Whether you’re stuck in a rut, you’re not earning enough, or you’re not getting the respect you think you deserve, there comes a time in many professionals’ lives when they simply need a change. But how do you reinvent yourself when you’ve invested so much time – and so many tears – into that original career?
It’s not something you can do overnight, but if you’re convinced you need a change, the only thing to do is to take the first steps toward making that change. Bit by bit, every step you take helps you rediscover your passions and find out what you’re good at doing. If you’re not sure how or where to start, here are our top ten tips.
1. Start volunteering
If you have your sights set on a particular career path, volunteering can help you learn more about it without having to apply for a formal position. What’s more, volunteering can help you get your foot in the door at organizations with which you want to work.
2. Join a professional organization
You might still be an amateur painter or a less-than-expert human resources professional, but that shouldn’t stop you from seeking out other professionals in that industry and learning from their skills. Sign up for a student or "young professional" membership to a trade association or an association related to your target industry, and then take advantage of all the seminars, trainings and networking events you can so you can learn and explore the industry.
3. Join a club for fun
Joining a professional organization isn’t the only way to go, however. Joining a club related to something you love doing can also help you discover your passions and find ways to make them into a full-time job. If you like mountain biking, for example, joining a mountain biking club might help you discover a need for experienced guides in your community, thus opening up the door for you to create your own business.
4. Get back to reading
Remember your student days, when you spent a lot of your time studying books and writing papers? When you’re embarking on a new career, you’re going to need to do that again. Pick up a few books recommended by other professionals and start reading up on the trends, practices, and foundational knowledge of the industry. This can help you not only learn more about the industry, but uncover niches into which you can fit, too.
5. Take classes
To reinvent yourself in some careers, there’s no way around the fact that you’ll need more schooling. If you’re a nurse’s assistant, for example, you can’t become a registered nurse without going back to school. Even if you only take one class at a time, signing up now will put you that much closer to your new career.
6. Find a mentor
Mentors in your target industry can also help you identify opportunities and uncover your strengths. Look for potential mentors in the professional orgnaizations you join or simply approach someone you admire and ask for their help.
7. Hire a career coach
When you’re not having luck finding a mentor, you could always pay one! Career coaches will do many of the same things a mentor would do, but because you’re paying them, they may have more time to spend with you, helping you identify and work toward your dream job.
8. Look for opportunities at your current workplace
Your current employer might also offer help in your quest. From giving you matching funds for college courses to paying your way at a local conference to even grooming you for a new career path, your employer can be a big help; you just have to let him know what you’re seeking.
9. Set SMART goals
Whatever goal you set for yourself, you’ll see more success by being methodical about achieving it. Try using the SMART goal setting model to set goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Name the goal, set a date by which you’ll achieve certain milestones, choose goals that you can actually realize, and ones that have a clear end date. Every week, month and year, check back in with your goals to see how you’re progressing.
10. Go confidently in the direction of your dreams
When you make the choice to reinvent yourself and to follow a new career path, don’t waver. This is your life, and you deserve to have a happy one. Once you’ve chosen your path, don’t let anyone talk you out of it. Just go for it.
Changing careers is a bold move – but you don’t have to do it all alone. Seek out any and all avenues for help to make the process go as smoothly as possible.