How to Successfully Change Careers
People change careers for several different reasons, usually for better pay or work/life balance, or because they’re no longer passionate about their current field. Changing careers can be difficult, and it takes thorough planning.
But now, because of COVID-19, changing careers may become a necessity, according to some experts. The pandemic’s influence on the world economy is likely to cause significant short-term and long-term career disruption. It’s too early to speculate about how much the pandemic will permanently change specific industries, such as airlines, tourism, and health care. But it’s already evident COVID-19 has caused massive short-term changes.
Empire Resume advises taking stock of your job, career, and industry every year, even when the economy is strong. With so much economic uncertainty right now, it’s especially critical to do a self-audit of your career development plan.
Changing careers requires a lot of self-reflection and an evaluation of your interests, skills, options, and the evolving state of the job market. Though it can feel daunting, changing careers can pay off. Most people report being happier, less stressed, and better paid after changing careers, according to Joblist’s Midlife Career Crisis survey.
Whether you’re forced to change careers because of the pandemic, or you were already considering a change, we’ll explain what you need to know before making a jump into a different field.
Take Stock of Your Likes & Dislikes
Many people change careers because they dislike their current job, boss, or company. If that’s the case for you, then consider if changing one of those three things would be more prudent than a full-scale career change.
However, your dissatisfaction may go deeper, and it may be a dislike of your career field. We suggest starting your career change journey by keeping a daily journal about your current job. Look for recurrent themes like aspects of your job that you like and dislike and determine if your dislikes are related to your company culture, the people who you work with, or the content of your job.
Identifying dislikes is essential – but so is noting the things you like. Examine likes outside of work, too, such as what you do in your spare time, what excites you, and what you’re passionate about. Taking time for this type of career- and self-assessment will set you on the right path to finding a new career you’re passionate about and will enjoy.
Research Different Careers
You should also assess your values and professional skills. Think back to past successful jobs and projects and identify the skills you used to make them so successful. Also, figure out if your values and skill set align with your current career.
You may discover that many of your greatest strengths and skills are transferrable to a new career field. Once you identify some careers you’d like to explore, it may become evident you already have considerable professional experience that could make you a promising candidate in a new field.
Start researching different careers after you’ve uncovered your passions, skills, and values. Talk it over with friends and family and use trustworthy online resources such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook. The BLS’s Handbook is an excellent resource because it’ll give you an overview of what a career is like, and it’ll also give you a summary of the expected job growth in that field.
In this age of coronavirus, you should also consider how the pandemic may have a short- and long-term effect on any careers you may be interested in. It can be difficult to speculate the pandemic’s long-term effect on certain industries, but right now, it’s necessary to consider any implications. If you want to dig deeper into your career research, you could also meet with a career counselor.
Conduct Informational Interviews
Once you’ve identified a few careers you’re interested in, check out the job options and possibilities in those fields. Go to online job boards and search for open positions and search Google for additional information about the jobs.
This part of the career exploration process can be a bit of a reality check. When looking at open positions, it’ll become evident very fast if the career you’ve picked is attainable, and if your goals and dreams are realistic.
It’s also smart to set up informational interviews with people who are working in your desired career. These professionals can give you valuable insights into the career and further influence your decision to pursue (or not pursue) the field. People who are happy with their careers usually love to share their success stories, so don’t be hesitant to reach out to someone.
Dip Your Toes in the Water
At this stage in the process, you’ll probably have a good idea of what new career you want to pursue. If that’s the case, then it’s time to dip your toes in the water and gain some experience. You can do this in several ways, such as volunteering or freelancing to test your interest. For example, if you’re interested in a writing career, volunteer to edit or write a nonprofit’s newsletter.
Taking a class is another way to gain experience in a new field. Try an evening course at a local college or an online course or spend time at a professional seminar. All these things can solidify your decision to try the new career and give you the needed experience you can put on your resume.
Grow Your Professional Network
A crucial part of changing careers will be your ability to network. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as networking is usually the most effective way to land any type of job. When changing careers, networking situations will put you in a position to talk to people in your desired field about trends, companies that are hiring, and other useful information. While networking, you can also express your intent to change careers.
You may not think you have a vast professional network, but you probably do. Current and former work colleagues, friends, and family members all comprise your network. You can broaden your network even more by joining a professional organization in the field you’re interested in. Also, as we detailed earlier, doing informational interviews is another way to broaden your network.
Think of ways to grow your network organically by meeting people through interests outside of work, too. This could be by making connections with people at a fundraising event, an exercise class, or any other non-work-related activity. Even if the people you meet aren’t working in your desired career, they may know someone who is.
Of course, networking right now is more difficult because of the pandemic and social distancing. So be creative and see if you can meet people virtually through sites like LinkedIn or other virtual networking possibilities.
Lastly, remember: Networking should be a mutually beneficial relationship and not a one-sided relationship where you use someone to get a job. Let people know you’re actively trying to change careers, but also be willing to offer help in any way you can. Perhaps that person is trying to change careers, too!
Do You Really Have to Go Back to School?
You may have to upgrade your skills or seek additional education to change careers. It’s essential to evaluate your options and take things slowly when you’re at this point in the career change process.
It may be possible to learn needed new skills at your current job. For instance, if you’re interested in a grant writing career, see if you can help write a grant proposal at your current job (if your company does this). Also, if your company offers in-house training, take full advantage and sign up for courses that’ll help you in your career change.
If you’re making a significant change (say, going from working as a nurse to an IT worker), it’ll probably be necessary to get a new college degree or certification. However, for a slighter change, carefully examine your options before you go back to school and pile on more student loans. Remember, there are ways you can position yourself to change careers without going back to school, such as playing up your transferable skills and finding free or cheap ways to learn the skills you’re lacking. For example, if you have a degree in accounting, passing the CFA Level 1 exam would turn you into a certified financial analyst. With this certification, you get to stay in the same industry, but you can apply for higher-paying roles.
Be Very Flexible
Changing careers will require you to be very flexible when you finally start looking for a new job. You may need to be flexible in nearly everything, including relocating to a new area, starting at an entry-level position, or taking a salary cut. Be optimistic about your prospects, but expect setbacks and don’t let them get you down. Consider other avenues to realizing your dreams, as well, such as starting your own business.
Being flexible also means you should consider different roles in your current industry or even at your current company. For example, if you’re a store manager for a retail chain, you could land a position in the company’s corporate offices. Or if you’re a writer at your current company, maybe you could make the switch to your company’s marketing department.
Most Career Changes Are Subtle
Changing careers can be a complicated process, but it may not be as hard as you think. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the average American changes jobs about 10 to 15 times throughout their lifetime. The BLS doesn’t track how many times people change careers because, well, career changes are harder to define.
Many times, a career change is a gradual and subtle shift and not a jump into something completely different. A college student who graduates with a teaching degree may begin his or her career as an elementary school teacher, shift into a tutoring job, and eventually become an ESL teacher. These types of career shifts are more common than, say, someone who starts their career as a nursing assistant and makes a huge leap into the IT field.
Thinking about a career change may be especially important now that the coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed the world of work. If your career is tied to an industry that has been decimated by the pandemic, making a subtle or not-so-subtle career shift may be in your best interest.
Start your career-changing process by determining what you’re passionate about and doing thorough research on different careers. You’ll want to make an informed decision that considers the projected job growth of a career. The last thing you want is to change into a career that becomes obsolete 10 years from now.
No matter where you are in your career-changing process, we can lend a hand. Our Certified Professional Resume Writers are experts at helping clients make a career change. We can also help tailor your cover letters and re-work your LinkedIn profile.
Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.