in interior design with her past experience in commercial real estate. She wants to roll up her sleeves and get as much experience as possible in all phases of design. And someday she would like to be a key influencer in sustainable design.

Deborah took six important steps in making her career change:

  1. Self-evaluation.
    If you decide to undergo a career change, you will need to evaluate your values, skills, personality, interests and talents. There are many different free career tests that are available on the internet. You might see a career counselor or just make your own list of pros and cons, and take good notes.
  2. Make a list of possible new careers.
    For each career or occupation on your list, you will want to look at the job descriptions, educational requirements, the current job outlook, advancement opportunities, and potential earnings.
  3. Interview schools.
    Make a list of schools that offer the education you need to prepare for a new career. Set appointments for a site visit and a meeting with the school's admissions or career counselors. Talk to current students and graduates if you can.
  4. Set your goals and work out the logistics.
    How will you achieve your goals? How will you get the funding to go to school? How long will it take for you to get through school? Where will you live while you are attending school? You can explore these options with your school's admissions or career counselors.
  5. Put your plan into action.
    Now that you have set your goals, write an action plan that will help guide you through your goals. How long will it take you to get through school? What kinds of on-the-job training and internship opportunities are available while you are still in school? Work with your career services office to ensure that you hear of every possible job opportunity.

  6. Networking.
    It is never too soon to start joining professional trade organizations related to your new career. Attend as many meetings as possible and make as many contacts as you can. Keep track of everyone you meet and follow-up with them. Ask for informational interviews.

Deborah's advice to students: "Particularly in a tough economic climate, it's important to demonstrate a strong work ethic and good creative skills. There are jobs out there, but it takes networking to find them. Say 'Yes' to exploratory interviews and participate in industry events. Pound the pavement at the show rooms and at the design centers. You really have to get out there to get what you want!"

NOTE to EDITORS and PRODUCERS: Deborah Towner is available for interview. Contact Patricia Vaccarino, 206 979 3380,