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In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing job market, looking for a career change is incredibly common. You might be questioning your job satisfaction, longing for a role that’s more fulfilling, or simply looking for a bold change in your professional life.
Whatever the case may be, the prospect of a new and better job is likely exhilarating. But finding the right role is a tall order — no one teaches you how to switch careers until you’re faced with the decision. If you need a helping hand, don’t worry: here’s a step-by-step guide with practical tips on how to change careers and navigate a smooth, successful transition.
How to make a career change successfully: 12 steps
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals have an average of 12.4 jobs throughout their life. And while job duration tends to become longer the older you are, between the age of 35 and 44, there’s a 26% chance your job ends within a year and a 61% chance it ends within five years.
In other words, it’s never too late to learn how to change career paths successfully — even if you’re approaching retirement. No matter your age or experience, you deserve a role that makes you excited to clock in. And if that’s not your current job, you always have the option to pursue something new.
Yes, switching careers is a significant step, but it doesn’t have to be a daunting one. The right information and some strategic planning are all you need to navigate the journey from your current position to your dream job. To help you chart this course, here are 12 tips:
The first step of a successful career transition involves thoroughly assessing your current job. If you’re unsatisfied with your career or job, it benefits you to know why so you know what to avoid in the next one.
Take time to identify aspects of your work that you enjoy and those you dislike. Once you understand what makes you satisfied or unsatisfied with your current job, you’re ready to identify career opportunities that align with your interests and employee strengths. This evaluation is vital as it helps you identify the driving factors behind your desire to switch careers.
A comprehensive self-assessment should cover your professional capabilities, interests, and personal values. Identify your strengths and weaknesses, along with your passions and hobbies.
Only 16% of employees understand exactly how their skills would be useful in another career, so understanding your abilities in the context of other professions is essential. Even when you have no industry experience, hiring managers notice transferable skills.
Engaging in a personal audit will help you understand your career opportunities and preferences, allowing you to align these with potential job roles. Consider using assessments, such as the CliftonStrengths tool, to objectively pinpoint your natural talents and abilities to pave the way toward self-improvement.
After identifying potential careers aligned with your self-assessment, immerse yourself in researching these fields. Conduct informational interviews with professionals in these sectors, attend industry conferences, and peruse related publications.
Online resources, like the Occupational Outlook Handbook, also offer a wealth of information on specific job descriptions and industry trends. This deep dive provides you with a better understanding of your potential career paths and promotes informed decision-making.
4. Action plan
After identifying your new career path, you need an action plan. This roadmap should contain SMART goals outlining the steps to transition into your desired career. Your action plan might include gaining experience through internships, volunteering, or taking up additional responsibilities in your current job.
If you need help developing a plan, resources like the Bureau of Labor Statistics provide valuable information on growth trends across industries to help you set realistic targets for career progression.
Launching a new career means debuting a new professional identity. In this rebranding phase, write a Linkedin summary reflecting your new career objectives to ensure your professional social media aligns with your aspirations.
Before sending out applications, confirm you’ve selected your best skills for your resume. Take the time to highlight your transferable knowledge and experiences that align with your new career path, then tailor your resume and cover letter to demonstrate how your unique skill set adds value to your new industry.
This repositioning assures potential employers of your readiness to transition into a new field (even if you lack industry-specific experience).
There’s a good chance you know someone who landed a new job because of a connection they had in their industry. In a sea of candidates, having a relationship with someone in your desired field provides you valuable insight and name recognition. Your network is a vital resource of mentors and insider knowledge that supports your career, so make friends with all the recruiters and workers you meet.
Take the initiative to forge connections within your desired industry, and don’t hesitate to request informational interviews. These engagements offer invaluable career advice and perspective from those already immersed in your targeted field. Your network is your social resume, and it dramatically enhances your chances of making a successful career switch.
7. Gain experience
Your experience is the bedrock of your career. Having the right experience and skill set differentiates you from other candidates and prepares you to successfully tackle any challenges that come your way. If you’re wondering how to change jobs successfully, seek new skills and opportunities to gain practical experience in your new industry through internships, part-time jobs, or volunteering.
If you’re up for it, consider beginning your new career with a temporary full-time job to get even more experience while testing the waters of your new industry. Hands-on experience is as good as gold when changing careers because it equips you with industry-specific skills and knowledge essential to your work. Additionally, this experience helps bolster your resume and demonstrates your commitment to your new career path.
8. Upgrade your skills
Upskilling is one of the best ways to stand out when making a career switch. Evaluate the hard and soft skills required in your new industry and seek additional education or skill enhancement to improve your prospects and upgrade your resume.
Consider online courses, professional career development workshops, and certifications relevant to your new field. This commitment to continuous learning displays your readiness to adapt and excel to hiring managers.
9. Expect rejections
Rejection is part of the career change process, and you’ll likely face a few closed doors on your journey to a new career. However, all rejections are learning experiences. They’re the sandpaper smoothing the rough edges of your job-seeking strategy.
Let any “Nos” fuel your determination, not deflate it, because your resilience is a powerful tool that will guide you through your work transition. Remember: every rejection brings you one step closer to the right opportunity.
10. Be realistic
You must be prepared for the challenges that come with changing careers. It’s essential to assess the implications of your decision and ensure you have a support system in place before taking the leap. Whether that involves reaching out to a financial coach, managing increased responsibilities, or navigating a steep learning curve, you must be honest about your capabilities to set realistic goals.
Acknowledging these potential obstacles upfront helps you better prepare and increase your chances of a successful transition. For example, instead of aiming for an equivalent high-level management role in a brand-new industry, you may need to move back to a mid-level position to learn the ropes.
11. Backup plan
Developing a backup plan provides reassurance during the uncertain period of a career switch. A Plan B might involve securing a part-time job or creating a robust savings buffer. This safety net offers stability during the transition, helping you focus on your career objectives without undue stress.
12. Seek professional guidance
Professional guidance can significantly simplify your career transition process. Career coaches provide personalized advice and strategies to make your journey smoother, guiding you every step of the way toward your new career.
Be sure to conduct adequate research and search for a coach whose methodology aligns with your unique needs.
Moving forward with your career change
Embarking on a career change isn’t just a professional shift — it’s a voyage of self-discovery, resilience, and growth. Keep in mind that the road to your dream job, like all worthwhile journeys, is marked with challenges. Each hurdle you encounter is an opportunity to learn, adapt, and improve. Believe in your capacity for change and stay the course, even when the road gets tough.
Of course, even though it’s essential to recognize that although self-reliance is critical in this process, sometimes extra help is the missing piece to the puzzle. BetterUp can fill that gap. With our coaching services, you receive personalized guidance and the necessary tools to successfully navigate career changes.