Want to Successfully Change Your Career?

Studies show the average person will change careers several times in his or her lifetime. There are several reasons people change careers from job loss to the lure of a new challenge. If you’re thinking about a career change, here are 10 steps for making a successful transition.

Determine what you like and don’t like
Many people change careers because they don’t like their current field. So, knowing what you dislike may be easy. Knowing what you like is another story. Think about the kinds of things that would interest and excite you. Let’s say money wasn’t an issue, but you still needed to work, what would you want to do every day? If you still have no idea, you may want to take an online career assessment. I recommend the Gallup Strengths Finder, it changed my life. Strengths Finder helps identify your natural traits by answering a series of questions. For each question, you only have 20 seconds to choose your answer. The short timeline reduces the ability to overthink your answers and encourages your intuitions to take over. It costs only $35 to get your top five traits, and I feel it’s worth every penny.

You may want to first buy the companion book, StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath, which comes with a code for a free assessment.

StrengthFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath

Get the book here:

Research new careers
Once you have an idea about potential new careers, explore them. Make an informed decision after researching job availability, average salary, and required skills. The U.S. Department of Labor’s O*NET OnLine provides career information and a skills-matching service. Still have questions? These job sites offer valuable insight, guidance, and resources.

If you’re interested in some good books on the subject, I recommend these two:

The Career Guide For Creative and Unconventional People. Get it here.

What Color is Your Parachute? Get it here.

Leverage transferrable skills
Think about the skills you have that you can use in other careers. Leadership, communication, and organization are all skills you can use across careers. Even if your current job is very specific, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have transferable skills. Do you communicate well with co-workers? Are you good at time management? You may discover you already have most of the skills required for your new career. Take a moment to research open positions that are of interest to you. What skills or traits is the company looking for? If you don’t have them now, there’s no reason you can’t acquire them.

Train and educate yourself
Your new career may require knowledge and skills you don’t have. You may need to take courses or complete a certification program, which can be expensive. It’s possible potential employers will hire you and pay for the requisite training as long as you complete it in a specified period of time. If you’re looking for a much more affordable option, there are plenty of resources out there.

Here are a three to get you started:

  • Lynda.com (now owned by LinkedIn) You can subscribe directly, or as part of a premium LinkedIn profile, you’ll have access to a huge library of courses in all sorts of categories. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn here.
  • Udemy.com allows you to purchase courses you’re interested in instead of subscribing to a service.
  • CreativeLive.com is similar to Udemy and Lynda.com, but that appeals more to creative people.

Network
Networking is one of the keys to successfully transitioning to a new career. Those in your network can give you job leads and advice. In fact, many now say that more people are finding their dream job through their network instead of job listings. If you don’t think you have an effective network, join a professional organization. Another way to broaden your network is to contact alumni from your college or high school working in your new field. Make sure you’re engaging on LinkedIn and nurturing your network. If you’re not on LinkedIn yet, get started! LinkedIn is absolutely an essential tool for your career. I’ll be posting more about LinkedIn in future posts.

Gain experience
Paying your dues before getting a full-time job in your new field may be necessary. That could mean working part-time or even volunteering to get the required experience. There’s nothing wrong with volunteering — especially if it will provide you with the necessary skills needed for your next career move. Think of it as free training while doing good. You may consider freelance work, contract work or remote work opportunities. These will give an opportunity to test out your field of interest before leaving your existing employer. If you didn’t enjoy it, you might reconsider your options. However, if you liked the work, you’ll have a better idea of what to pursue.

Look for a mentor
It’s likely you’ll encounter rough patches during your career change. You may even feel overwhelmed and reconsider your decision. A mentor can help you through the rough spots. Your mentor may be instrumental in helping you find your first job as he or she opens up his or her network to you. Think back to previous bosses — especially those who saw something special in you. Reach out to them for advice.

Look at opportunities within your current company
Changing careers doesn’t always mean changing employers. Your company may work with you to transition you to a new field, especially if you’re a dedicated, hard-working employee. Companies prefer to hire from within because current employees are already familiar with the culture and policies. A bonus to becoming a well-rounded employee at the company is you will become more of an asset.

Refresh yourself on job-hunting basics
Job-hunting tools and skills change over time. If it’s been a while since you were in the job market, you may want to take some time to learn about current job-hunting techniques. Things have changed over the years and submitting a resume, and cover letter may not have the same impact it once had. You’ll need to put in some work to stand out from the crowd. TheMuse.com has a lot of great advice on the topic.

Be flexible
Don’t let setbacks get you down as you strive to achieve your goals. Being flexible is the best way to avoid or work through those setbacks. You may have to accept relocation or a lower salary to pursue your new career. This situation could be only temporary though. Once you’ve worked there a while, you may be qualified for a promotion or another opening within the company.

Changing careers can be scary and intimidating, but it can also be exciting and rejuvenating. Especially if you focus on finding work that fulfills your life instead of just your bank account. If you embark on a new career path, do your homework, be patient, and broaden your network to enjoy success.

If you found this post valuable, feel free to share it with a friend or share your comments below. Good luck on your journey!

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