That’s it. You can’t do it anymore. There’s something about your current line of work that isn’t agreeing with you like it used to – or maybe it never really did click with you.
But you stuck with it because you thought it was the responsible thing to do, and you thought you’d always be able to handle it, but now you can’t.
You want a change of pace, and a big one at that; you know that much. Now the question is how you go about doing it.
There’s some good news and some bad news, and it’s the same news: no two people make a career change the same way.
That means you have a million ways to do it, but you need to find your own unique way all by yourself.
We’d be remiss, though, if we didn’t at least try to give you some guidance. Here are some common steps you’ll hear about from those who have managed a successful career change.
Think It Through
Actions may get more done than thoughts, but sometimes people get so riled up in doing that they forget to think through their actions first. It’s best not to make such a mistake.
First things first, are you certain it’s your career that you’re displeased with? Are you sure it’s not just annoyance with your specific employer or dissatisfaction with your progress in your career path?
Frustration can cloud our judgment, and that’s understandable, but you want to find clarity before you make your decision. You don’t want to jump ship while in a dense fog.
Next you need to decipher where you should go next, which is a cross-section between which careers you want to get and which you can get. This equation means a few things.
Firstly, find out what the people in your life, both personally and professionally, think you’re good at and in which careers they think you’d succeed. You don’t have to let these people choose your life for you, but it’s good to have a perception of how others perceive you.
As far as “jobs you can get,” be careful, because this is where trying to be realistic can easily turn into being self-defeating.
First, look into which lines of work are hiring healthily right now, just to get a gauge on things. Now look into which jobs you can get with your current skillset. If a career you want wouldn’t hire someone like you, it’s easy to get bummed out. But try thinking of it this way: what if they just wouldn’t hire someone like you… yet?
If your desired career is fully accessible to you the second you want to leave your current job, then we’re happy for you, but you need to understand that you got lucky. For the rest of us, we need to boost our résumés before we can unlock the door.
Most people will need to do some stat-padding before being qualified to enter an entirely new industry, and the workloads will vary wildly.
Some of you may only need to read a book or take a few online courses, while others may have to go back to school entirely, and still others may have to work a second job as an unpaid intern to get their foot in the door. All the while, it’s probably for the best to stay at your current job for the time being, if for no other reason than to maintain a source of income.
How badly do you want it? It’s entirely possible the price may be too much for you, and that’s fine; we all have our limits. But whatever career you want to get into, you’ll probably have to do some work on your own time to justify your entrance into that world.
Do Your Reading
Before you get too far ahead of yourself, research. Find out what the day-to-day work schedule is for someone with a job you want and learn about the career trajectory you could expect.
Make sure you know all you can about the careers you want to enter – and we say “careers” because you ought to pick a couple and whittle down the list as you learn more about them.
You may find yourself apprehensive about all of them, or you may find yourself enamored with all of them, and the decision may become very hard to make. If you need help making a decision, know the right people to give you an insider’s perspective.
Talk the Talk
Networking with other professionals is arguably important now more than ever before as the world simply gets more competitive. It likely goes without saying that you should try to make new connections with people in your intended industry, but don’t forget to strengthen the connections you already have. You may know somebody who can help you get into a new profession or help you decide if you even want to go that route at all.
If you know someone in your target career field, not only should you pick their brains about what they think about their job and how they’d see you in it, but you should investigate whether they can help you in more tangible ways.
Maybe they can’t just outright give you a job, but they might be able to put a good word in for you, find out for you when and where companies are hiring (and what the job interviews are like), give you advice that a stranger on the Internet can’t, or possibly even arrange to have you shadow them on a day at work.
Don’t neglect to also network with people who aren’t in the industry… yet. There’s that word again! Look for people who are also trying to switch into the same career; this way you can put your heads together to strategize on how you can all make your way in.
This does have an element of risk, of course, because some selfish people might get ahead and leave you behind (all while calling it “business savvy”), but those people exist at every level of any line of work imaginable.
If you can avoid the snakes and find real team players, you can not only finagle your way in, but you may wind up with some tight professional connections.
If your career change is successful in less than a month, then once again, congrats, but you got lucky. Making such a drastic change will take time, work, and probably a fair bit of money.
To close, let’s revisit the “careers you want vs. careers you can get” issue. Some people would certainly say it would be fancifully irresponsible of us not to tell you to your face that there are things you probably can’t get into because such a change just isn’t realistic.
Reality is weird, though, and while we all experience nifty little coincidences and improbabilities every so often, we never think we can force luck’s hand on a bigger scale.
We aren’t advocating for making dangerous gambles on absurd chances, but then again, trying to switch careers is itself a gamble. There’s no guarantee a given line of work will let you in. You need to know it’s a gamble, and then you need to decide how big or small you want to go with it.
Look into how easy or hard it is to get into the career you want, and then make what you think is the responsible decision – whether that’s responsibility to your wallet, or responsibility to yourself to give yourself a sense of fulfillment.
If you want to try going from being a pencil pusher to a rocket scientist, don’t say we didn’t warn you – but don’t you ever say we discouraged you.