Midcareer professionals can take steps to prepare themselves for new and rewarding challenges.

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Unemployment in Washington is the lowest it’s ever been. That’s according to the latest data from the Employment Security Department. Right now, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate sits at just 4.5 percent. In the Seattle area, it’s even lower, at 3.5 percent.

Even though more people are working in Washington than any other time in history, there are still high-paying, in-demand jobs to be filled. Many of those openings are in technology-focused fields, including software developers, systems analysts and other computer occupations. Oftentimes, those jobs command salaries nearly double the state’s median household income. It’s created what some pundits call a “war for talent” among employers.

While businesses do battle for good workers, midcareer professionals can take steps to prepare themselves for new and rewarding challenges. Here’s a checklist you can use to help make a career change.

Reflect on your past

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First, reflect back on your current and past jobs. How satisfied were you with each position? Write down what you loved, disliked, your greatest accomplishments and struggles. What did you do really well? Also, remember why you left. Be honest and use that information to help guide your next career move.

Look in the mirror

When considering a career change, take a look at yourself and what drives you. Identify your passions, values and abilities – and what occupations best suit you. Fortunately, there are many tools to guide you through that process. The U.S. Department of Labor developed a free self-assessment to help you decide what jobs you might want to explore.

Do some digging

Once you’ve identified the occupations in which you’d likely excel, research the employment outlook, salaries and educational requirements associated with each job. Also, set up an informational interview with someone from your targeted field. In an informational interview, you’ll be asking the questions and driving the discussion. Expect to get insight about the industry and possible employment leads. Here’s a link to learn how to arrange and conduct an informational interview.

Make a plan

Visualizing success is often the first step to making dreams a reality. That’s what makes a career action plan so valuable. Creating your plan can help you make thoughtful decisions and keep you focused. Establish measurable goals and create a timeline. Also, write a mission statement that reflects your values. Your plan will not be a static document; it will evolve as you do. Here’s a document to help you start your career plan.

Add arrows to your quiver

In your current job, expand your résumé by taking on additional responsibilities or new projects. Consider collaborating with departments that will increase your exposure to the areas in which you have interest. If that’s too difficult at your company, look for opportunities to volunteer outside of work. If you’re considering a switch to a technology-driven field, design a website for your church or offer to work in the IT department at a local nonprofit. Whatever you do, it will benefit you down the road if you can show tangible results of your effort.

Leah McNally, WGU Washington
Leah McNally, WGU Washington

WGU Washington is an online, competency-based university designed to expand access to higher education for Washington residents.