Where Do I Start My Career Change? 6 Steps to Kick It Off
The time is now. You've soul searched, self-evaluated and researched and you're ready to take action toward starting your new career. Not sure where to begin? There are a number of things you can start doing right now to help get yourself from point A (the job you have) to point B (the job you want). Follow these steps to get the ball rolling to land your dream job.
Connect with People in Your Desired Field
We can't overstate the benefits of networking and fostering relationships with people in your desired field. First and foremost, networking will give you a better idea of what the career is really like and if it aligns with your vision and goals. Secondly, networking can help you get your foot in the door to land interviews based on the recommendations of your professional contacts.
Ideally, to expand your reach, you should network both online and in person. LinkedIn truly can give your networking game a boost, so make sure you update your profile and reach out to any of your connections who may be able to introduce you to people relevant to your job search. It's also not a bad idea to connect with professionals in your field through LinkedIn Groups or on Meetup. These can give you access to job postings that aren't advertised on sites like Indeed, and they can alert you to any in-person professional events.
Once you've covered your online networking bases, take things offline and attend events to meet and mingle with people. If you find someone who has the job title you want, ask if they'll meet you for coffee and an informational interview to learn about how to change careers. Ask them about what they do, how they got there and if they know of any job openings. Figuring out how other people got started in your industry of choice will help you gain insights into what you need to do to make yourself more marketable.
Revamp Your Resume
If your resume is still tailored to the industry you've been working in, you'll probably need to give it a facelift. In general, you'll want to highlight the transferable and soft skills you currently have that would make you a more desirable candidate for the job you want. You'll also want to point out any and all of your tangible achievements in previous positions. The more numbers and statistics on your resume, the better. Your future employers will want to know that you deliver tangible results and will ultimately prove to be a motivated and productive employee. For more resume tips, check out “How to Write a Resume When You Change Careers.”
Test-Drive Your New Career
Just because you haven't been offered the full-time gig you want doesn't mean you can't try out some of what you'll be doing while you wait. Look for volunteer opportunities or part-time internships related to the career you want that will help you get the valuable experience employers are looking for as you navigate how to change careers fully. If you've had an informational interview with someone in a role like the one you're looking for and feel like you have a good rapport, ask if you can shadow them to see what they do. You may also be able to find freelance opportunities or part-time roles that you can fit into your regular schedule to get the experience you need. Check job boards and offer your services to local companies. You never know what opportunities may come your way.
Consider Training Options
If you're hoping to get a job in an industry that's drastically different from your current one, volunteer, freelance and internship experience alone may not qualify you for positions. For highly technical fields like IT and health care, you may need to complete some sort of training. In “How to Change Your Career in 7 Steps,” we talked about researching the kind of skills and training you'll need to qualify for the position you desire. Now it's time to find out what schools and organizations offer that training, how much it costs, when it's offered and how long it takes.
Many online training programs and classes can be completed asynchronously – in other words, on your own schedule. In-person programs likely have less flexible schedules, requiring you to dedicate time each week for meetings and classes. You may even find free online courses, like MOOCs or OpenCourseWare from MIT, that can expose you to some of the fundamentals of your desired field from the perspective of world-class educators.
Set SMART Goals
As you may know, SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. They're the type of goals that deliver results because they adhere to an action plan and require you to be efficient.
When you're setting goals for changing careers, make sure they're specific. Consider which specific training programs you want to enroll in or networking events you want to attend, for instance. And then think about how many months you hope to spend in training programs or how many networking events you want to attend. Look at your schedule and make sure the goals you're setting are realistic and achievable.
It's a good idea to break up your overall goal of changing careers into smaller pieces. For instance, you could decide to focus on training first, then move on to networking. Within each category, set SMART goals and keep track of your progress. Finally, give yourself an overall timeline for your career change. Everyone's timeline differs depending on external factors, but it might benefit you to set out to complete specific goals on 3-, 6- and 12-month timelines.
Don't Lose Sight of What You Truly Want
Remember why you're changing your career in the first place: to make yourself happier and more fulfilled at work and in general. No matter how long it takes or the challenges you encounter, keep in mind what you've learned about what makes you happy, what you want your life to look like, what's important to you and how much money you need to be taking home to live your best life. If you're ever unsure of a decision, consider what you want and what you've determined in your career goals. These factors will guide you toward the right decision. Which path takes you closer to your goal?
If you're still wondering “what job is right for me?” and figuring out exactly what you want out of a new career, be sure to read our article “How to Change Your Career in 7 Steps.”
If you already have a clear vision of your dream career, make sure you don't compromise that or skip steps to speed up the process. If you stick to your goals and put in the work, chances are, everything will fall into place.
Are you ready for a career change? Take our free career test to find out!