How to Successfully Change Careers

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

Changing career direction

Not everybody knows exactly what career path they want to take, which is one of the many reasons why some people change jobs frequently.

When it comes to your career, it’s all about finding the ideal balance between what you love and what you’re good at.

But while it can take many years to get good at something, once you’ve reached that point, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the particular industry you’re working in is the right one for you. Perhaps your initial career goals have shifted with time, or you’ve actually realised that what you’re currently doing isn’t right for you.

If you’ve worked in the same industry for a number of years, it can be difficult to take the plunge with a career switch. This is particularly true if you have limited or no experience in a position or industry that you want to get into.

While this is something that many people fear, it’s important to face your fears if you want to get yourself on the right track and embrace the career you really want.

If you’re considering making the leap into a brand-new career, read on: here are a few tips on how to successfully change careers.

1. Make sure you’re ready

Avoid changing careers for minor reasons. For example, if you don’t like your boss or the people you work with, these are weak reasons to change your career.

Firstly, these are factors that can probably be evaluated within the workplace. Secondly, when you do change your career, you’re typically going to start from the bottom up, and there are plenty of negative implications associated with this. From a reduced salary and change in title, any job you take on is going to come with its negatives, so never switch careers based on short-term issues.

2. Educate yourself

If you’re thinking about changing careers, then be sure to educate yourself. You could:

  • Volunteer with an organisation in the industry you want to go into
  • Pursue freelancing activities related to your target field
  • Start a new venture part-time and on the weekends
  • Develop new skills in your current job related to your new field

Doing the above gives you a free and easy way to learn about the sector, gain experience and determine if you are truly passionate about that industry.

3. Define your career goals and values

Have your career goals or values changed in recent times? If so, then now may be the time to define your career goals.

Firstly, reflect on the past year and what you’ve achieved professionally during that time. What new interests have you discovered that you’d like to adopt in a new role?

Know your values and what’s important to you in your life. Maybe these have changed with time? If so, then figure out ways of aligning your goals with your values to determine your next move.

4. Change your environment

If you’re working in an environment that doesn’t align with the type of environment you want to work in, then you need to figure out a way to change it.

Ask yourself how you can make the transition from your current environment to one that better suits your interests. Ultimately, your goal is to find an opportunity that places you in the right setting so that eventually you can transition to your ideal environment.

5. Perform a self-assessment

Professional life is all about learning, so if you’re no longer interested in learning about the profession you’re currently working in, that’s a clear sign that there might not be a future for you in that industry.

Use this as an opportunity to truly assess your skills, interests, strengths, personality, communication style, values, career motivators and other factors that are important to you in your life and work.

You can either do this independently or with the support of a career coach or counsellor, or by taking a career test (like our very own career-matching platform Career Hunter).

By taking time out to self-reflect, you get to:

  • Understand yourself better, personally and professionally
  • Create a foundation for making better career decisions in terms of industry, field, environment, situation and job role
  • Brainstorm and identify options for your new career/field options
  • Improve your self-esteem as you learn more about your unique abilities and contributions
  • Understand what distinguishes you from other jobseekers

6. Network extensively

Nobody ever builds their career without a good mentor or support network. Fortunately, technology has made it easier than ever to reach out to new people and discuss your thoughts on making a career change.

There are so many people out there willing to mentor you and give you their time, so get out there and meet new people before taking the plunge into a new industry! Networking also helps you to stay ahead of the latest trends and keep your finger on the pulse in the job market.

7. Consider job shadowing

If you’re not sure whether to take the next step, consider job shadowing.

Job shadowing involves experiencing the ins and outs of a role, along with the culture of the industry. You gain realistic insight into the role and its duties, which is a viable way to establish whether or not you really want to change careers. This also helps you to enrich your contacts and learn from industry specialists.

8. Transition with an ‘in-between’ role

There’s nothing wrong with having huge ambitions but remember: nothing happens instantly. Life’s a journey, and you need to take calculated steps if you truly want to find a meaningful career.

Once you’ve carried out a self-assessment, you’ll then have a clearer picture of your ideal destination. Then, you can determine the steps you need to take to get yourself there, including the intermediate positions you could take on before you get yourself to that point.

Reaching your ultimate goal doesn’t happen overnight; you need to take the right steps to get there. You have to develop skillsets and experiences that are going to more closely relate to the career you want to get into before you can actually get into that position. You must also be willing to embrace any challenges that come your way in order to find a meaningful and fulfilling career.

9. Determine your finances

When you make a career switch, the chances are that your salary is going to be lower than what it was before. If you’re starting your own business, there’s even the chance of earning zero pay until profits kick in.

As such, getting your finances in order is essential in making the transition less stressful. Be honest yet realistic when figuring out how many months’ (or even years’) worth of funds you want in the bank to support you in the early stages of your new career.

10. Match your CV to the role you’re applying for

Your CV must be tailored to the specific role you’re applying for so that potential recruiters can see how you’re suited to the role. You need to create a strong, targeted application that reflects the requirements of the role.

This doesn’t only include work experience relevant to the role but also the skills and qualities needed for it. Finally, omit any irrelevant information. This will give you more space to include appropriate skills that are applicable to the ad.

11. Never burn bridges

If you’re ready to make the switch, never burn bridges. The world is smaller than you think, and social media has made it even easier to connect with people, so always leave your previous role on a positive note.

After all, you’ve spent so long building those bridges, why burn them down now?

This is also a great way to stay in touch with previous managers and colleagues, which could work wonders for networking later down the line.

12. Embrace the change

Changing careers can be overwhelming. Once you make the leap, embrace the challenge. You’re part of a new team now, and everyone around you is rooting for your success because your success is their success. Respect those around you, prove you want to be there and give it your all.

By showing that you are motivated and enthusiastic, you will prove that you are beneficial to your new team, bringing with you your experience, knowledge, ideas and perspectives from your previous roles.

What steps are you taking to pursue a career you’ll truly enjoy? Let us know by leaving a comment below!