Most professionals understand that pursuing a particular career effectively takes years of education, training and experience. Whether you are currently employed in a blue-collar or white-collar career, there’s a good chance you didn’t just fall into the position one day without some effort on your part. Ultimately, the skills and experience you’ve acquired have made you better at the job and a more productive employee in general.
Despite the fact that many people have proactively pursued the careers in which they’re currently employed, tastes and preferences change over time. What may have once thrilled you in terms of occupation may no longer piques your interest. In other cases, you may have felt compelled to pursue a particular career field – but now have the flexibility and financial stability to try something new.
Whatever the motivation, changing your career field should never be a snap decision. Desiring a new start is quite common, but it must be considered and planned out properly. For those currently seeking to shake up their occupation, there are several things that must be considered. As such, let’s delve into six crucial steps that should be evaluated and accomplished before you can successfully change your career field.
Carefully Confirm Your Desires
Everybody goes through periods in life where a shake-up is desirable. Many people consider leaving their existing jobs due to a variety of frustrations, whether it be lack of future opportunity, boredom, bad work environment, or something completely different. Working through these issues is a natural part of any career – but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time for a complete career change. The very first step in changing your career field is determining whether or not this is the right path to take.
Initially, it is important to first verify your job satisfaction. Does the job pay well? Are you being fulfilled in all the right ways? Are there opportunities in the future if you choose to stay there? These questions and more are crucial to determining whether or not changing your career field is required. If you continuously find yourself answering in the negative with these kinds of questions, then a change in job may be necessary – but not necessarily a change in career.
Ultimately, a loss in fundamental interest of what your career entails is likely the strongest indicator that it’s time for a career shift. However, everybody goes through phases: it’s important not to act rash and to give these feelings some time before proceeding. If, after evaluating these concerns carefully, you decide it really is time for a change, then you can proceed to the next part of the process.
Draft an Action Plan
Once you have made the initial commitment to switch up your career field, setting concrete career goals and planning out specific aspects of the process becomes crucial. In this situation, there is much to consider. First of all, it should be noted that you must have an ideal career path to aim towards: if you haven’t yet decided which new career field you’d like to pursue (and merely feel exasperated with your existing situation), then researching potential career fields is a must.
Once you have an idea of the career field you’re ready to pursue, the process then turns to evaluating both pros and cons. What aspects of the job might be off-putting to you? Is there enough about this new career field that outweighs any negatives? This becomes the final round of sorts in terms of evaluating whether this new career is the right one for you. After careful consideration, you can then begin to formulate an action plan that is both viable and ideal for your tastes.
There are also other factors to consider when drafting your action plan. For example, figuring out just how much time it will take to fully transition into this new career field is a very important part of the plan. Likewise, evaluating your current financial situation may be required; if you must enroll full-time to learn new skill-sets, then you’ll need to subsidize or otherwise have the finances available to pay for all expenses (especially if you’ll no longer be in your old career). Related to this, determining how much this process will directly cost – whether that be through a lack of employment and/or paid courses – is an essential part of any action plan.
Assess Any Transferable Skills
Throughout your existing career, you have undoubtedly developed skills and attributes that can help with any future career change. Learning how to deal with people, meet deadlines and juggle responsibilities are just a few of the many skills that people develop when working in professional environments. However important these particular skills and mindsets may be in any occupation, they are also rather abstract; changing career fields often requires assessing your concrete abilities as well.
Depending on how drastic the career shift is, you may already have at least some skill-sets and experience that is directly related to the new field. These transferable skills can come in handy in a variety of ways, from reducing the amount of formal education or training that you’ll need, to making yourself more marketable in interviews.
In some cases, formal education may be needed to transfer careers. For example, a nurse who wishes to enter health care management may need to pursue a BSN to MBA program. There are many comparable degree programs that can help merge the skill-sets between two related yet different career fields, but not all career changes will allow for such a seamless transition. As such, determining which skills you already possess that’ll be relevant in a new career is an important step of the transition process.
Outline Which New Skills Are Needed
While you’ll probably discover that some skills you already possess can be transferred into your new career field, there will undoubtedly be brand new skills you’ll need to master. Depending on the nature of the career shift, you may need to obtain formal education. In some cases, certificate programs may be necessary. In other situations, a full degree program may be required (if the two careers in question are completely divergent from one another, or the skills required for the new career are highly technical and specific).
Only once you are clear about the new skills that you’ll have to learn can you effectively begin pursuing this new career change. This part of the process can sometimes be the most discouraging, as acquiring most new skills relevant to a new career cannot be accomplished overnight. Remember that you are doing this for a reason, so hang in there.
Seek Out Mentors
In virtually every industry, there are experienced professionals with expertise and connections. These individuals may be managers, entrepreneurs or visionaries, but they are in many ways the gatekeepers to success in every industry. When shifting careers – especially later in life – it can be difficult to break into the most coveted jobs without some influence. As part of your continued effort to break into a new career field, it is important to seek out counsel and begin networking with those who can ultimately become your mentors.
Many people are willing to provide advice and guide those in need of answers, whether it be in one-on-one settings, at industry events, or via the workplace. This part of the process is the most difficult from a social standpoint, but costs practically nothing in terms of time and money to pursue. Additionally and in most professional career fields, building industry networks is an important part of advancement and opportunity; if you begin doing this before you finish the transition, you’ll have an easier time finding that perfect job.
Apply for Opportunities
Once you have evaluated your choices, squared away your existing skills, obtained any new expertise and begun the proper networking in your new career, all that’s really left to do is to begin searching for direct opportunities. If you have already made a name for yourself, or had experience in your previous field, then it is obviously easier to enter your new career field at a higher rung on the ladder. However, it’s important to point out that in many cases, switching careers will not result in a completely lateral move.
You may have to spend some time working in jobs that pay less or offer less prestige than in your old career. This is completely normal – but those who are adept at finding opportunities will always spot the next big chance for advancement. Everything from internships to managerial positions may be on the table: don’t jump at just anything, but be ready to take an opportunity that might seem less appealing initially than your old career.
It can be exciting, terrifying and nerve-wracking to pursue a new career, but these moves are sometimes necessary. Whether you feel you’ve reached a plateau in your current profession or just want to try something new, there is nothing wrong with shifting gears. However, it is imperative to understand that moving into a completely new career field takes time, focus and patience. If you adhere to the advice given via these six tips, you’ll be well on your way to shifting into a new career without incident.