How to Change Your Career in 7 Steps
If you're wondering how to change your career, there are steps you can take right now to improve your chances of finding a viable new job, a job that aligns with your passions, interests and innate talents. Here are seven things you can do to be a successful and satisfied career changer.
1. Figure Out What You Want Out of a Career
If you're unhappy in your current job, it may mean it misses the mark in key ways that are important to you. Maybe you wish you had a better work–life balance or that you were more challenged at work. Maybe you feel like you don't get paid enough based on your job skills and contributions. Or maybe you're an introvert who finds a people-focused job taxing or an extrovert who wants to collaborate more. If you're thinking about switching careers, it's best to take inventory of what you do and do not want out of your future career and really think about “what career is right for me.” We even have a quiz to help you out!
Ask yourself these questions to help figure out what you want to do:
- What do you feel passionate about?
- What does your dream life look like?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
- What do hope to accomplish before you retire?
- What do you need from a career to help you reach your goals?
- How much money do you need to make to live comfortably?
- What makes you happy at work? (e.g., helping people, solving problems, coming up with creative ideas)
It's also smart to consider any facets of a job that might be deal breakers. Finding the right career can be a lot like finding the right partner. Just as a non-smoker might pass on a smoker, you might pass on a career that involves something you can't stand, such as having to make cold calls or having to travel 50 percent of the time.
2. Decide Which Career or Related Careers Are Right for You
Once you've narrowed down the duties you'd be eager to perform, zoom in on careers or types of jobs that interest you. You'll need to research careers to understand the type of work you'd be doing in each of them and to determine whether or not the expectations line up with what you want out of a career.
If you want to work in the information technology field, for instance, you'll need to decide which jobs would provide you with the most satisfaction. Your life as an app developer would be much different than your life as a systems administrator, for instance. Both positions would require technical ability and attention to detail, but working as an app developer might give you more opportunities to show off your creative side.
3. Do Some Market Research
Once you know what career you want, find out what kinds of companies are hiring and where the jobs are. Sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor can be good resources to get you started with this kind of research. Landing your dream job might require relocation or changing your lifestyle in some way – for example, if you would need to work the night shift. Check job boards and listings on sites like Indeed to gauge the number of openings. You should also be able to find research and statistics on the number of openings in various fields with resources like Cyberseek. You may have to explore other options, or at least keep yourself open to them, if there are relatively few open slots for your “dream job.”
4. Identify the Skills You Have and the Skills You Need
A good way to figure out which skills you need is to look at the required skills and experience employers list on job postings. Chances are you have some of the soft skills employers are looking for, like project management, good communication or problem solving. Think about how to highlight these transferrable skills on your applications to make yourself more relevant and appealing to companies. If you're hoping to transition to an entirely different field that requires an entirely different skillset, you'll probably need to enroll in training courses or maybe even school to get yourself up to speed on the technical skills related to your field of choice.
5. Make a Plan
To set yourself up for success in your career change, you'll want to make a concrete plan with tangible steps based on what you've researched about your future job. As mentioned above, you might need to enroll in training courses or figure out a way to gain experience, such as through an internship or volunteer position, for instance. You'll also need to figure out whether or not you want to stay in your current position while you work on changing careers. If not, you need a plan to make sure you have enough money to support yourself while you transition into a new job.
6. Consider Your Age and Lifestyle
A career change in your 20s is a lot different than a career change in your 40s. Keep your age and lifestyle in mind as you plan to launch your new career. If you're married with a mortgage and two teenagers, it might be difficult to relocate across the country. Additionally, the way you market yourself to employers as a 20-something is quite different than you would as a 40-something. If you have senior-level job experience, you'll want to make sure potential employers know about it – if you have the right skills at your disposal, you might not be vying for entry-level positions. Whether you're in your 20s, 30s, 40s or 50s, there are specific variables to consider in terms of how to change your career.
7. Set and Reach Your Goals
Once you have a plan, you'll want to set interim goals and milestones that get you closer to your main goal of changing careers.
These might include:
- Completing a training program in X number of months.
- Applying to X number of jobs per week.
- Asking your colleagues to serve as references or endorse you on LinkedIn.
- Going to relevant networking events.
- Volunteering in some capacity in the industry you hope to work for.
Your goals will be unique to your situation and the type of job you hope to land, but you'll need to be sure you stick to them. Remember the adage about success only resulting when preparation meets opportunity – the more prepared you are and the more you stay on the right track with your goals, the more likely you'll be to stumble upon the job opportunity that's right for you.
How to change careers doesn't have to mystify you. Armed with the right insights into your interests, knowledge of available positions and skills you work to acquire, you can set yourself up for success in a different industry or role. And you might find that pursuing a new line of work is the best favor you've ever done for yourself.
Are you ready for a career change? Take our quiz to find out!