The average job seeker will change careers multiple times during the course of his/her professional life. The guidelines below are designed to assist you in managing your career transition.
8 Steps to a Career Change
Step 1. Assess Your Likes and Dislikes
Before you decide to make a career change, it’s important to identify your likes and dislikes. This self-reflection can help you to determine which direction to pursue as you make your career transition. If you are uncertain about what career path to pursue, you might find it helpful to complete a career assessment inventory or to meet with a counselor.
Step 2. Research New Careers
Once you have determined what your particular interests are, it will be important to conduct some research to learn more about the industry, to identify particular opportunities, and to gain an understanding of the particular skills that are needed to not only make a successful career transition, but also to market your credentials effectively. The Alumni Career Development Web site and alumni research databases provide numerous resources to assist you in researching your new career ambitions.
Step 3. Identify and Leverage Your Transferable Skills
Most likely, many of the skills you have gained through your work experience are transferable to a position in the new career path that interests you. It is essential that you effectively communicate to employers which skills are transferable and how specifically you can contribute to the organization.
Step 4. Complete Additional Training/Coursework or Earn an Advanced Degree
Some positions will require additional training or coursework or perhaps an advanced degree. Before you take that leap and spend money from your own wallet, find out the particulars. Is the new employer willing to pay for some of the training? If you need to pursue a degree, how successful are graduates in securing employment? Does the employer offer some type of tuition reimbursement as part of the compensation package?
Step 5. Gain Experience
While most job postings state “[experience] preferred,” others specify “Experience Required.” If this is the case, it will be important for you to gain this experience in order to be considered for a particular position. A part-time job or volunteer experience can help you to not only strengthen your marketability for employment in a particular industry, but also can help you to confirm that the career change is the right decision for you.
Step 6. Find a Mentor
Finding a mentor who works in the industry that interests you and soliciting his/her advice is invaluable when considering a career change. The mentor can offer valuable insights about the industry as well as companies, offer suggestions to help you market your skills and experience, and provide you with job leads.
Step 7. Network
The career literature shows that 70–80 percent of jobs are acquired through networking. Networking is just as important, if not more essential, when making a career change. A key networking tool is informational interviews. Informational interviews provide an opportunity for you to learn more about an industry, a company, or a particular job function and in so doing reaffirm you interest to make the career transition.
Step 8. Be Flexible
As you make the career transition, it will be important for you to be flexible. For example, you may need to consider a lateral move or a lower salary in order to “get your foot in the door.”
Mistakes to Avoid
Before you make a career change, review the common mistakes made below and try to avoid them.
Mistake #1: It is not wise to make a career transition without a clearly defined plan. Without a plan, you may accept the first offer you receive and discover in a short period of time that it was not the right fit. It’s better to take your time and carefully evaluate all options before taking that leap into a new career path.
Mistake #2: Changing careers because you dislike your job also isn’t a wise move. You simply might dislike the employer. So, look to work for another company in the same industry before you make the major life change.
Mistake #3: While money can certainly help to minimize financial stress, money “does not buy happiness.” So, be careful of making a career change solely for the purpose of making more money. You don’t want to find yourself in a new position in which you dislike your responsibilities, the company, or the industry.