Are you considering switching careers? Are you facing a crossroads at which you need to decide between staying in your current field and moving to a new one? Do you have skills that you are not using in your current career?
Perhaps you have been promoted to a point where you are no longer doing what you love. Is the idea of pursuing a field you’re passionate about prompting you to consider switching careers?
Changing careers is a big decision, and one with many possible outcomes and consequences. It’s also a common choice. Research has shown that the average worker switches jobs 10 to 15 times over the course of their professional life.
As with any major life decision, switching careers requires time, patience, and most importantly, planning. Start by learning how to write a resume and how to write a cover letter for your new field. Having these application documents in place is step one in forging a new career path. If you think you’ll need help building either document, consider putting a resume builder and cover letter builder to use.
A successful career change can often take months to accomplish when you have a strategy; without one, you could end up adrift for an even longer period. Having a detailed action plan (including items such as strategies, finances, research, and education/training) is essential to your success. Without a plan, you might take the first job offer that comes along, whether it’s a good fit for you or not.
In order to properly craft and execute your plan, you will need to do some serious self-evaluation. Vet your priorities by considering the following:
- Don’t focus on what others think. So much energy is expended by wondering and worrying about how others perceive us. Instead, focus that energy into striving for your own success. How do you value yourself?
- Seek satisfaction and serenity from yourself. Other people, material possessions, and external factors will not lead to happiness. You must find that within yourself and not from outside sources.
- Develop patience. Yes, there are times that you will have to wait. Impatience is rarely a virtue, and it can lead to rash, regrettable decisions. You are in this for the long haul. Don’t sacrifice long-term growth for short-term satisfaction.
- Recognize your uniqueness. There is only one you. No one else can do exactly what you can do. You have unique skills, experiences, thoughts, and ideas. That is what makes you unique. Celebrate what’s different about you.
- Define success on your own terms. Far too often, we define success by measures that we get from other people. Is success having a big house, a fancy car, and a fat bank account? Maybe. And if it is, that’s OK. But for many of us, those measures do not indicate success. Rather, they are vehicles for achieving success. Being financially savvy may allow you to travel extensively and enjoy a comfortable retirement. Having a large home may mean that you have ample space for your large family and circle of friends.
Once you’ve determined what you value most and what the “must haves” are for your next career, it’s time to work up a plan.
Start with these 11 steps for switching careers:
1. Define what you want from your career change. How will switching careers align with your values and goals? What is it that you want to achieve by changing careers?
2. Recognize that switching careers is different from changing jobs. You’ve changed jobs in the past, and you know that it can be a harrowing experience. Changing careers requires even more work and diligence on your part. You will need to be prepared emotionally, financially, and mentally.
3. Focus. All job searches require focus, and switching careers is no different. Don’t go out there and try to chase down every opportunity you see. That’s not a good use of your time or energy. Instead, execute a targeted search. This will yield the best results.
4. Engage your network. Your network is an invaluable source of intel on a wide variety of topics. You may not know someone who is working in your desired field, but there’s a strong chance that you have a second- or third-degree connection to someone who does. Maybe you even know someone who has worked in your target field previously, or who has a brother-in-law in the field. My point is that when you’re looking to change careers, you will need your network even more than if you were merely making a job change.
5. Broaden your network. Go and seek out other career-changers or professionals in the industry or field you’re targeting. For example, if you’re looking to make a move into public relations, it would behoove you to join organizations for PR professionals. In addition, such organizations often have continuing education or certification courses available to their members.
6. Focus on your transferable skills. You’ve had a career in retail management, and you’re looking to move into corporate operations. You have lots of transferable skills, such as staff management, budgeting and planning, inventory control, and customer service. Use these to your advantage when you’re looking into switching careers.
7. Rewrite your resume. When you’re looking to make a career change, you can’t expect to pique hiring managers’ or recruiters’ interest with the resume you used for your old career. Switching careers calls for a new resume. To save time, consider using a professional resume builder, which can help you write a brand-new resume in a matter of minutes.
8. Choose a hybrid resume format. I suggest those looking to change careers use a hybrid resume format — one that calls out your core competencies and transferable skills and details your employment history and accomplishments in a reverse-chronological format. Resist the urge to go with the functional resume format. Recruiters hate that format, and it makes it look like you’re trying to hide something.
9. Write targeted cover letters. Craft cover letters that let employers know why you’re looking to change careers and how you can add value. If you aren’t confident that you know how to write a cover letter, using a professional cover letter builder can help you craft a well-written document that will compliment your resume.
10. Prepare to answer questions about why you want to change careers. If you’ve taken personal inventory and identified what it is you hope to achieve, the answer to this question should be clear to you. Your job is to frame it in such a way that it’s clear to an interviewer that you are serious about your career change and that you are going to add value to the organization. Winnow your pitch down so that you communicate this in 30 seconds or less.
11. Manage your own expectations. Career changes can take a long time. The journey can be rife with frustration and rejection. Making a career change often involves many small steps to get to the end goal. Keep moving forward toward that end goal. As long as you’re making progress, you’re achieving success.