Practical Tips for a Successful Career Change

Any time you go from the familiar into the unfamiliar, a whole host of anxieties can arise. When contemplating a career change, you may not know much about your income, work environment, schedule or the full extent of future responsibilities.

The fear exists that you could switch from a job you enjoyed to one much worse than your previous career. On the other hand, a career change can also be an exciting time when the whole world opens up to you again. How you proceed into this new world will, in large part, determine how successful the change.

Fortunately, you have a great deal more control than you may realize over how successfully your career change goes. While still working at your current job, you can start your research into a new job, thereby allowing yourself the leeway you need. One of the biggest mistakes is to not spend the time considering what it will take to leave your current job. Just be sure to leave your old job on good terms to the best of your abilities. Do not just abandon your post one day, but rather give your employer the proper notice. You never know if you may need a recommendation from your employer in the future if this first attempt at a career change does not work out the way you anticipated.

Clarify Your Purpose

What is the purpose for your career change? What is the desire fueling it? Are you seeking a higher salary, more flexible hours or greater responsibility? By gaining clarity on your exact reasons for wanting to switch careers, you can be more empowered to find the right career to make the switch to. A career change is the opportunity to start anew, giving yourself the best chances of success and happiness with your new choice. Therefore, take the time to really map out what that looks like. Think about what would make you more successful at your job and what would make you happier in the workplace. Make these the cornerstones of your search for different and better work.

Research and Planning

Once you know what type of work situation and environment you seek, start looking for employment opportunities matching your criteria. In addition to searching job listings online and in the newspapers, speak with your personal and professional connections and let them know what you are looking for. Be sure you inform only those people with no connection to your current employer unless you have already informed your current employer of your intentions. You do not want anyone else but you breaking the news of your impending departure to your boss. Another important research element when looking to enter a new career is researching the industry. Many job-seekers start and stop their searches with job listings. If you are looking for a whole new career, however, then you want to know more than simply who is hiring. You want to know the ins and outs of the industry you are planning to enter so that you can make informed decisions about your new job or potential employers. You want to know its history, its practical operations, its status in the world today and its goals and prospects for the future.

By making yourself an expert in the industry before you enter it, you show employers you are a committed colleague, instead of just someone looking for a paycheck. Another important point to research is the qualifications for the new work you seek. Are there certifications, licenses or other credentials you must acquire before you can apply for any of these jobs? If so, figure out how you are going to make that happen. If you cannot take the necessary classes and obtain the necessary credentials before you leave your current employer, at least plan for how and when you are going to do it, since the success of your entire career change strategy depends on it. You may discover in the process cost or course availability may make it too difficult for you to pursue at this moment. Alternately, see if you have any transferable skills from your current profession that can help you with your desired career. The benefit of this is when you do finally decide the time is right, you know you will have greatest chance of success.

Networking

One important part of switching careers is informing your professional and personal network. These current contacts may be able to connect you with someone in your new field, and this new contact may provide invaluable advice or a chance a employment. You also need to expand your network and build it out into the areas most vital for your new career goals. In addition to mobilizing the people you know, you should start seeking support from new people and share what value you have to offer with them. One way to do this is through a carefully curated social media profile. Building a professional online presence can help you reach out on sites like LinkedIn or Facebook, especially if you are trying to change careers. Another way to network is to find professional organizations for the career you are hoping to enter and start attending meetings and social events. Make sure you take the time to build relationships with new people before you start asking them for favors.

When expanding your network, start by offering a simple compliment, validation or acknowledgement to someone you want to add to your network. If you try to ask for favors without building a rapport, you may not leave a good impression on a potential connection. If possible, try to offer a solution to or a thoughtful comment on a current industry issue, as this can help your new connection remember you for future. If you can make a personal but appropriate connection with a new person, such as a shared mutual interest, you can use this to your advantage in the future. Even if your new connection does not offer you a job, they may keep you in mind for future openings or they may further your connections in your desired field. Knowing the right people can work wonders for a budding new career.

Changing Careers Without Changing Employers

One last thought to consider in planning a career change is whether you may have the golden opportunity you seek right in your own backyard. The company where you already work may have openings in the new areas you seek to enter. There are many advantages to remaining with the same company, as your current employers already know you and your work ethic. Your current employers may be more willing to hire or promote within the company than trying to find outside help.

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