Returning to Work with New Career

I have a B.A. in Education, but permitted my certification to lapse. I am actually extremely interested in research and advocacy. I assisted several professors with research as an undergrad, which resulted in publication, yet haven't the foggiest idea as how to get my foot in the door, and potentially make a career out of my passion. While I did achieve a B.A.; school has actually always been quite a challenge for me. My youngest son has a learning disability, and I question, if I too, may have had, may still have, a learning disability. With that said, I'm reluctant to return to school. Are there any other opportunities; internships, trade schools, something for a woman in her late 40's.

Even though the job market is very tight, it is still very possible to make a career change. There are several ways to break into a new field. The good news is that you do not necessarily have to go back to school to do so!
Identify your skills.
First, it is important to take stock of your skills, especially your transferable skills. You must be able to talk about your skills to potential employers, especially if you do not have experience in a particular industry. Sometimes it is helpful to create a functional resume (instead of a chronological one) to begin to think of yourself in terms of skills rather than jobs. You can look up skill words on the Internet, or you can work with a career counselor to identify your skills.
Network.
Set up informational interviews with as many people in research and advocacy as you can. The best way to get an informational interview is through an introduction. Have a friend connect you with one of their contacts who is doing work you are interested in. Then ask that person about their work, and how you might be able to get involved. LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) is one of the best tools you can use to network. Put those research skills to work in finding people to talk to.
Volunteer.
Volunteering is a great way to gain skills and contacts in a new field. You can use the website SkokieServes to look for volunteer opportunities or the volunteer section of this website, that will give you the experience you need. Or you can contact organizations you are interested in and simply ask if they need any volunteers.
Browse the job boards.
Finally, be sure to browse the Internet for job opportunities in the research field. Even if you are not qualified yet, reading job descriptions will show you what kind of skills and experience are most in demand. Universities often hire research assistants to help with specific projects, so visit your local university websites to see if they are currently hiring.

To find out if you have a learning disability, contact a qualified professional, usually a psychologist, who is trained in testing for learning disorders. I hope this information helps you get started in your desired field. I wish you all the best.

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