Numerous situations can lead to a career change. After graduating from college or experiencing an unexpected layoff, people of almost every age and background find themselves looking for a new career path.
How and when you change careers might impact how easily you can make the transition.
It is possible to move to a different position within the same field or enter a new industry entirely. Of course, it all begins with a good plan. That’s why we outlined six tips on how to plan and manage your career change well.
1. Prepare Yourself for a Career Change
Career planning professionals will often ask you to dive into your inner passions and determine why you’re making a career change. But why you’re changing careers is only a small part of creating a transition plan. Many people change jobs because of external factors such as moving, graduating, or parting with a past employer. It is equally important to consider how, when, and what changes you will implement.
Carefully consider all of these questions:
- When do you want to change careers? Graduates may desire a position that begins at the end of the school year or after the summer.
- How will you ideally change careers? Establish clear steps that would be the best way to transition.
- What obstacles could slow you down? Determine if your skillset aligns with your new career path. Consider bills and daily responsibilities to help guide yourself toward a successful career change.
- Where would you like to work? Think of your dream job in your career change. Locate a few employers and use their job descriptions to help you understand the field and positions more clearly.
Make your career plan as transparent and direct as possible. Think of it as writing a business plan or an academic plan for yourself. It should answer what-if questions and explore potential opportunities and foreseeable setbacks.
2. Assess Yourself and Set Your Goals
Before you jump into applying for jobs, assess your skills and abilities. The big question is – do you have the skills necessary for your ideal position?
To assess your skills:
- Evaluate job descriptions of your past positions. You likely have all of those skills.
- Identify your strongest soft skills.
- List out your hard skills (include everything, even proficiency in Microsoft or Google Suite).
- Reach out to past employers and mentors. Ask them for letters of recommendation and take note of the skills they mention.
- Take a personality test. The Meyers-Briggs or 16 Personalities test is common among companies during the hiring process.
3. Learn New Skills
Career changes almost always require that the person expand their skill set. After you assess your skills, you might identify key areas where you need to continue skill-building or learn an entirely new skill.
Maybe you need to upgrade your IT skills or to hone your writing skills? Think about your desired career and do some research on the most in-demand skills in the field.
Of course, having to learn something new or explore new skills can seem challenging. Maybe you don’t have time to return to school or to commit to more college courses?
The good news is that today there are many options to learn in ways that fit your needs – from various online courses to summer or winter schools that are not so time-consuming as a full-time college.
And if you want to successfully execute a career change, then you must have support and guidance to learn those skills correctly. All the hard work will pay off – you just have to keep grinding.
4. Focus on Meaningful Job Search Efforts
Indeed, Ziprecruiter and Monster are popular tools, but are they worth hours of your day? For a complete career change, these job search sites may not be the best use of your time. When you’re ready to start applying, use these sites with as much efficiency as possible. Load your resumes and focus your time on more meaningful job search efforts.
Optimise your LinkedIn profile to match you with opportunities in your career change plan. LinkedIn, the professional platform, has many small features that can offer job seekers a big payoff. The matching feature is not one to overlook!
When viewing a job, look to the right of the company information, and it should show which skills or educational background aligns with the job’s description. Adding any new education and updating your skills is the best way to match with jobs.
Another key component to enhancing your job search efforts is to expand your network. Connect with friends of friends and people you know who have made career changes.
5. Consider All of Your Options
Decades ago, if you wanted to change careers, you might try an internship or job shadowing experience. Internships aren’t as common anymore, and that makes it difficult to make connections and understand the actual work behind the job description. However, you still have many options available beyond simply landing a job.
- Freelancing, contract, and ad-hoc work are still options. Through platforms such as Upwork or job boards, you can access short-term work. On top of payment, you’ll have the opportunity to build skills, meet people in the industry, and learn more about companies that work in that field.
- Temp work, similar to freelancing, provides the opportunity to gain experience and make connections.
- Entry-level positions may not be desirable, but many “entry-level” positions now require a degree and could be the starting point for recent graduates.
For adults who are possibly mid-career and ready to pivot, you might have the prowess or know-how to work as a consultant. Many industries, fields, and business functions overlap, making it easy to work as a consultant. Or, you might change careers toward a hobby or personal passion where you have interest and education to support this option.
6. Update Your Resume and Market Your Abilities
Updating your resume is not the final step but instead something you will need to revisit multiple times.
When updating your resume:
- Remove any positions that don’t showcase relevant skills.
- Focus on using keywords in your skills, experience, and education sections.
- Reformat the document to make it easy-to-read and visually appealing.
- Rephrase outdated sayings or skills such as “proficient with Windows ME.”
- Set your contact information at the top, and ensure it is up-to-date
- Add keywords wherever possible to align with your new career path.
After you’ve primed your resume, focus on your cover letter writing skills. Use the cover letter as a chance to give context to how your skills and experience can apply to the available position. Always create a unique cover letter to fit the open position and address the hiring manager directly.
Finally, ensure that you’re keeping your social media profiles up to date. From Facebook to Handshake, keep all of your social media profiles professional and make it clear that you’re actively looking for a position that involves a career change.
Making a career change can be a stressful and challenging experience but if you prepare yourself as we are suggesting – you can make the transition go as smoothly as possible. Have in mind that it’s never too late to follow your dreams and start a new career that will make you happy and fulfilled.
About the author: With years of experience as a content strategist and creator, Anita Sambol has a ‘super-power’ of being a clear human voice for brands when talking to their audience. One of the projects she currently enjoys the most is being a content associate to EU Business School, where she’s writing about business education, student life and online learning.