How To Change Careers Without Starting Over

Many people decide to change jobs hoping to say goodbye to cranky coworkers and micromanaging bosses for greener pastures. Sometimes people change companies, but in one study, 80% of 20-somethings, 64% of 30-somethings and 54% of 40-somethings wanted to change careers altogether.

Fortunately, making a career transition can be a natural and inexpensive process if you approach it in the right way. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on a new degree (though that might help you shortcut the process) or face unemployment as you frantically search for a new job. Instead, you can invest your time and just a few dollars  in the following four low-cost career change strategies:

Read a book

The first step in making a career change is choosing a career that aligns with your skills, interests, and values. Guessing at these characteristics won’t set you on the right path; instead, gain insight into your preferences by reading career transition books from the top writers and researchers in the field.

Here are four phenomenal books to start with. Each provides ample opportunity to evaluate your unique interests and skills and orient yourself toward a new career.

Start a blog

Writing about a topic is a great way to exhibit your expertise for a new career and engage in the existing community. If you aren’t comfortable with technology or writing, starting a blog might seem like the last thing you should do. However, working with a personal blog can give you a significant amount of experience in a variety of desirable skills. Not only will you learn basic computer literacy, but you’ll also dip your toes into the industries of website design, copywriting, blogging, content marketing, social media, and community management.

I started my blog for fun in 2011, eventually launching a successful eBook called Life After Teaching and creating a business for myself as a freelance writer and entrepreneur (a career I didn’t know existed when I was a classroom teacher in 2008).

Your final stop might not be “full-time blogger,” but along the way you’ll learn more about your subject of interest (the topic of your blog) and how to apply those myriad skills to help you achieve your goals on the job.

Take a test

While your options for testing into a career are more limited, there are quite a few jobs that will allow you to tap into your current experience and add on to it in the form of a certification. These certifications can cost as much as hundreds of dollars, but might be worthwhile if it allows you to skip the ultra-expensive new degree.

  • Project Management Professional (PMP) makes you more competitive as a project manager for small and large companies. Prerequisites including hours leading and directing projects as well as project management education often apply.
  • International Coach Federation (ICF) is a global community of professional trained coaches. While you don’t need this certification to start your own business, it can help you establish credibility and get up to speed on best practices for coaches and consultants.
  • Certified Financial Planners (CFP) help individuals and families get control of their finances through 1:1 coaching. Believe it or not, you don’t have to have an extensive background in finance (or a finance degree) to receive this certification. Instead, this course focuses on communication and counseling skills as well as sound financial basics that you’ll learn as you complete the certification.
  • CompTIA Information Technology Industry & Association is a certifying body that oversees entry-level Information Technology service providers.  You can learn more about computers one course at a time, eventually setting yourself up for a career with computer networks, security, or maintenance.

Stay on schedule

Your new career is a short few steps away, but only if you’re persistent. Plan your year in advance and divide your work up into quarters.

Take the first part of the year to assess your skills and interests and read about things you might like to do. Then take the second quarter to choose an activity that will propel you into your career (starting the blog, choose the tests to take and start studying for them). Take the third quarter to network with like-minded professionals in person and on LinkedIn. Take the final quarter to apply for jobs and network with human resources professionals (or mastermind groups, if you plan to consult or freelance) to identify the job you want.

Don’t let the opportunity for a better career pass you by. Get motivated and make a plan with these low-cost career transition ideas.