Changing careers: A step-by-step guide

Thinking of changing career?

Changing jobs is challenging enough, but changing to a whole new career can be overwhelming.  One of the biggest hurdles faced by career changers is how to make a smooth and successful transition to their new career.  To help, we’ve put together this step-by-step guide to make the transition to your new career an easier one.

Research

A vital first step in changing careers is to research your new career. Speak to people in the industry to gain a realistic insight in to the culture, conditions, opportunities and challenges. As part of your research you should aim to identify any skills gaps, transferable skills and any qualifications or certifications required for your new career. Find out what others in your chosen new career have done for example, what are their backgrounds? What was their progression route? What qualifications do they have?

Develop a plan

A good career transition plan provides a blueprint for a successful transition into your new career. Start by setting your sights on your end career goal and map out the steps you’ll need to take to get there. Set realistic time frames to achieve your goals but accept that these may need to be adjusted as you work through your plan. This could be due to changes in personal circumstances, economics, the labour market etc. The most important thing is to keep your plan up to date so you don’t lose touch with your end goal. Be sure to celebrate milestones along the way as you progress through your plan.

Grow your network

It’s a good idea to join relevant professional associations, attend networking events and develop connections with people and organisations in your new career area. This is important because you are likely to learn about employment and training opportunities through these connections as well as deepening your knowledge and understanding of your new industry. LinkedIn is an invaluable tool for professional networking and even a basic (free) account will allow you to grow and leverage your network by connecting with key people, joining groups, following companies and influencers. 

Your network will also play a critical role in your research activities since they can provide insight into your new career. Consider conducting formal or informal informational interviews with people in your target roles and industry to broaden your understanding which can also help you on the radar of key decision makers who see your keen interest. 

Obtain the necessary skills and qualifications

You may need to gain new skills or obtain certain qualifications to prepare you for your new career. If you are still working in your old career, and you hope to make a seamless transition, it will be necessary for you to gain the required skills and qualifications before you leave your current job.

Once you’ve identified the qualifications you need, investigate your options including online and part time courses. Although study combined with full time employment can be challenging, it can be done. With careful planning, a commitment to your end goal and if available, the support of family and friends, you can manage to gain the skills and qualifications you need.

Gain experience

A combination of qualifications and experience is more highly regarded than qualifications or experience alone. One of the biggest challenges career changers face however is how to gain experience in their chosen new career.

If you are studying, it’s likely there will be a work experience component in your course. Once completed, make sure you add your work experience placement to your CV including your duties, projects and any achievements. Choose your host employer wisely since many employers recruit new staff through work experience programmes.

Your current employer may be able to offer you opportunities as well. This can be filling in for someone on leave or taking on extra duties that help you towards your new career direction. Another way to gain experience is through volunteer work or by taking on short term work contracts outside of your normal working hours or during holidays.

Make the leap

As daunting as it may be, the time will come when you will need to make the final, much anticipated leap into your chosen new career. Initially you might need to accept a lower income until you become established in your new career although in some cases, you might be lucky enough to move into a higher paying role straight away.,

Lisa LaRue, RCDP, MCDI, MAC

Lisa LaRue, RCDP, MCDI, MAC

Registered Career Coach with more than 20 years’ experience helping people plan, manage and find happiness in their careers.

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