At some point – maybe a year ago, maybe a decade ago – you started out on a certain career path. You could close your eyes and envision each step of your professional journey from start to finish. But people and circumstances change, and even the most perfectly plotted career path may cease to be a good fit.
If that’s where you are, you may be ready for a career change. But before you make a quick decision that may not make you happy, consider the following.
1. Look at Your Motives
Take a seat – or stand, if you like – and think about why you want to do something else. What are the circumstances that are prompting you to change your career?
If you’re unhappy with some aspect of your job, for instance, a drastic career change may not be in order. It could be that you just need to find a new place to work. If you’re feeling stifled, it may be time to consider how you can advance in your current career, rather than start a new one.
Even if you decide that a career change is what you need, really thinking about your current level of career satisfaction, or lack thereof, will help you decide what kind of career would be right for you at this point in your life.
2. Identify Your Skills
If you plan on changing careers, you’ll need to start thinking of what you do in terms of skills, rather than tasks. Think about the tasks you complete at your current job. Now think about the skills you use to complete those tasks (if your job is to write blog posts, for example, skills associated with that are writing, using a content management system, using word processing programs, etc.). Separating skills from tasks helps you identify your transferable skills – skills that can be used in many different jobs and fields.
3. Think About What You Want to Do
You know what your skills are; now start thinking about how you want to use them. What do you enjoy about your current job and field, and what are the things that you don’t like so much? What makes you excited for the workday, and what makes you just want to stay home? Also, what are your interests and hobbies outside of work – maybe you can find a new career that incorporates those.
Now it’s time to look for careers that fit with your transferable skills and your interests. CareerLeak is a great place to start – read about companies, jobs and salaries. Other sites, such as CareerBliss, also are a great resource for finding out about jobs and companies. Once you find some jobs that sound interesting, research further to find out how in demand the job is, how much you can make, what the career trajectory is and how people who do the job actually like it. Some jobs may require specific technical skills or credentials – so keep that in mind and decide whether it’s worth getting the training or education the job requires.
Along with your research, prepare for your career change by reading the latest blogs and news about your industry of interest. Follow experts in the field on Twitter and join relevant groups on LinkedIn – you should even start networking with people in the filed through LinkedIn and Twitter. Immerse yourself in the industry that you hope to be a part of.
The last step – and the most challenging – is to make your transition. Get your resume together and start applying for jobs. Remember: When talking to a prospective employer focus on what you can do for them, rather than why you want to transition into a new field. If they ask why you want a career change, you should have a positive, and true, story to tell them – not just” ‘cause I hated my old job.” And that story should reinforce how you can bring strong skills and a fresh perspective to the employer. Consider part time and contract work in your industry of interest – those offer a great way to build experience and make connections.