Many people consider changing careers but stall when it comes to taking action.
Inertia, uncertainty, and fear of the unknown are common obstacles that can stand in the way. Often, all that is needed to kick start a career transition is a serious self-inventory and an executable action plan.
Create a clear pathway for success following these 5 steps.
1. Examine Your Needs and Skills.
Your first step is to take stock of why you’re thinking about change, and what you want from it. Then spend time identifying and evaluating your interests and abilities:
- Research the Marketplace to identify industries that interest you or that are expanding. An excellent resource is the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. Job boards and business publications can also provide valuable information. You may also want to check hiring trends and learn more about salary range, responsibilities, opportunity to advance, and work-life balance in fields that interest you.
- Take a Personal Assessment to discover strengths and latent talents. Tests such as Strong Interest Inventory and O*NET Interest Profiler are available to help you scrutinize yourself to understand your likes and dislikes, working styles, and how you react to certain situations. Such knowledge can help you zero in on suitable careers.
- Identify Your Skills and Abilities to determine which can be leveraged into transferable skills, which into job-specific skills, and which you may need to acquire. Interview friends, colleagues, or professional connections to get a perspective on required skills and abilities for specific jobs.
2. Set Your Career Trajectory.
Now that you know what you want, which of your skills can be transferred, and which you have yet to acquire:
- Enroll in company-sponsored education courses to learn new skills and demonstrate initiative.
- Shadow professionals to familiarize yourself with responsibilities, requirements, and work environment in the job of your interest. (Reality Check: Is it what you thought it was?)
- Freelance or volunteer in fields related to your interests to show potential employers the strengths you bring to them, and can learn new skills quickly and effectively. (Reality Check: Still interested?)
- Seek opportunities you may have overlooked within your current industry that could fulfill your requirements for change.
- Create a resume that showcases your applicable personal and job-related skills.
3. Build a Strong Network.
Strategic networking is critical to any career search—especially for a career change. Contact those who can connect you with decision-makers in your field of interest. Prepare and practice an elevator speech, a 30-second personal introduction that explains succinctly why you are a good fit for the position you want. Other networking options include:
- Tap your immediate circle—family, friends, neighbors—to make connections.
- Join and become involved in professional associations.
- Use online social networking tools to broadcast your abilities and learn from experts in your field of interest.
- Conduct informational interviews with professionals in your target market.
- Create a business card to give to important contacts.
4. Set Realistic Goals.
Major life changes don’t happen overnight, so be realistic. You will need to commit to a process that requires time, energy, planning, patience, trust, and hard work. Maybe you’ll need to take an intermediate position to learn necessary new skills. Maybe you’ll need to take a pay cut or have less responsibility while you establish yourself in your new field. Setting specific, measurable, and achievable 3-, 6-, and 12-month goals will keep you focused and help you stay on track.
5. Get Support.
Don’t try to make a career change without support. You’ll need family, friends, and other professionals with whom you can discuss your goals. Find a mentor who can guide you, a coach who can help you understand your capabilities, and someone who really knows you to help you see yourself and your abilities more clearly. Look for people you can rely on to help you make the transition and keep you accountable to your plan.
Changing careers is a big step. Planning is key. Set yourself up for success by committing to do the research and take the actions such a significant change requires. Equipped with positive motivation, a solid action plan, and good support, chances are good that you’ll achieve your goals.
The Career Center’s mission is to empower students and alumni to proactively manage their careers and make meaningful, and effective, career decisions.