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How Can I Start A New Career? Here's Some Expert Advice

Image shows four panels with host Jill Replogle at the top left followed clockwise by  Jessica Ku Kim, Jenna Gausman and Henan Joof.
From top left, clockwise: Jill Replogle, Jessica Ku Kim, Jenna Gausman, Henan Joof. Screenshot of How To Start A New Career live, virtual event, April 28, 2021.
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Thousands of Californians have lost their jobs during the pandemic. People without a college degree and people of color, particularly Latinas, have been hit especially hard.

If you're among those out of work, or looking for a new path, how can you position yourself for a stable job and meaningful career going forward?

Our newsroom recently hosted a virtual panel of experts to answer people's questions about starting a new career. If you missed it, here are the highlights:

How Do I Start To Explore Career Options?

Look at the data. The internet has a wealth of information about wages, hiring outlook and educational requirements in different job categories. Also, search for online videos to get a sense of career pathways that pique your interest.

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Explore these questions:

  • What does it take to start the career?
  • What does it take to advance in the career?
  • What are the rewarding aspects?
  • What are the expectations and sacrifices?

Here are some good career exploration and workforce data sites to get you started:

  • CareerOneStop - Career assessment quiz, job-searching tips and links to educational resources.
  • Gladeo - In-depth career profiles, including ways to advance in a career track, tips for breaking into various fields, and profiles of real people working in these jobs.
  • Center for a Competitive Workforce - Read expert analyses of growing occupations in the L.A. area, especially middle-skill jobs. View videos and join webinars about local career pathways.
  • EDD Labor Market Information — search for information about required qualifications, wages, working conditions and hiring outlook for specific careers.

Talk to people already working in the field. You can ask for informational interviews, talk to people at career centers, use LinkedIn, ask neighbors and look up associations and online groups tied to a career.

Reach out to your local community college. You can speak to someone at a welcome center, admissions office or counseling department to do a career assessment and explore your options for short- and longer-term educational programs or apprenticeships that can further your career.

Here are links to Welcome Centers for the LA City College campuses, as well as a longer list of community colleges around Southern California.

Many community colleges also have career planning courses you can enroll in to help you set goals and priorities, and assess your skills.

Job centers can also help you access training programs, assess career options, connect with community colleges and find job opportunities:

Here are some organizations that also offer career support (many of them run job centers as well):

Are My Old College Credits Transferable? Can Work Experience Count Towards A Degree?

Often, yes. Bring your transcript to your local community college and find out what is transferable and what work or life experience can count towards credit. This is known as "credit for prior learning."

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How Do I Figure Out Whether The Cost Of A Degree Or Certificate Program Is Worth The Money?

Consider the wages you would make at the end of the career, and the investment you'd make in the education, including what it will cost to repay loans, especially if you are taking out private loans.

Look at the career projections. How long will it take for you to get to the salary you want and need to pay back loans?

Find out whether a degree or certificate will actually provide you advancement in your career. Not every degree will. Also, think about the networking value of the educational program you're considering and, if relevant, the research opportunities there.

Here's where you can explore wages and career outcomes for graduates of public California colleges:

College Is Expensive. How Can I Pay For It?

Most students are entitled to some kind of financial aid. Here's how to apply and find out what you can get:

  • — the federal government’s tool for calculating your financial need.
  • California Student Aid Commission — distributes Cal Grants and other state-based student aid, including aid for undocumented students. Hosts free workshops on applying for student aid.
  • LA College Promise — Free community college tuition for first-time, full-time college students who graduated from an LAUSD high school.

Community colleges also have additional aid that you can apply for directly through the college. Talk to a counselor.

What Can I Do To Make My Job Application Stand Out?

Keywords. Look for keywords in the job description and application and try to include them in your resume. Companies sometimes screen applicants by searching for keywords.

Passion. If you are lacking work experience related to that job, you might be able to make up for it by demonstrating passion for the job in your application. Work hard on your cover letter. Even if a job posting says a cover letter is optional. It's not.

Network. If you know someone who works at a company you want to work for, reach out to them. Keep expanding your network and meeting new people.

Persevere. Apply, apply, apply. Apply for jobs like it's your job.

What If I've Had The Same Job For Decades, Or I've Been Out Of The Workforce?

If you need to freshen up your skills, or find out which skills you're missing for the job you want, talk to your local community college about courses and certificate programs that can help you upskill or fill in those gaps.

Job centers and adult education programs can also help you identify short-term courses that can boost your resume.

What Resources Exist For Seniors And Older Workers/Students?

Some colleges, including CSU Dominguez Hills, have resources dedicated to older students.

Adults age 60 and over may qualify for free tuition at CSU campuses.

Here are some other resources:

  • College For Adults — online resource specifically for older adults looking to go to college
  • LA County Senior Services — program for unemployed, low-income workers over 55 to get part-time work-based training opportunities

Am I Too Old To Go Back To College?

Never. But you should carefully consider your career and educational goals and the investment it will take to reach them. Again, talk to a career counselor. Also, consider shadowing somebody doing the work you're interested in to make sure it's something you'd want to do.

There Are So Many Job Titles Out There. How Do I Find What I'd Be Good At?

Search by company. One strategy is to identify a company you want to work for, go to their website and search for all jobs in your area (or wherever you're willing to move).Then you can start to look into the ones that pop up, see what's interesting and for which ones you qualify.

Gladeo. This "next-generation" career exploration site tends to have more up-to-date job titles than some other sites.

What Are Some Hot Career Fields In L.A?

Health Care: You don't have to become a doctor or a registered nurse (although RNs are in demand). Other jobs in health care, which generally require less of an educational investment, include licensed vocational nursing, respiratory therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, radiology.

There are also health care adjacent jobs that don't require direct patient care, including medical billing and coding, and medical device sales.

E-sports and e-gaming. From web designers, to game testers, to human resources, to fashion designers, there are a variety of jobs in e-sports and e-gaming that might not come to mind when you think about the industry.

Think about what skills you have that might be transferable to any industry that's booming.

You can also watch the full event:

Or read the transcript, in English or Spanish.

  • Dr. Henan L Joof, dean of student services at LA City College

  • Jessica Ku Kim, vice president of economic and workforce development at LA County Economic Development Corporation

  • Jenna Gausman, career counselor/faculty at Santa Monica College

See also:

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