How to Change Careers

how to change careers

It’s not uncommon for people to change careers anywhere from four to seven times in their lifetime, so if you’re considering a change, know that you are not alone. Changing career paths is a daunting task and requires plenty of thought, research and strategy. To leap from one industry to another successfully, you need to plan your next steps carefully.

In this article, we’ll take a look at:

  • Reasons and motivation for changing careers

  • A step-by-step plan you can follow for a successful career change

  • The power of networking as you go through this transition period

Why Change Careers?

Your reason for wanting to change careers is likely deeply personal, as it’s different for everyone. However, most career changes come down to wanting a higher salary, too much stress at work, not getting enough recognition from an employer, or looking for more opportunities to advance.

Before starting the process of changing careers, you need to understand your reasoning for wanting to do so. Spend some quality time thinking about what is driving your desire to change. Are you facing a one-time problem that will clear up shortly, or is your challenge only solvable with a full-out career change? Start with your why and then you can create your plan from there.

Closely related to your reason for changing careers is your motivation. Are you currently motivated ‘away from’ or ‘towards’? Being motivated ‘away from’ means you are anxious to move away from something you don’t want, whereas being motivated ‘towards’ something means you are moving towards something you do want. To find a new direction and stay motivated, you need to know what you are aiming for. In other words, figure out what you are moving towards. You don’t want to be so busy running away from something that you end up in an aimless direction.

Identify Your New Target Career

It might be tempting to shoot for your ultimate dream job during this career change, but you must be practical, especially when it comes to your livelihood. Evaluate any new career possibilities based on the experience and skills you currently have. Think about how to apply those skills in different ways as part of the new job descriptions.

Along with evaluating your skills and experience, decide what you want out of a new career and what you don’t want. Get clear on the kind of environment you want to be working in, what your day-to-day will look like, and what you want your career progression to look like. Once you’re clear on these details, you can identify your new target job or career.

Understand Your Gap Analysis

While you’ve chosen your target career partially based on your existing skills, there’s still a skills gap to address. Research the skills required for the new role and understand what it takes to be considered a qualified candidate. Conduct a personal gap analysis by studying what you already have versus what you need in your current skills inventory.

Wherever you are missing skills, find a way to bridge the gap. Look for guidance from a mentor in the field, attend adult education classes, or go through an online certification program.

Create Your Action Plan for Changing Careers

A step-by-step plan will make the transition smoother and keep the career change a little easier on you. With such a big change, there are many things you need to prepare and include in your plan.

Resume

To apply for new jobs, you need a resume tailored to reflect your new desired career path and to catch the attention of hiring managers. You can follow our resume writing guide for a step-by-step process in revamping your resume.

LinkedIn

In many industries, especially Customer Success and technology, hiring managers will look at your LinkedIn profile for a better idea of who you are and whether you might be a fit for the role. Be sure to polish up your LinkedIn profile and make sure it matches your resume, both in tone and detail.

Skill Development

As discussed above, figure out what skills you have and what skills you are missing for your target career. Plan out how you will acquire all of your new skills and what the timeline looks like.

Research the Industry & the Companies

As an applicant new to the industry, you need to demonstrate to potential employers you’ve done your research and you understand how the industry works. Spend some time on the internet, pick the brain of someone already in the field, and read related books.

Use the Power of Networking

Start leveraging your existing network to gather intelligence on your new career path, although do so carefully if you are still employed elsewhere. Search through your colleagues to see if you know anyone who is already in this industry and build those relationships further.

Next, find the existing community for your target career. Look for niche groups to join on LinkedIn or Slack, specific networking meetings in your city, and professional associations. As you meet new people, build a good rapport and work your way towards asking for advice, insight, and even introductions to potential hiring managers and employers.

Changing careers is an intimidating process, one that demands plenty of consideration and research. A well-thought-out action plan is the best way to navigate this immense change and will keep you on track to the new career you’re dreaming of.

Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do come up with your why, your reason for changing careers first. To clearly see where you are going next, you need to know where you are coming from.

  • Don’t skip over recreating your resume and cover letter. Tailor your new resume to the career you want with our step-by-step resume writing guide.

  • Do take your time planning your career change. Rushing through the change can lead to a difficult time getting interviews or into a career you’re not much happier with.

  • Don’t overlook the power of networking through your friends, family, and colleagues. After all, it’s often about who you know!

Robyn Petrik

SuccessCOACHING contributor Robyn Petrik is a freelance copywriter originally from Vancouver, Canada, who specializes in blogging, website copy, and social media content. While she happily spends most of her time writing, you’ll also find her reading, hiking, and eating too much peanut butter.