6 Steps to Safely Switch Careers
Switching careers is scary, but sometimes it's the only option for a more authentic life.
Some of us fall into our jobs without thinking much about what would make us feel happiest and most fulfilled. And while your job shouldn’t be the only thing to give you a sense of well-being, there’s no denying that what you do for work has a significant impact on your life.
If you’ve been in the same industry for a while now but have been nursing a feeling that it isn’t your true calling, you’re not alone. The average American changes careers five-to-seven times in their lifetime, and 30 percent change jobs or careers every 12 months. This sort of frequent disruption might not be ideal for long-term stability, but a change now and then can be ideal in the pursuit of living your best life.
With the pandemic in full swing, many industries are having a tough time staying afloat. Perhaps your industry is one of them, and to look out for your future and the future of your family, you may be thinking it’s time to pivot your career.
Whatever your situation may be, making a career change can be a scary leap. But when you’re prepared, you can handle anything. Here are six tips for preparing for a career change and starting down a more authentic path.
1. Don’t immediately quit your job
It’s one thing to strike while the momentum’s hot and quite another to remove your safety net precisely when you need it. If you’re fortunate enough to be employed, maintain that income while you plan the perfect exit by staying at your current job while searching for a new one.
Some people believe that quitting a job without any other prospects is the kick in the butt necessary to get serious about getting hired, but that’s too risky right now. While it may make you feel nostalgic for your college days, it’s no fun living off of ramen noodles and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as an adult.
2. Research the industry you’re interested in
What it takes to get your foot in the door in a new industry depends on the industry. Some jobs are going to require specific certifications or even another degree. Research what the expectations are so you’ve got a realistic chance of succeeding.
Another key area of research is the salary. Check statistics around the average salary base of the role you’re considering to get an idea of whether it’s financially realistic for maintaining your lifestyle or if you’ll need to budget for a pay cut.
3. Find a mentor in the field
Finding a success story in the field you’re pursuing can inspire you to keep going even when it seems difficult. Tracking someone’s career trajectory will also give you a blueprint that you can use to plan your route.
Find a thought leader in the field and find out as much as you can about their professional experience. Maybe they’re a guest contributor and write for credible publications about the industry you’re interested in. If so, read the content they’re creating and check out their company website. We’re all different and have our unique paths to follow, but this approach will give you a real-world look at what it takes to succeed.
4. Complete the necessary coursework
If you need classes for industry-specific knowledge or to qualify for jobs in the field you’re interested in, you’re going to have juggle coursework with your existing work schedule. It’s not easy, but it’s a necessary balance you’ll have to find. Look for night classes, weekend classes, workshops, and other learning opportunities that will allow you to learn what you need to without adding full-time school on top of full-time work. And if you have to go full-time, take solace in the fact that many people have done it before you and succeeded.
If you have a spouse or partner that is willing to carry the bulk of your financial load, make sure you plan and prepare for a reduced household income.
5. Freshen up your resumé
If you’re switching careers, your current resumé isn’t likely to reflect the right skills and experience you’ll need for your desired role. But every job you have, whether it’s related to your preferred one or not, teaches you skills that prepare you to take on new challenges.
Get creative with your resumé, reworking it to show how your current skills will make you a star in your new career. Then, have someone you trust to review your resumé to see if there’s anything you’re missing.
6. Search for available jobs
Most of the career change process involves searching for and applying for jobs. Don’t settle for job postings that don’t sound like they’ll be an excellent fit for your strengths or won’t align with what you want. Consider pay and benefit options so you can be as selective as possible. If you apply for every job in the field you want to be in, you could land a position that isn’t a great fit and you’ll be back at square one.
Once you find a job to apply for, give your resumé another once-over to ensure the skills you’re highlighting align with the skills the job posters are looking for. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a while to build momentum in your search. The right opportunity is out there; you just have to keep applying.
What if I want to start my own business?
If changing jobs means starting your own business, then you will also need to put together a business plan to put your thoughts into actionable steps and determine what you want to achieve.
Make sure you research the market to understand any potential risks involved — there’s always a risk when starting your own business. And accurately identify the possible business mistakes you could make. You can never prepare enough, so take the time to look into what starting your own business entails. It will ensure that the decisions you make are the right ones.
Embarking on a new journey is filled with fear, uncertainty, and excitement. But as long as you’re prepared, your path will be a little less bumpy and a little more worth it. Best of luck. You got this!
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer