It’s not unusual for people to pursue a specific career only to find out after a few years, or decades, that they’d rather do something else for a living. Sometimes, in college, it happens that you have to choose between two separate and equally compelling areas of interest. Maybe your primary career choice was made for practical reasons and that, after awhile, your original dream to design clothing or teach school could not be ignored. Even if you have to take a cut in pay or start at the bottom of the ladder, the hope is the change will pay off in the long run—in both happiness and financial reward.
Regardless, reinventing oneself for a new role or career is not an easy shift to make, but there are some practical steps you can take to prepare yourself or at least test the waters before jumping in entirely.
Take a Class or Bootcamp
It may not always be practical or possible, but taking a class or bootcamp in an area of interest can sometimes be the best way to introduce yourself to a new career direction. You might start with something in your current career, a topic that builds on your experience and opens you up to other opportunities in your industry. For example, if you’re in marketing, you might find value in learning how to code—or just the basics of coding. This knowledge could potentially lead to new opportunities with better pay—especially if you work with websites, digital ad campaigns, or sales platforms.
Revise Your Resumé, CV, or LinkedIn Profile
Is the language on your resumé getting stale? Does your profile sound like everybody else out there has the same title and job you do? You’d be surprised how taking a closer look at the words you use to describe yourself—your work experience and accomplishments—can inspire you to tell a more compelling story. Start by reading as many profiles as you can, whether in your industry or not, and take note on what distinguishes or differentiates them. Keep your tone positive and your message concise. And because it’s true online readers tend to scan, you’ll want your descriptions to be brief but potent. So use bullet points or shorter paragraphs whenever possible. Never underestimate the power of selling yourself.
Network with People in Your Profession of Interest
With a little probing, you might be amazed to discover how related one career is to another, and that it’s easier to bridge the gap than you think. For example, if you have a degree in accounting, but are more interested in data analytics, you might find the basic skills similar enough to make a comfortable transition. Again, here’s where taking a class or bootcamp might be helpful in giving you a taste of a new profession. Many people become interested in pursuing something different through a friend or relative. Talk to that person about his or her job and how he or she got started. So much of making progress is making the right connections and meeting people who can introduce you to experts or resources to tap, whether it’s books, trade publications, or professional organizations.
Reflect Back on Your Earliest Plans and Ambitions
If you’re feeling unsatisfied with where you are in your career or the direction it’s going, think back to when you were a child or teenager—what did you want to do? What did you want to be when you grew up? This may sound like a silly exercise, but sometimes our most genuine desires are latent within our deepest memories. As we grow up, we’re told to pursue more practical careers and we ignore or put our true ambitions in the background.
Find some space and quiet time to write out memories of your childhood and teen years and try to remember the things that brought you the most joy. Maybe you loved animals as a child and becoming a veterinarian is still within reach. Or perhaps you had a knack for planning activities and organizing the neighborhood kids, in which case a career in project management might be your calling.
Read, Listen to Podcasts, Watch Videos—Educate Yourself
It’s cliché to say, but we live in the information age. With the internet at our fingertips, it’s almost impossible not to access the knowledge you need to start on a new course—from simple “how-to” videos, to books, webinars, and podcasts. There’s enough information out there, and experts in their respective fields, to help you understand and determine whether or not your new or latent interest is a career direction you want to pursue in earnest.
Reinventing yourself—or rather, changing your career or profession—is not easy. But there are ways to make the transition from one career to another more achievable. For example, you may have a hobby or longstanding interest that can be turned into a new career. Do you? Have you always dreamed of owning your own business? Do you aspire to travel more or less in your job? Do you like working with children or seniors? When you stop and think about it, the opportunities are endless. And it’s never too late to start.