Have you ever dreamed of a completely new career? Not just a new job, a new boss, a new office or a new set of co-workers, but a completely new field? If you have, you’re not alone.
A Harris poll commissioned by the University of Phoenix reported that more than half of American workers want to change careers.
Nearly 80 percent of workers in their 20s preferred change, with 64 percent of those in their 30s and 54% of those in their 40s agreeing.
“It is not uncommon for working adults to consider one or multiple career changes,” commented Dr. Bill Pepicello, the president of the University, as he announced the results.
“Choosing one career path after high school or college and sticking with it for the rest of a career is becoming less common as the pace of business and technology quickly change jobs and industries.”
While changing careers is a common dream, it’s not clear how many people actually do it, mainly because there’s no clear definition of the line between a career change and a job change.
Just from looking around us, though, we can see that career changes happen often, and they are likely to become more frequent as technology and economic evolution close old fields and open new ones, and as workers become more assertive about seeking jobs that provide satisfaction as well as a paycheck.
What Type of Career Change?
If you’re thinking about a career change, you’re probably in one of two general categories. Either you’ve found a new field that you believe will offer more opportunity and satisfaction than your current career, or you’re looking at a strong reason to get out of the field you’re in now.
In short, either you’re looking to move to a career you’ve already identified or your primary goal is to get away from a career that offers limited possibility or is no longer providing satisfaction. These are different situations and they require different approaches.
If you’re considering ditching your existing career for what seems like a move to a dream field, the first thing you need is a solid dose of realism. You don’t want to discourage yourself, but you do need to be sure that your plans are realistic and you are not carried away by enthusiasm or unrealistic ideas about what a new career will offer. Start with these steps.
· Read everything you can about your target career. Seek out stories and personal accounts by people already in the field. Look in particular for those that emphasize the obstacles, problems, and pain points. Every career has them, and you need to be sure you’ve considered them.
· Talk to people who are already in the field. Ask them for honest assessments of the upsides and downsides of working in their field, and for a realistic description of what you can expect.
· If possible, ask to “shadow” a worker in your target field for a few days, accompanying them to the office or workplace and observing their daily routine. This isn’t possible in every case, but if you can manage it, it can be an enlightening experience!
· Look seriously at how much of your existing skill set will be applicable in your new field. How much retraining will you need? Are you looking at going back to school, taking on additional training, starting over again from the very bottom of the career ladder? Even a dream field can look very different from the bottom tier, especially if you’re accustomed to an established position.
If you’ve gone through this process in an organized fashion and you still believe the shift is the right move, congratulations! You’re ready for a change!
When You Need to Leave
If the primary goal of your career change is to get out of your current situation, you have a bit more work to do, but you also have some advantages. The work luies in deciding where you want to go: no matter how bad your existing career is, it’s almost certainly better than nothing, or a random jump to anything you can get!
The advantage is that you’re almost certainly not moving because the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, which will let you evaluate possible options honestly and objectively.
As with any career move, your starting point should be an examination of your own motivations. What is it about your current career that makes you want to escape? Is it really a problem inherent to the field, or is it more about your specific workplace, boss, or co-workers? Could you solve your problems by changing your personal approach to your current job?
After all, if you’re in a rut it’s always possible that you put yourself there, or are keeping yourself there. If that’s not the case, do you really need a new career or just a new workplace in your current field? If you believe that your current career is a dead end, make sure you’ve done your research and your opinion is based on sound information and analysis.
Not every projection of doom is accurate! Again, these questions are not to discourage you or enforce a timid course of action. They are a necessary step that allows you to make your move, if you decide that you should, with full confidence that you have fairly assessed all options.
When your career change turns difficult and you begin to question yourself,that confidence can be a critical factor in carrying you through the hard times!
Once you’re sure you need to leave, you need to decide where you’re going. That’s a big job, and can be a daunting prospect. Fortunately, if you’re at the point where you’ve decided that you need to leave a career you probably have at least some idea of what new careers are open to you.
If you haven’t (or even if you have) it’s a good idea to start by taking a complete inventory of the skills and experience you have to offer, not just education and work skills but life experience as well. Then you’ll need to look for industries and fields where those skills are applicable and screen those for places that appeal to you.
Throughout the process, you need to think outside the box and consider all possible alternatives. This is a big job, and it’s an excellent idea to enlist the services of a career coaching service at this stage or at least to consult closely with people you trust.
You don’t want to bog down in “analysis paralysis” and you don’t want to jump the gun with a rash decision. An objective outside viewpoint can make all the difference in walking the line between those two extremes.
Believe in Yourself!
Every successful career shift starts with honest assessments and careful, realistic planning, but there comes a point when you’re done with assessment and planning and it’s time for action.
When you reach that point, one thing you need to have on your side is belief.
You need to believe clearly and absolutely that you are on the right track, you have real skills and achievements to offer, you have what it takes to succeed in a new career, and you have everything it takes to achieve the success and happiness you want and deserve.
The time you invested in planning and assessment should help you into a place where you can set doubt aside and put everything you have into making that plan work.
If you haven’t convinced yourself, you’re not likely to convince anyone else, so build that belief and start with conviction!
Belief does not mean that you have to be rash. In many cases, your plan will evolve in multiple stages, and will not necessarily involve quitting your job, at least not immediately.
If your chosen career shift requires additional education or training, you’ll want to get what you need while you’re still in the job you have, using night classes or online education to build your credentials.
Consider volunteering in your new field, which can provide you with valuable experience and networking opportunities.
That can mean considerable effort and sacrifice, but remember the goal, and remember that belief! Good things take work, and a move to the right career is worth the effort it takes.
Make the Move
When you feel that your credentials are sufficient, whether or not this requires additional education, you’ve reached the crux of your career shift, which is your move to get your first real job in your new field.
At this point, you need to have a plan, but never be obsessively committed to your plan. You should have a clear idea of the most likely entry points to your new field, the specific jobs you’re looking for, and even the employers you want to target. At the same time, recognize that opportunity may arise in unexpected places.
Once your search is on you need to keep focused on your specific targets, but also be ready to change your plan if your network or your research comes up with an unexpected option!
Your key task in finding your first job in a new career is to use the experience you gained in your old career to full advantage. Even if you’re moving into an entirely new field, experience matters and potential employers will note your achievements in your previous jobs.
They may even be looking for an outsider who can bring a new perspective to challenges that they face! You’ll need to pay particular attention to building a resume that emphasizes training and experience that is transferable to the position you seek, and you’ll want to be ready to expand on those themes in an interview.
If you aren’t sure how best to present your previous work record, consult a professional resume writing service. An experienced pro can build a convincing bridge between your old career and your new one, emphasize your transferable skills, and give you a solid base for plotting interview strategy.
The Bottom Line
You can change careers. It happens every day and many people who make the change report that it has changed their lives and opened new horizons in a work life that once seemed entirely stagnant.
Should you change careers? That’s a completely personal question that only you can answer. It’s a big move and like all big moves with big potential payoffs, there is risk involved. You can minimize that risk and increase your chance of success with thorough self-assessment, careful planning, and decisive action.
If you believe it’s your time to move, don’t hesitate! There’s a whole world of new career options out there, and if one of them can give you a better, happier life than you have now you owe it to yourself to pursue it.