How to Change Careers

If your job makes you unhappy or you feel stagnant in your career advancement, it may be time for a career switch. While changing careers may be daunting and nerve wracking, the rewards can often outweigh any risks involved. Before beginning your career transition, ensure you’ve taken steps to prepare by updating your skills, conducting information interviews, and networking.

Identify Your Goals

As soon as you consider changing careers, it can be challenging to define exactly what changes are in mind. Vague goals like “I want to earn more money” will only lead to confusion, by narrowing in on which jobs interest you specifically and devising an action plan to implement your transition successfully, the path will become clear. Once you’ve decided which career field you wish to explore, research the skills and qualifications required for that particular career field. A lot of this information can be found online through resources like the Occupational Outlook Handbook and Firsthand. Additionally, asking colleagues, friends and family about their careers may give an indication of what you might expect in this endeavor.

Dependent upon the industry you work in, there may be some flexibility in terms of how you acquire skills. If you’re transitioning into computer science for instance, there are multiple paths available such as enrolling in coding bootcamps, enrolling in online courses or even earning a graduate degree at Northeastern. One key thing to keep in mind when considering making a career change is that it is never too late. However, financial preparation must take place so as not to jeopardize current finances or leave family members behind.

Create a Plan

Career changes are significant life decisions and should be undertaken carefully and thoughtfully. If you feel burnt out by your current industry or that nothing more can be accomplished there, perhaps now is the time for change and to take a risk and alter your professional course. Create a list of possible careers that appeal to you by using tools such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook and Indeed Salaries to research jobs outside your current industry, speaking with family, friends and professionals about their experiences or asking them. After creating this list of potential jobs, narrow it down until only those that align best with your situation and goals remain on it.

Reorienting your career may take time. You may require starting up a side business, enrolling in additional training courses or even going back to school to acquire the required skills and qualifications for your new role. By creating a timeline with short-term milestones and goals you are more likely to stay motivated throughout the journey. As career changers can face multiple barriers to entry and are likely to employ candidates with previous work experience from another field, it’s wise to select an industry which welcomes career changers with ease, such as computer science or data science which boast competitive salaries as well as numerous pathways for those looking to make the switch.

Reach Out to Your Network

Finding work in their desired industry is one of the greatest obstacles career changers face. So one way to overcome this hurdle is reaching out to people in your network and asking for an informational interview. Learning first-hand about the day-to-day operations of a potential new career can help determine if it suits you. Networking can also be valuable since many employers prefer hiring those they already know or were recommended by trusted sources.

When reaching out to your network, make sure you provide a clear and concise explanation as to why you want to change careers, along with any professional experience relevant for this new path. It is also essential that you emphasize that you are not asking for work at this point but simply wish to gain some insight into this industry. Building a support system is also key. Your family and close friends may offer invaluable encouragement during this transitional phase. Be honest about your plans with them as some may oppose or have negative responses to it.

Take Some Time Off

Switching careers can be daunting and stressful, yet it is possible at any point in life to switch gears and pursue something different. From college graduates to experienced workers looking for change, there are simple steps you can take to ease this transition process. Before beginning a new role, taking some time off between jobs to relax and recharge is important in order to determine whether it truly aligns with what will make you happy in terms of career path and personal satisfaction.

Some career changers opt to try their chosen field through part-time or volunteer work before taking on full-time positions in it. Others create hybrid careers by combining parts from various fields. As part of your new career transition, it is also crucial that you acquire the required skills. This could involve enrolling in courses, attending workshops or volunteering to learn the ropes. Leverage your network to identify prospective employers within your desired industry. Reaching out to someone within human resources or hiring management and asking for an interview can be a powerful way of getting in the door.

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