Seven Steps for Making a Career Change

By Lana Johnson on September 7, 2018

train tracks

“I’m currently a (insert job title) right now but I’m hoping to pivot to a different career path and I have three different careers in mind: UX Design, Business Consultant, and HR Manager. All three are pretty different, but they all play to some of my personal strengths. How do I get started?”

We get questions like this all of the time from job seekers who are looking to make a total career change. People often change careers five to seven times during their working years (this differs from changing jobs, which the average person now does 10-15 times during their career).

Perhaps your career goals have shifted. Maybe your values have changed, or you find yourself less than inspired about the work you’re currently doing. Maybe you’re simply ready to try something new. Whatever the reason, making a total career change can seem overwhelming. Here are seven expert ideas for making a smooth transition to a new career:

  1. Think it through. Making a successful career change requires 100% commitment. Spend time reflecting on whether or not you really want or need a complete change of scenery. What’s causing you the most angst? If you’re frustrated by compensation, your boss, your company’s culture, or your title, realize that you could find yourself facing the same issues no matter what career you’re pursuing. Can you find happiness by changing companies? Should you change to a related position but in the same field? Make sure you understand what lies beneath your dissatisfaction to determine whether or not a total career change is needed.
  2. Know yourself. Life is busy and we’re so focused on our to-do lists and keeping other people happy; how often do you think about yourself? Invest time to understand your own skills and strengths. Make a list of the work-related successes and challenges you’ve had. When have you felt happiest in your career? When have you been the most frustrated? This introspection will help you identify your transferable personal assets: your skills, experiences, and unique traits that you can apply to almost any industry. Identifying your transferable personal assets is critical in the career change process.
  3. Hone in on your options. Once you know your motivations and transferable assets, start to narrow down your options. Allow yourself the time to explore different alternatives. How can you research potential career paths? Start online and probe into associations, companies, industry blogs, and videos. Look at job postings. Check out salary ranges. There’s a vast amount of information you can gather online to help you gain a better understanding about whether or not a career path could be right for you. Use social media to connect with people, especially on LinkedIn. See what industry influencers are talking about. Join industry related groups, Google Hangouts, or Twitter chats to get a vibe for trending issues.
  4. Talk with people. Online research is valuable, but don’t forget to go grassroots. Connect with people face-to-face to learn more and get advice on your potential career change. Go to conferences, seminars, meet-ups, and networking events where you can chat with people in the field that interests you. Informational interviews – as simple as grabbing a coffee with someone – can give you first-hand intel about your options.
  5. Set goals. You’ve thought it through, you’ve reflected on your personal assets, you’ve done your research, and now you’re ready to make a change. You might find yourself needing to build a new tool set before you start applying for jobs. Are there certifications you can obtain for your new career? Do you need to go back to school to gain new knowledge? Can you find some volunteer or unpaid work experience in your desired field? If you’re not currently working, temporary jobs in your new field can help you gain experience – and make valuable connections.
  6. Tweak your personal brand. Let’s say you’re an accountant who desires to become a digital marketer. You’re ready to start applying for jobs, but if your LinkedIn profile still reads like you’re an accountant, your chances of getting responses on digital marketing opportunities are going to be slim. Tweak your online brand. Highlight your transferable personal assets, the training/experience you’ve recently obtained, and emphasize the value you will bring.
  7. Tell your story – with confidence. Picture yourself interviewing for your new career. How will you reply when the hiring manager asks you, “why are you making this career change?” Make your story convincing and compelling, so much so that someone would be willing to take a chance on you. You need to position yourself as someone who will bring more value vs. another candidate who might have years of industry experience. Develop your “elevator pitch” and focus on how you can add value.

Making a career change can be daunting, but if you’re ready, go for it! You have many dynamics in your favor: employees are working more years than ever, we’re facing record-low unemployment, and companies are struggling to get the talent they need to succeed. Invest time in your career change strategy, and you’ll be on your way to an exciting future.

Have you ever made a total career change? What worked well for you? We’d love for you to share your learning lessons in the comments below.

For more information on how to make a career change, click here to view Advanced Resources' exclusive Career Change webinar. 

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