10 Steps to Making a Successful Career Change

Changing careers is much more challenging than changing jobs within the same profession. Here's what you do to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible

Make time
Looking for a new career is in itself a full-time job. Even if you’re not currently employed, you’ll still need to fit the job search around your family and other responsibilities.

Get organized by making a list of long-term job search goals, a list of shorter-term goals and, finally, a list of daily tasks related to your job search. This will help you stay on course during the career change. Once you know what you’re doing each day, you can prioritize.

Use these lists to make a schedule, including both career change tasks and other tasks and appointments.

Clarify what you want
Don’t even start trying to change careers until you’re clear on what you want. This means deciding upon a suitable career to target instead of adopting a 'shotgun' approach where you’re focusing on several different careers at once.

Target one career field that’s aligned with both your strengths and preferences and go after it.

If you’re not clear on what your strengths and preferences are, take the time to work them out by having a brainstorming session on what you enjoy doing, what you’re good at doing and what you’ve done a lot of.

Take a psychometric test
Get a little extra help identifying career areas that are suited to you by doing a few online career personality tests.

These psychometric tests won’t give you a definitive answer on your ideal career, but they may give you a few ideas you may not have thought of yet.

Don’t rely on these for an answer but instead, use them to fuel new thoughts, suggestions and alternative ideas.

Research
Once you have a shortlist of potential new careers, narrow it down by thoroughly researching each career until you find the one for you.

Do your research by reading a lot - take a look online, borrow relevant books from your local library or see what the press is saying. It’s also important to research different employers you’re thinking of applying to.

Employers have wildly varied approaches to managing employees who are joining them from different fields so research each company’s policy and attitude towards career changers to help you find a good fit.

Experiment
Along with research, the best way to find out what a particular profession is really like is to try it out. You can do this through volunteer work, work shadowing or offering to do pro bono work for people you know.

There may also be an opportunity for learning if your company is willing to transfer you to a different department, depending on your current role and organization. If you want to get a regular feel for your target area of work, join a club, group or network that will allow you to participate in relevant activities.

Learn new skills
Chances are, if you want a completely new career you’ll need to acquire new skills to get an employer to give you a chance and also to perform well in your new position once you’ve landed the job.

There are several ways to pick up skills relevant to your desired profession. Contact your local continuing education college to see what courses they offer.

Arrange a skills exchange with a friend, where you teach one another a new skill. Look online or in a bookstore for how-to guides that show you how to master a specific skill step-by-step.

Use your network
When it comes to actually finding jobs to apply to within your desired field, your existing contacts can be invaluable mines of help, support and information.

The best way to find out about the current labor market is to ask people who you already know are "in the know." You might be surprised by which of your close contacts can give you some interesting inside information on your chosen career area, or who they can introduce you to.

Pick a contact who might be able to help and arrange to meet up for coffee or lunch.

Make new connections
New contacts can be just as useful as old ones, so expand your network by getting out there and meeting new people. Attend business networking events within the industry you want to get into, but remember that these events are not about who can hand out the most business cards.

Take the time to talk to each person you meet. Really listen to what they have to say and if you find them interesting, believe they could be beneficial to you, or even that you could be beneficial to them, give them your card and be sure to get theirs.

Promote your transferable skills
Make this clear to everyone who stands between you and your new profession: you have skills that can be transferred from your past experiences to your future career.

When networking, on your applications and in your interviews, stress that you understand what skills you would need to transfer to aspects of the new job.

Give examples of times when you’ve transferred a skill from one part of your life to another. For instance, you may have transferred the ability to multi-task as a young office assistant to parenthood.

Get a good career guide
Each stage of the career change process can seem both daunting and isolating. It doesn’t have to be like this. Seek help and support from where you can and consider working with a career guide.

A good career expert will be able to give you guidance as you work out what you want and how to get it, without making the decisions for you. The very best career guides take the time to get to know you in order to help you and will use whatever technical tools and processes are best suited to you and your objectives.

Nisa Chitakasem is founder of Position Ignition, the UK’s leading Career Consulting Company, and co-author of their eBook 100 Essential Career Change Tips. Nisa co-founded Position Ignition.com to provide career consulting to people looking for guidance and support through their career change, new career direction, job search and career development.

 

Ready to take your career to the next level? Join our Take Charge of Your Career Community Challenge! You’ll get daily emails with expert tips and tools from TheLadders’ Amanda Augustine to give your career a boost in just 4 weeks. Sign up now!

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