10 Steps for a Successful Career Change (#6 is a Great Tip)

Think about yourself

think about yourself

Why would anyone leave a stable, high-paying job to completely switch gears? Conversely, why would a middle-class family man risk his comfortable, blue-collar job to enroll in law school?  If you are considering a career change, you may know the answer.  Often, we do not take the time to assess ourselves when embarking on a career.  Whether we follow in our parents’ footsteps or gravitate to what we think will make us the most money, many of us find ourselves in careers not suited to our personality.  This leads to unhappiness.

Whatever the reason for your discontentment, it is important to not jump into anything new until you take the time to get to know yourself.  What are you good at?  What type of work environment fits best with your personality.  It may benefit you to take a career personality quiz to help you answer these questions.

Sarah Martin, owner of Star Thrower Virtual Services, used the Myers & Briggs personality test when she was feeling unfulfilled with her job as an engineer.  She used her test results to develop a company that gave her the creative outlet she needed to reach her full career potential.

Lean on your support system

lean on your support system

Your decision to make a change will probably have an impact on others besides you.  If you have a family to support, it is important to involve your spouse or other stakeholders in your decision process. Even if you are single, you need to think about how your decision might affect you down the road.

It boils down to being honest with the people in your life about what led you to the decision to switch careers, and giving them a say in your decision.  Include your loved ones in your decision-making process so they have a better idea of your motivation.  Finally, allow your loved ones to support you when you feel discouraged.  They are a good resource when you need a reminder of the reasons you embarked on a career change in the first place.

Check your budget

check your budget

Do you have the funds to take some time off?  How’s your credit?  If you need to go into debt, you want to make sure your credit score is as high as possible to get the best rates.  Knowing your financial situation in advance will ease the stress of making the change.

Don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board

go back to drawing board

After you categorize your strengths and weaknesses, consider your financial goals, and obtain an idea of what your ideal career would entail, you may realize that you need to start from scratch.  For some, this may mean renewing an old hobby or dusting off your old liberal arts degree.  For others, it may mean an entirely new educational path, pursuing higher education, or even learning a new trade.

For some, a career change may still take place within one’s realm of expertise, but often new skills and knowledge will be required to make the change successful.

Be ready to face challenges

be ready to face challenges

A successful career change won’t happen overnight.  You will have doubters, you will probably doubt yourself at times, and you will probably periodically question your choice.  Make a list ahead of time of the obstacles you anticipate and develop a strategy of how to deal with them so you don’t let them stop your process.

Volunteer your time

volunteer your time

Perhaps you are in a situation where you know you aren’t happy but you’re not sure where to go or what to do.  One of the best ways to figure out the right path is to volunteer.  Volunteering your time in a variety of settings will help you understand where your priorities are, what you’re good at, and what you want to achieve.

Volunteering will help you learn about yourself and translate learned skills to future positions.  And of course, volunteering makes us feel good (and looks great on a resume).

Set goals and keep to a schedule

set goals

You may decide to change careers on a whim, quitting your job by storming out of your office cubicle.  Hopefully, your decision is a little more planned out, but even if it isn’t, take the time between careers to set goals.  Make a list of what you want to accomplish, using the results of your self-analysis (see tip number 1, above), where you see yourself in 5 and 10 years, and your budget, and strive to stick to a timeline to help you achieve your goals.

The most successful people, from Bill Gates to Elon Musk, try their best to know where they are going and how to get there.

Make connections

make connections

The easiest way to get in with that company you’ve always wanted to work for or hear about new opportunities is to know the right people.  Sometimes, knowing the right person is as easy as reaching out to a relative in the industry you want to break into.  Don’t be discouraged if you don’t know anyone, though.  It is likely that there are networking events in your area.  You can also join your local Chamber of Commerce.  And, it never hurts to take a leap and make a face-to-face introduction to an HR representative.

Ramp up your resume


Unless you’re striking out as an entrepreneur, you  want to refresh your resume.  Make sure you include any continuing education you’ve completed, boards you serve on, and volunteer activities if your resume doesn’t apply to what you want to do.

Commit to the change

commit to the change

You can’t start over if you have only one foot out the door.  Once you’ve done your homework, sharpened your skills, and set your goals, you need to cut ties with your old career.  It may be tempting to try and transition slowly, especially if you’ve had a long career in one industry, but often it’s best to rip off the Band Aid and start fresh.




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