Starting a new career could indeed be the smartest choice you’ll ever make. But it can be a long and challenging journey. And we’re not about to make you empty promises that say otherwise. But we are going to help. We’ll dive into what you need to know about how to change careers the right way.
You’ll learn how to choose the right career for you and how to pursue it. But first, we’ll teach you how to know if switching careers is even the best solution to your problems. Get the answers to your career change questions right here.
Confirm Your Resolution
The most important thing to remember about changing careers is that, once you make that decision, you have to be committed. After all, to succeed in any profession, you have to be all-in—fully invested. To change your mind halfway through means losing all you’ve invested in your new career, on top of losing your first career. In the words of Yoda, “Do or do not: there is no ‘try.'” If you’re not 100% sure you’re going to see it through, it’s best not to attempt a career change.
Below are some methods to help you make sure whether or not you should change careers. This section is a bit long but bear with us. Confirming your resolution to switch jobs is the most critical step.
Be Realistic About Your Career Change
If you are considering a career change, there’s something far more critical to understand. Namely, that change is a drastic solution and is not a magic cureall for work problems. The biggest problem career changers run into is their unrealistic expectations. The first of which is the midlife crisis scenario.
“I Need a Big Change, Now!”
People at this stage might feel unhappy, unstable, and frantic. It can feel like life is passing them by, slipping away. So they may rush into drastic solutions to their life’s problems without thinking them through. So we urge you: think this through. Understand the gravity of what a career change will mean. Think of how you got into your current situation.
“My New Career Will Make Me Happy”
Perhaps you thought your current career was a magic answer to your problems, only to end up unhappy. Who’s to say you’ll be any happier in a new job? Besides, perhaps career choice is not the source of your unhappiness anyway. In any case, your new career won’t necessarily cure your unhappiness.
“Simple: I’ll Just Start a New Career”
Nor is it a simple thing to start a new career. How long did it take you to work your way up to your current job level? Or have you been trying to advance for years only to get shut down every time? Again, what makes you think a new career will be any different? You may hit the same dead-end scenario. Even if you don’t, consider all the years of hard work and the monetary investment of starting/advancing through a new career.
“I’ve Thought This Through”
None of the above is meant to say that a career change isn’t the right choice. If you’ve thought it through and are sure you can make it work, you could end up in a much better financial/emotional situation. We just want to stress that it certainly won’t be easy or quick. And, mostly, it’s not a magic solution or something you can rush into. Furthermore, it’s also not the only solution, as we’ll explain further down.
Assess Your Current Level of Job Satisfaction
Next, you need to take a realistic look at your current level of job satisfaction. It helps to keep a journal of your emotions/emotional reactions throughout your workday. Also, track any times you’re worried or stressed about work on your days off. After about a week or so of this, ask yourself these questions. Which aspects of your job make you unhappy or stressed? Is it the shift schedule, the people, the work itself/work structure, the company?
Most importantly, how will changing careers help? Does your new career choice guarantee that these factors will no longer be a problem? Write a list of your current work-related stressors in order from the most stressful to the least. This can help you choose a career that eliminates these stressors.
Alternatively, it may point out that your career choice isn’t the problem. You may be stressed from non- work related factors.
Alternatives to Consider
By now, you can hopefully see that a career change may not be an answer to your problems. Even if it is, it’s not the only answer. There may be a more comfortable solution that is just as helpful but less extreme. To find out, look at what you learned from your list of work stressors.
You may find it’s only your company, coworkers, or management team that you’re unhappy with. It’s possible you can solve all of these problems by merely switching what company you work for. Consider looking into top-rated companies that are seeking someone in your position. If it’s not your job position that you have a problem with, you can do that same job at a company that will treat you better. That should make you happier and save you the years of training and advancement you’d face when changing careers.
On the other hand, maybe it is the job position you have a problem with. If you like working for your current company but dislike your situation, urge your superiors to give you a different role. If there’s a different position that requires a lot of hard work, training, or certifications, make it happen. It’s easier than training for a whole new career.
Earn More Without Switching
It could be that the biggest problem in your current career is salary. As an alternative to flat-out quitting and starting over, you can earn more where you are now. See if there are ways to get a promotion or raise in your current job. Or get a second job. It’s no more complicated than starting a new career from scratch. Besides, you can work your way up at your second job until it becomes your new career.
Continue Learning on the Side
Lastly, here’s another way you can ease yourself into starting a new career. When you’ve decided which career path to pursue, determine if you can complete any of the prerequisites while holding onto your current job. It may be practical to train, learn trade skills, and earn any necessary degrees/certifications during your time off. That way, when it comes time to quit so you can pursue your career, you start at an advantage.
When a Career Change Is a Good Idea
Now, here’s the good news. There are many benefits to be gained by a career change done right. They mostly have to do with crossing stressors off your list. One of the biggest is money. For example, you may be confident that your pay increase over the next 5 years at your dead-end job will be almost nothing. And what if statistics show that most people in a certain other career make more than your current salary in their first three years? In this situation, a career change could be right for you.
However, if this means being out of a job for two years, you’ll have to have a reliable solution in place for this. Perhaps your spouse makes enough to support the household until your new career is established. Or maybe you can move in with family for the time being. In any case, the conditions for a successful career change are pretty straightforward. If the new career clearly addresses your biggest work stressors and plan for all the obstacles you’ll face, go for it!
How to Change Careers
Technically, all of that last section was step 1 of how to change careers. For this to work, you must be sure, and you must be prepared for the challenges it entails. But, aside from that, here are the steps to change your career successfully.
1. Pick One Career Field
Step 1 above helped you narrow down your possible career options by eliminating work stressors from your list. But now, you must decide on a single field of work so that you have a clear direction to work toward.
You can start by listing your favorite career ideas and then comparing them to your list of stressors. Find out which of the careers that interest you are the least likely to cause you stress. If you still can’t decide, weigh and measure other factors, like training duration/difficulty vs annual starting salary. But you must settle on one field, like medicine or music production, so your focus isn’t split. You need to be all-in, remember?
If there are a few different positions within the same career field that you can’t decide between, that’s fine for now. You can still take care of the general prerequisites of working in that industry while you’re still deciding on a specific job title.
2. Address Obstacles
Let’s get down to specifics of what’s still standing in the way of your new career. This is easy to do using your imagination.
The Obstacle Game
Imagine you immediately quit your job. Now, what’s your most immediate concern? It’s probably about how to pay rent or other bills. The game has begun. Now, follow this scenario into the future and just keep listing—problems plus solutions that come to mind. After your budget/living situation is figured out, add in the fact that you’ll need to spend time and probably money pursuing your new career. What are the prerequisites?
What training/certifications are required? Where can you get these? Schedule and budget for this. Is there anything else still standing in your way, like years of an internship? Plan for this as well.
As soon as there are no obstacles unaccounted for, hit the reset button. Remember that you haven’t quit your job yet (hopefully) and see how that fits your plans.
3. Evaluate Your Skills/Shortcomings
If that last section sort of freaked you out, this should make you feel better (hopefully). You can probably cross a lot of prerequisites off your list by inserting the qualifications you already have. This is an excellent way to decide on your one career path if you haven’t already. Do any of your potential career choices require skills that you already possess? This can drastically reduce the amount of time it takes you to get into your new career.
In any case, list all your skills/shortcomings related to the career you do decide on. Evaluate which skills you’ll need to develop and how.
4. Get Experience (Volunteer)
A lot of jobs require you to gain experience by interning or volunteering. But, even if they don’t, it’s still an excellent idea for your overall career training experience. Volunteering lets you test your skills in action. Furthermore, it gives you a practical way to develop the necessary job skills. Plus, it familiarizes you with the ins and outs of your career of choice.
5. Start Applying
Once you’ve completed all this, what else is there? Get out there and apply! While this should be the most natural step, it’s, unfortunately, a huge struggle for many people. For them, the fear of rejection proves more difficult than anything they’ve faced so far. If that’s you, relax. After all, what happens if your application is rejected? You don’t get the job, which makes you no worse off than you are right now.
Besides, if you apply, they might say, “Yes.” Then, it won’t matter how many times you were rejected. Finally, if it’s that big of a deal, do something about it. Hire a professional resume writer. Take a course on how to pass an interview.
7. Keep Applying
By the way, at no point in the above scenarios did we mean that you should stop applying. If you’re working up the nerve or doctoring up your resume, that’s all well and good. But, in the meantime, keep applying anyway. If 20 companies reject you, apply to 20 more. If 3 companies want to see you for an interview, keep applying anyway. The reason is simple: there is only one thing that’s certain when applying for a job. If you don’t apply, indeed, you won’t get the job.
We hope this guide has taught you what you need to know about how to change careers. But, more importantly, we hope it has changed any wrong ideas you had about it. However, if the career you’re considering passes our test, and you plan according to the steps above, we wish you all the best of luck. Keep this list handy throughout your career change journey and enjoy your new life!