How to Change Careers (Successfully)

Whether it’s due to dissatisfaction with your current career or possibly getting laid off from a job in a dying business sector, chances are great that you’re going to want to change careers (or may at least seriously contemplate doing so) at least one in your professional lifetime.

Many people do change careers. You hear often about people such as the person who left a career as a data analyst to that of freelance writer. Or the lawyer who left the profession to become an intern at a local television news station and who now covers the Supreme Court as a correspondent. Or how about this doozy of a change: going from a TV station control room to school bus driver and wedding officiant (both of which he LOVES)!

Irvine careers

But there also are many other people who change careers who find that the new career a) isn’t what they thought it would be or b) they struggle mightily to become successful within that career and/or make ends meet. We don’t hear as much about these people, but they’re out there, rueing the day they made the change.

And why do they regret the change? There usually are at least one – or more – of the following six reasons:

  1. They didn’t take the time to really think about what they wanted to do.
  2. They didn’t research the new career and went in blind.
  3. They quit their current job before researching the career and/or even having another job lined up.
  4. They didn’t get any training needed before quitting their current position and looking for a new job in a new field.
  5. They assumed they could get a job in the new career at the same level – and amount of salary — they had in in their old career (“Operations manager in retail to director in a marketing agency, here I come!”)
  6. Deciding to change careers because they hate their current boss/colleagues/company. (They forgot that a single job is not a career.)

Instead, here’s what successful career changers do.

  • They research and research – and research some more – the career(s) in which they are interested.

We may think that we know what it’s like working in a certain career, but that’s pretty much impossible unless we actually work in the career or at least talk to several people who work within it.

Since it would be very difficult to work in the field before, well, working in the field, your best bet is to talk to as many people as possible who do what you want to do. Ask them about the best and worst things about the career. Ask them how they got into the career. Ask them about salaries, skills and education requirements, etc. Ask them if they know of anyone else in the field you could talk to.

Doing this not only helps you get a better idea of what the career actual entails day-to-day, it also helps you build a network of people who can help you find work if/when you decide to make a move.

  • They work hard to see how their current skills can transfer easily to the new career and they showcase this to potential employers.

Chances are great that unless you have the skills that transfer easily from one career to another (sales skills, for example), you may have to start a bit “from the bottom.”

Not always, but usually. And the people who do start at a level somewhat akin to their current position in their current career work hard to either gain the skills needed  for the new career or show potential employers how they transfer.

They realize that it’s not their new manager’s job to make their career dreams come true: they need to show value and how they can solve the new supervisor’s problems from the get go.

If they don’t have the skills that transfer easily, they graciously come to terms with it and accept that they may have to climb the ladder all over again.

Possibly the easiest career change to make is to one that’s related to a current career: advertising to marketing, law to finance, medicine to public health, for example. That doesn’t mean a change from interior design to finance (for example) isn’t unheard of, but anyone making such a drastic change needs to make it with eyes wide open.

Are you looking for a change? Helpmates may be able to help you, so long as you understand the limits of your current skills in regards to what the jobs in a new career require. Whether you’re looking for a new job or a whole new profession, take a look at our current opportunities and, if one or more pique your interest, follow the instructions on the posting.

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