You’ve decided it’s time to change careers. Perhaps each day is monotonous and you no longer feel like you’re making a meaningful impact. Or maybe you’re daydreaming about a new role and scouring job boards instead of responding to your colleagues’ emails. Either way, you’re ready to transition.
You wouldn’t be alone: The average person changes jobs 12 times over the course of his or her career—and for a variety of reasons. It could be a higher salary that’s inspiring the move or the desire for better work-life balance. Whatever your motivation, you deserve to be in a role that leaves you feeling fulfilled.
If you’re contemplating your next career move, here are six tips to help you make the change.
How to Change Careers
1. List the pros and cons of your current job.
Before making a career change, it’s important to pinpoint why you’re deciding to transition. Are your daily responsibilities starting to feel routine, or is the industry beginning to bore you? Perhaps your current company’s culture is testing your stress levels, or your boss has become an overbearing micromanager.
Some of your cons could be negotiable. For example, if your commute is the biggest drawback, would working from home a day or two a week help? If it’s feasible to check your to-dos off remotely, consider asking your manager for more flexibility. It’s likely your boss will oblige—particularly if he or she runs the risk of losing a valuable employee.
What this exercise helps determine is whether it’s actually time to change careers. If the pros outweigh the cons, or the cons could be solved with a couple of conversations, then you should probably rethink your decision to leave. If the cons list is long, however, then this activity could inform your next career move. Rather, if you enjoy what you’re doing day to day, maybe it’s time to change industries. If you’re passionate about the industry and like your role, you might be experiencing the wrong cultural fit. The more insights you can glean, the easier the overall job search will be.
2. Start making other lists.
If the conclusion of your pros and cons list is, “It’s time to change careers,” then you need to start drafting additional lists. Questions you should focus on answering include:
- What are my values?
- What skills do I want to develop?
- How do I want my career to evolve?
- What are my non-negotiables?
With each response you jot down, the more concrete your vision will become. And the more aware you are of what you do and don’t want in your next role, the sooner you can identify companies and positions that might be the right fit as you’re browsing the job boards.
For example, if you know you want to work for a mission-driven organization, then read companies’ “About Us” pages to see if your core values align before applying. Or, if you’re ready to pursue a managerial role, dissect the job description. Does it say anything about having the opportunity to lead a team? With approximately 5.9 million job openings in the U.S. alone, you need a way to filter through all the postings.
3. Go on informational interviews.
Find someone who’s in the position you aspire to and schedule an informational interview. The conversation can both expand your network and enable you to learn more about a position before making a full-time commitment.
Before scheduling any meetings, however, outline your objectives and determine what you want to learn. Perhaps you’re trying to break into a new industry but don’t know where to start, or you want to better understand the daily realities and responsibilities of a certain role. Once your goals are set, it will be easier to identify the people you should connect with—and what you need to say in your email outreach. Share why you want to speak specifically with each industry expert.
When you do meet, come prepared with a list of questions. Examples include:
- What does a typical day look like for you?
- How did you break into the industry?
- Are there specific skills or technologies I should learn before starting my job hunt?
- Is there anyone else you think I should connect with, or professional associations I should join?
Within 24 hours of the meeting, send a “thank you” email expressing your gratitude for the person’s time and advice. Although this isn’t a formal interview, you don’t know where the conversation could lead. That initial introduction might, one day, turn into a potential job opportunity, so it’s important to make a strong first impression.
4. Test drive the job.
Informational interviews are just the start. If you want to know what a job or industry is really like, volunteer or take a class.
By test driving the job first, you can better determine whether you’re making the right career move.
5. Evaluate your transferable skills.
Although making a career change might seem daunting, it’s likely you’re more prepared for a transition than you think, thanks to your transferable skills—or talents and abilities, such as leadership, conflict resolution, and teamwork, that can be applied to a variety of different jobs and industries.
As you prepare to change careers, evaluate the transferable skills you have and try connecting them to the responsibilities listed in the jobs you’re applying for. It might help weed out positions that aren’t the right fit, or encourage you to revisit roles you initially thought didn’t align with your qualifications. Plus, if you have any gaps on your resumé, transferable skills can help fill in the holes.
6. Research whether you need a graduate degree or certificate.
Depending on your next career move, earning a master’s degree, graduate certificate, or certification might be necessary to make the switch. After all, 33 percent of employers have raised their educational requirements over the last five years, hiring those with a master’s for jobs previously held by bachelor’s degree holders.
Perhaps becoming a certified project manager will help you break into a new industry, or maybe it’s a Master of Legal Studies that will give you a competitive edge when applying for jobs in healthcare, human resources, or business. Research your desired industry or position, using tools like the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Occupational Handbook, to learn more about the entry-level education required.
Making a Career Change
Although the process can feel time-consuming and a bit daunting, you deserve to feel engaged in your work and happy with your career. You never know how one change could affect your professional trajectory. Taking a chance could come with a bigger payoff than you realize.
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