How to be Ready for a Career Change

In an ideal world, a person graduates high school or college, spends some time applying for jobs, then lands a position.  Over the years you develop new skills, get promoted or maybe lateral to another company, always moving forward on your career path.  While this fairy tale equivalent of a journey along the career ladder seems idyllic, for some, the reality is a bit less like the road straight and narrow and more like that tale of two paths nonsense.

A career change sees an employee doing an about-face, seeking or accepting a position in another field, as opposed to the more traditional job change where a candidate stays in their position but switches companies or gets a bump up in a title.  People are ultimately creatures of habit and career changes in a new direction can cause a bit of stress, anxiety or fear of the unknown. Ultimately, however, candidates on the job market should look at these shifts in direction as opportunities.  Need a little convincing? We’ve got a few pointers that you can think of as your warm, fuzzy and reassuring employment blanket to help you navigate the career change waters.

Do What You Love

You know that old saying about love and work and not working?  While the syrupy sweetness may be eye-roll inducing if you’re unhappy in your current line of work, a career change into a field that offers personal and professional fulfillment may be just what the employment doctor ordered.

You don’t wear the same hairstyle, outdated clothes, or most likely even drive the same car as you had in high school. It only makes sense, then, that your aptitude for a given career would make a shift over time, as well.  Life experience, physicality and plain old preferences in the way you interact with people can all shape where your park your briefcase for the day. Take stock of the big picture items that make you happy both in and out of the workplace.  Use these benchmarks to help set your goals on a new career field and you’ll find yourself being more productive as you actually enjoy going into the office.

Set Some Goals

Once you’ve set out on the career change path, it can seem a bit daunting stepping into the void with those first few, uninformed steps.  To help ward off anxiety or nervousness over uncertainty, those looking to switch careers should take some time beforehand to develop a solid set of goals.  

Listing out your career goals takes the focus off the immediate concerns and worries inherent with change.  Instead, job-seekers are able to look at the big picture end game of a switch in professions. This can often help with immediate term planning and can make next steps more clear when faced with uncertainty.  Try to stay away from micromanaging your actions prior to setting up a long haul list in order to help with short-haul planning.

Overhaul that Resume

If you’re making a fresh start along the career path, why not put your best foot forward with a shiny, new resume to match.  Sprucing your resume up in anticipation of a career switch is not only a confidence-boosting endeavor, it also makes good business sense.  While you should list your complete work history, you may want to rewrite your resume with an eye towards the skills and knowledge that will be most applicable to your new career.  Even in completely different fields, many jobs will require common characteristics or strengths. Read sample resumes or job descriptions from your new area and pick out those universal qualities you already have to give your candidacy a boost.

The First Steps Towards Your New Career

Once you’ve laid the foundation for a career switch, it’s time to put your plan into action.  In case you’re in need of a little guidance, we’ve put together a few handy and helpful steps to serve as a map on your job switch adventures.

  • Research Prospective Careers – Just as when you selected that first job or career path, choosing a new route may not be an altogether intuitive process.  Spend some time researching, speaking with friends and perusing open positions. Let the process happen naturally and don’t force yourself into an awkward position of rushing a poor fit of a career.  A career change should be a positive experience that builds and allows you to move forward into a new and better direction.
  • Gather your References – As with any job search, accumulating your references for the inevitable interview or call back will be invaluable and one less item to cross off your list if you address at the outset of your switch.  Be sure to pick colleagues that have a wide variety of backgrounds and expertise. You want to paint your picture as a well-rounded, qualified candidate that would have no problem transitioning into a new role.
  • Refresh Your Profile – Whether looking for a career in your current or new field, spending some time refreshing your social media and professional networking profiles will be a worthy endeavor to help smooth the transition between careers.  It’s probably been some time since you were last on the job market so general information will likely need refreshing. In addition, review your profile in light of strong personal and professional characteristics that could be applied across a variety of fields.  
  • Seek OUtside Help – Sure, as an experienced professional you may feel the need to go it alone in your hunt for a new and improved position.  Don’t be afraid, however, to take advantage of the advice and experience of those who have been in your shoes previously. Individuals such as career coaches can often provide insightful and concise advice, having helped others wade the career swap waters before you.  Recruiters and career coaches are often a candidate’s most valuable ally in any job hunt and can be especially useful when navigating the uncharted territory of a brand new profession.

Are you a professional who has successfully navigated a career switch?  Drop us a comment or bit of handy advice and help your fellow readers build off your previous successes.

Once you’ve created an action plan, it’s time to put it in place. There are several things you can do to get moving in the right direction.

  • Research careers online. Find out what education and qualifications are needed to get a job in your chosen career. If you need more education, begin researching and applying to programs. Look at your local community college if you need to earn a certificate; such colleges often offer certificate programs at reduced prices to local students.
  • Get references. If you’ve done any work in your new area of interest, gather references. For example, if you want to be a chef and have cooked for your friend’s dinner party, get a reference from her. References can demonstrate that you have the skills you need for your chosen career.
  • Create job seeker profiles. Put your new resume online on job seeking sites such as Simply Hired. You should also create a LinkedIn profile. Ideally, that’s the first thing recruiters see when they Google your name.
  • Consider a career coach. Career coaches specialize in helping people gain the skills they need to successfully switch careers. Hiring a coach who is familiar with your target career can enable you to accelerate your progress. Your career coach can also provide encouragement and help you stick to your plan.

If you’re ready for a new career, think deeply about what you want. Consider what you have to offer. Then make a plan, and stick to it. You’ll be thankful you did.

Article Updated from the Original on January 22, 2018