Changing your career is a major life transition that can feel overwhelming.
Sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin. Here are some tips to help you get started.
1. Assess your reasons for making a change
Understanding your motivation is foundational to making a career change. It will also help you answer questions from potential employers along the way. Some questions to ask yourself include:
- Why do I want to make a change?
- What aspects of the new career field appeal to me?
- Do I have an idea of what to expect in terms of pay, responsibilities, advancement opportunity, and work-life balance when it comes to my targeted field?
- Is my perception of the new career field realistic?
2. Learn about requirements
Understand the skills and knowledge needed in the new field so you can effectively market the ones you already have and acquire the ones you don’t. To identify job requirements:
- Review job postings for key skills, experiences, and competencies required.
- Conduct informational interviews with professionals working in the new field.
- Explore professional association websites to learn about the field and read member biographies.
- Read LinkedIn profiles of professionals working in positions of interest.
3. Build new connections
Networking is an essential job search strategy, particularly when making a career change. Building relationships with professionals in your new field will give you insights into what it takes to enter and be successful in the target area. Additionally, it may give you access to the hidden job market – which is finding jobs before they are posted, if they ever are. Strategies to help you get started:
- Join a professional association and get involved and meet people by attending events and volunteering for committees and board positions.
- Identify and reach out to existing contacts who work in your target field.
- Leverage online social networking tools to expand your network in the new industry.
- Conduct informational interviews with professionals in your targeted field to learn about common career paths and get tips for breaking into and “getting known” in the field.
4. Enhance your skills
You may find in your career research that you need to gain experience in the new field. Some ways to build upon and leverage your existing skills at your current employer or as a volunteer are:
- Find a “stretch role” by seeking out a part-time developmental role or project in your area of interest. Propose this by stressing the value you offer rather than solely focusing on how it would benefit you.
- Offer to do tasks that align with the skills you identified when reviewing target job postings. These might include joining a cross-functional team, implementing a large project, planning an event, or working with clients of interest.
- Demonstrate your expertise by proposing to lead a project or initiative. Take on team roles that allow you to demonstrate your expertise (e.g., analyzing data, managing a team, training a new team member).
5. Consider earning a degree or certification online
After learning about the requirements for your new career and networking with established professionals, you may realize that a new degree or certification would benefit you. Read about 4 Benefits of Online Learning.
6. Consider intermediate steps
When changing careers, you might have to take a related job as an intermediate step to reach your ultimate career goal. Focus on what jobs will provide industry experience, connections, and skills that will prepare you to reach your long-term career goal. Some strategies to consider:
- Pursue a position that uses your existing skills in the target industry. For example, someone enrolled in a counseling degree program leaves their administrative role in a corporate office to pursue a similar role in a counseling agency.
- Target a role in your existing industry that requires different skills. For example, transitioning from a retail store manager to a role within human resources at the same or another retail store.
- Take a job with less responsibility or lower pay in your new field to build experience. For example, someone with a lucrative sales position takes an entry level IT position with a lower salary.
7. Connect the dots
Employers will be interested in understanding how your work experience, knowledge, and skills align with the desired role. Take some time to develop a solid rationale for making the shift. To prepare:
- Reflect on the interest, passion, and desire driving the change.
- Identify and articulate the connection between your work history and the career you are pursuing. Examples:
- You always enjoyed working on the business side of your counseling practice and want to now transition into finance.
- You’ve had a lot of experience training in new employees in your role as a retail manager, and now you want to seek a full-time training career.
- You love volunteering for charitable events and causes in your corporate office and now want to explore the field of nonprofit management.
- Practice your story before using it in an informational interview or job interview.
- Ask for feedback from trusted individuals on whether they understand the connection and find your story compelling.
- Rework your story and practice it as you gain more information about the new field.
8. Refresh your resume/CV and social media profiles
It is crucial to update your resume or CV and social media sites to showcase the skills, education, and experience required in the new field. Some tips:
- For your resume/CV and LinkedIn profile, use keywords from your targeted industry throughout, highlighting projects or accomplishments similar to the type of work you want to do and minimizing references that are clearly unrelated to your new career.
- Ensure your LinkedIn profile headline and summary reflects your current career goal and relevant skills.
- Join LinkedIn groups in your career of interest to show engagement and commitment to the field.
- Tweet and re-tweet relevant content to build your brand in the new field.
- Create personal business cards that reflect your targeted role or field, instead of using business cards from your current role.
As you take steps toward making a career change, assess your progress regularly and re-strategize your next steps. Refer back to this list and make adjustments as needed. It may take some time and effort, but a career change can be a fulfilling and satisfying step in your professional journey.
Want additional guidance on your career change? Capella University students and alumni enjoy free, lifetime access to the Capella Career Center for career planning and advice.