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Looking to make a switch? There are several ways to help midcareer professionals transition into their next big gig.

WITH MORE THAN 12 MILLION AMERICANS OUT OF work and no indication that employment numbers will improve as we close the second quarter of 2009, many professionals are considering career transitions either as a result of having been downsized or as an opportunity to stay relevant and competitive in sustainable and growing areas of the economy.

To successfully transition from one field or discipline to another. candidates will first have to assess their current skill set, talents, and credentials, and then determine what will be needed to successfully find employment in a new area.

"Looking at your current skill set and understanding how your portfolio may translate to a different industry or discipline can help you make transitions and boost performance," says Maurice Cox, vice president of diversity and inclusion development at PepsiCo. "It's always good to pick up a new skill, either in support of adding more value, or reengaging with an area that may be changing or may have become too cut-and-dried, or even stagnant.


"More than likely some schooling will be needed. The fact that many online training programs have experienced spikes in enrollment is a strong indication that an increasing number of professionals are beefing up their qualifications.

Jerry Slavonia, founder and CEO of, a Website that lists educational and job training resources, says in just one month he's tracked a surge of 55% in traffic to the site, from 673,000 in December 2008 to 1,044,000 in January 2009. "We suspect these visitors are likely researching new career paths via education and retraining," he says.

If you're thinking of pursuing additional training, these four educational options may help you maximize your outcome:

Executive MBA

An executive M.B.A. covers the same range of subject matter as a traditional M.B.A. and is roughly a two-year program tailored to a busy working professional's schedule. GMAT scores are required for admittance. At many schools, classes are held twice a month and span a few consecutive days that usually fall on the weekend. An E.M.B.A. also gives you the flexibility of choosing a geographically wider selection of programs since your time away from the workplace is at a minimum. Learned skills can be applied almost immediately.

Who Benefits: If you are a midlevel manager with roughly 10 to 15 years of work experience in a typically functional area such as engineering, IT, operations, marketing, or finance, obtaining an E.M.B.A. can help you develop skills in a new area through hands-on experience in group and field work. Attractive to those interested in advancing into executive management, executive M.B.A. programs can also help you transition into entrepreneurshlp.

Veronica Conway, founder of the Black Professional Coaches Alliance, says the brevity of these programs is attractive: "The rate of change today is so enormous, industries are changing quickly and you have to be very nimble in terms of acquiring, integrating, and applying skills."

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 56% of U.S. companies don't pay for employee educational programs. E.M.B.A.'s can cost as much as $100,000. But Joe Watson, founder of StrategicHire, says the cost shouldn't deter you. He suggests saving to fund educational aspirations: "You should treat this like any other personal finance initiative." The Executive MBA Council ( offers a listing of courses nationally and internationally.

Executive Education

These university-based, open-enrollment programs run from a few days to a few weeks. They are perfect for professionals to gain skills in a specific area with subject areas that range from project and supply chain management to global communications and leadership development. The executive education programming apparatus is designed to quickly offer the latest instruction in current market events and trends. For instance, Harvard recently introduced a four-day program called Turnaround Management Strategies that begins this June.

Who Benefits: Executive education programs can be helpful to those working in a field where there has been a paradigm shift, as well as those in industries where constant change is embedded in the culture--technology, for instance. It is also perfect for those who know exactly what field they would like to transition into. General management programs cover business theories, practices, and leadership techniques for professionals of all levels.

The cost can range from several hundred dollars to several thousand.

Certificate Programs

These programs are offered at colleges, universities, trade schools, and professional associations and represent almost every industry. In some cases, certification may be mandatory; in others it provides you with a competitive edge in your field of interest. Murray A. Mann, senior career manager, personal coach, and principal of Global Diversity Solutions Group, a diversity training and multicultural talent management consultancy, says any steps you take toward certification will help to differentiate you from your competition.

For those taking noncredit classes, it's a benefit to receive your training from organizations that can award Continuing Education Units, or CEUs, which are a nationally recognized measure and permanent record of time spent enhancing nonacademic training. The National Black MBA Association ( offers CEUs through its Leadership Institute.

Also check university-based professional schools and continuing education programs for certificate programs by industry. Some of the most common certificates include: Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Public Accountant/Personal Financial Specialists (CPA PFS), Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), and Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CCN).

Who Benefits: If you're looking to move into a new area, completing a certificate program in the transition area can be a great door opener. It gives you instant credibility, plus working through professional organizations plugs you into their network. Externships

Internships are an effective way for graduates and undergraduates to enter the workforce. Externships are becoming an increasingly popular option for more seasoned professionals who are interested in changing professions. Externships differ from internships in that they are more experiential and much shorter, ranging from a few days to a few weeks.

Who Benefits: Professionals interested in entering a field that requires personal contacts, such as communications, fashion, event planning, and interior design, but you can also obtain externships in many traditional and technical businesses. The greatest benefit is gaining access to the network.

--Sonia Alleyne (additional reporting by Lois Barrett)
Black MBA Magazine Back to School Survey
Number of Participant, 394

In light of job instability in the marketplace, are you
considering a midcareer transition (i.e, transitioning from
one industry to a different industry)?

Yes   186   (47%)
No    205   (52%)

In light of the economy, are you thinking about Bring back to
school to enhance your skill set?

Yes   228   (58%)
No    163   (41%)

If you answered "Yes" to #2,  which educational track are
you considering?

Traditional M.B.A.      223   (67%)
Executive M.B.A.         26    (7%)
Executive Education       6    (2%)
Certificate Course       52   (13%)
Other (specify below)    84   (21%)

Note: Table made from be graph
COPYRIGHT 2009 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Article Details
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Author:Alleyne, Sonia
Publication:Black Enterprise
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2009
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