4 Things You Need to Do Before a Big Career Change

We all need change sometimes, even when it comes to our jobs. The daily routine gets boring or the work loses its interest, and we begin to wonder what else is out there. For some people simply switching jobs is enough to get them excited about their career again. But for others a more dramatic shift, such as getting a job in a new industry, is needed.

However, aside from the usual risks associated with taking a new job, a career change has its own challenges that job seekers need to consider before jumping into unfamiliar waters.

Switching careers requires more research and preparation than an ordinary job search. If you’re considering a career change, here are four things to put on your to-do list before making the leap:

Research the state of the new industry

If you’re excited by the challenges a new field provides, it’s important to have a firm understanding of what working in that industry would be like. Find out what companies are leaders within the industry and the type of work they do. Search the career sections of their sites to see what types of positions they have to offer.

Also, research overall hiring trends in the industry to determine if opportunities are growing or shrinking. For example, a 2015 survey by LinkedIn listed the fields that the most people joined or left last year. Topping the list of expanding industries was technology, healthcare and oil and energy while professional services, education, government and the nonprofit sectors saw the biggest declines.

If you discover a large number of employees are running from the new career you’re considering, find out why. Signs that industry-wide layoffs or company closures are forcing employees to find new jobs might mean you should rethink joining that particular industry.

Get back to basics

Depending on how long you’ve been a part of the labor force, the majority of the experiences and skills you have listed on your resume could be very industry-specific. But that doesn’t mean you lack the qualities other types of employers are looking for.

A 2015 report by Burning Glass took a look at job postings from over 40,000 different sources and determined which baseline skills are important to each career. While certain skills were specific to their industries, several were valuable across the job market. Communication skills, for example, were the No. 1 skill employers looked for in 13 of the 15 fields included in the survey.

Make a list of basic characteristics and strengths you could bring to any job. Then look at current job postings in the new industry you’re exploring to verify that your qualities will help you succeed. Consider also taking a personality test like Myers-Briggs. This can help both you and employers identify your personal strengths and how they make you a better employee.

Redefine your career path

A career change means a new career path. The plans and goals you once set for yourself may no longer apply to your new job.

Instead of waiting a few years to see if your new career will work out long-term, take the time to research what options are available in that field. Technology has gifted all types of job seekers with career exploration tools that give them a better idea of what their future can look like.

Utilize social media to find out what connections you already have in the new industry. Send out emails and schedule informal meetings asking for advice on the best way to be successful in the field. Be specific about what you want to know or what concerns you have about endeavoring on this career change. That way you’ll be well-informed about how to best enter and succeed in your new job.

Try things out by freelancing

When in doubt, try it out. There are plenty of opportunities for part-time freelancing across various industries that create a chance to evaluate how well you fit into a given career. Freelancing allows you to explore new industries, see how well your skill set translates and get an idea for how much you’ll enjoy working in a new field — all without having to quit your current job.

The added sense of security that a steady paycheck provides while you figure things out allows you to make clearer and better decisions about what type of job you really want. It removes the pressure to take a position because you financially have to.

If all goes well with your freelancing gigs, you can confidently make the transition from your old industry to a new one. If things are bumpier than you expected you’ll have a deeper understanding of what you need to learn to be successful.

Switching jobs can be stressful, and switching industries is even more so. But, with the right preparation, you can make your decision with confidence. These four steps will help you survive your career switch and land on the right path.

What other considerations are important when making a big career change? Share in the comments below!

Aaron Michel is the co-founder and CEO at PathSource, a career exploration solution helping students and job seekers make better career choices. To navigate your infinite career possibilities, connect with Aaron and the PathSource team on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.