Switching careers is one of the most difficult and exciting moves in one’s life. The fear of the unknown, the possibility of a new future, it’s a lot to process. Before taking the jump, chances are you’ve gone back and forth between every possible option.
Staying in your field but switching employers, going back to school, sticking it out, and eventually, you may decide it’s time to switch careers. Maybe you’ve held a lifelong passion for something, or maybe after a decade after doing what you love, it’s begun to lose its luster.
If switching careers seems impossible, this article is for you.
A career change doesn’t have to be as scary as it seems.
With the proper preparation, switching careers can be a smooth and fun process. Here are some steps you can take before making the jump.
Evaluate why you want a career change
Is your boss driving you crazy? Are you frustrated with your salary?
Before changing careers, make sure to evaluate the source of your problems.
Sometimes, the solution isn’t switching careers; instead, you may need to look at a new employer. When you’re in a complex situation, it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two.
Before potentially embarking on a completely new path, take a breath (or even a vacation) and look at things from a step back. If you know you are no longer happy with your career, then something’s got to change. Luckily, you have the resources on hand to do it.
Explore new options
Even if you’re sure you know what you want to do next, have fun in exploring new possibilities. If you can find the time, shadow someone who works in the position you are looking to switch to. Most industries have a network of professionals that are eager to help those who are new to the business. Learn everything you can from the best in the biz, even the stuff you don’t want to hear.
Most industries have a network of professionals that are eager to help those who are new to the business. Learn everything you can from the best in the biz, even the stuff you don’t want to hear.
Consider what is most important to you, whether it’s the money, the free time, whatever it may be, and see what others in the career have to say.
Try to find someone local and reach out to them via email or telephone, and see if they would be interested in meeting for coffee. Come with a list of questions prepared, and pick their brain on their profession, the good and the bad.
Research, research, research
With an unlimited amount of resources at our fingertips, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to get a fairly good understanding of how to get a foot in the door.
Search forums, clubs, and any other information you can find on the internet, and absorb as much as you can.
After reading over enough material, you should have a fairly good understanding of the entry-level requirements. The library is another great resource for professional guidance.
Once you feel confident in what your new career will require, begin developing your new set of skills.
Adjust your skillset
Some professions may require you to go back to school. Some may not, but still have a different set of skills you must acquire before switching. College applications take a while to process and have very strict deadlines, so if you believe you may need to go back to school, begin the application process as soon as possible.
If going back to school isn’t an option, consider career-specific night classes, seminars, or weekend learning retreats. YouTube videos and learning sites like Lynda.com are another invaluable sources of knowledge. Good old-fashioned books are an inexpensive and comprehensive option as well.
Brush up your resume
Once you feel confident in taking the final step, clean up your resume and adjust your line items to reflect the new career change. More importantly, develop a cover letter that describes why you are interested in this career change.
Potential new employers are likely to be confused as to why you are switching into this unknown territory, and that’s okay, as long as you have a solid answer why, and can explain yourself eloquently in a cover letter.
Face to face interactions are invaluable at this time, so make sure to network in your new industry early and often.
Start making contacts
Even if you haven’t landed a position in your new field yet, make connections early and often. More often than not, new opportunities arise from who you know, not what’s on a piece of paper.
Look for industry events, mixers, and network opportunities that can help expand your contacts in the new career. Ask friends of friends, join Facebook groups, do anything you can to put yourself out there.
If it’s not awkward, you can even hang around the place of business you’d like to work at. (A coffee shop, for example. Don’t linger in someone’s office.) The more you can put yourself out there, the more likely you are to make a connection that can get you a foot in the door.
Look for a way in
Chances are, you aren’t going to be able to start your new dream position right away. Like anything else, you’ll have to work your way up. Finding a part-time or internship job that is in the direction you’d like to go in is a great first step in testing the waters of your new career.
A new career change is exciting, but before jumping head first into the unknown, test the waters and make sure this is really something you want to do.
In addition to gaining experience, you’ll start to make more connections, and hopefully get a chance to see what you do and don’t like in potential future employers in this new arena.
A career change is a big deal! Once you’ve made the jump, don’t be afraid to celebrate! Inform your friends and family about the switch, and congratulate yourself on taking a step towards becoming truer to yourself. Good luck!