There are clearly numerous reasons why someone might decide to change professions. Whether these changes are due to the progression of one’s life and career, or otherwise, what is certain is that the majority of adults change careers with relative frequency throughout their lives.
The Department of Labor demonstrates that, of adults born between 1957 and 1964, the average person has held nearly twelve jobs throughout their lives, with the majority of these career changes occurring before the age of 24.
With these statistics, a career move may be an inevitable part of your future. In this article, we will discuss how to ensure that any change you make in your career — despite the reason — is a successful one.
What does it mean to change careers and why would I want to do this?
Sometimes a career change is necessary due to an economically unstable industry. Other times, you may just no longer be passionate about the career you initially chose to pursue, or it may simply be time to move on to a job with different expectations. There are also personal and familial reasons why a career change (or a re-entry into the job market) might be necessary.
No matter your reasons for switching careers, it is most certainly a difficult and daunting task. When we switch careers, we are essentially taking a leap of faith; it’s risking a sense of stability to pursue the unknown, although it might be better in the long run.
Fortunately there are ways to make the task of switching careers easier and more success- oriented.
How do I ensure that my career change is a success?
1. Know what it is that you like to do.
You are more likely to enjoy your next career if you know what it is you like about your current career or past jobs. Just as it’s important to identify what it is that you have liked about each position you have held, it helps to also recognize what you disliked. This will help you determine what will motivate you toward a new career of choice.
In addition, it’s often necessary to reflect on what’s important for you to pursue in your daily life, on a regular basis. If career growth is a priority but you feel stifled in your current position, then you may want to seek out opportunities that emphasize the potential for growth. If consistently learning or engaging creatively is a priority, then you will want to stay away from jobs that may turn monotonous.
2. Know what opportunities are out there.
Now that you know what it is you like to do, it’s time to assess what opportunities will allow you to pursue that. Thoroughly research the opportunities available in your desired field or industry. Look at online job boards and stay informed by subscribing to industry specific publications or joining online groups. Stay connected through LinkedIn and other social media outlets.
It’s also possible to research opportunities within the organization with which you’re already working. These opportunities may not be immediately obvious, but if you are aggressive about pursuing them, you might be surprised as to what you might find. You can do this by speaking with those in upper level positions about additional projects that you might want to pursue or possibilities for more responsibility.
3. Realize that starting over is okay.
If you made real progress within a job and you now find yourself needing to start over somewhere else, this can be discouraging. You may need to start over for any variety of reasons: You may have been laid off and need to pursue work in another industry, or you may have needed to take time off because of a major change in your life. Regardless of whether the shift was due to changes within your career, industry, or life, admitting that you need to start from the beginning can help you prepare for your next move.
4. Know your strengths and weaknesses.
While you may know what you’re interested in, you should also know what you’re well-suited for. Each position requires a certain set of technical skills and a certain demeanor. While you may know what sort of technical skills you possess, you might not be exactly sure of what kind of job your personality is best suited for.
5. Set Clear Goals.
While your immediate goal may be to find a job that makes you happy, it is important to identify your objectives as they pertain to your entire career path. What are your medium and long term goals? In addition to your short-term goals, it is important to answer questions about the future and what you ultimately want.
Furthermore, it is important to write down the steps that you need to take in order to achieve those goals. Once you realize, and can clearly see, what it is that you need to do to meet your goals they will feel far less overwhelming.
Once you realize that you are in the market for a new job – either because your position has been eliminated or because you’re looking for something new — one of the first steps is to tap into your professional network. Make sure that any contacts you have made in your industry know that you are actively pursuing employment. Utilize social media and make sure to update your accounts to reflect any new experience or accomplishments. LinkedIn is a great source both for job-searching and for making contacts within your profession. You may also consider scheduling an appointment with a career professional.
It’s possible to network within your own company or organization, as well. Letting colleagues know that you are looking to advance can be a good way to get noticed for a promotion. Clearly articulating your goals to others can help solidify them to you, as well.
7. Find someone who can mentor you.
A mentor can be an indispensable resource for someone who is seeking a career change or career growth. This allows you valuable insight from someone who knows inside information or who has been on a similar path as you. Within your organization, your mentor may be your manager or another person in a leadership position. Sometimes, mentorships are established by the company or occur naturally. Other times, you may need to reach out on your own.
You can also search for mentors by making connections online. Or you can meet people in person through expo’s and industry events.
8. Be flexible and try to be realistic.
When searching for a job, you need to do your best to be realistic. Patience is crucial because it may take some time to find the job that you want and need. If you were laid off, or if the economy and your current company are facing uncertainty, you might need to wait longer than you want to in order to secure your desired position.
This is especially true if you are switching careers completely. While you may have had a great deal of experience within your previous position, you might not in the jobs you are currently looking to pursue. This could mean taking a pay-cut as you work your way back up, or accepting a part-time position while you learn. In this case, it helps to be prepared.
9. Find new opportunities in unique places.
While you might not currently have the opportunity to pursue your desired career change or accumulate new skills within your immediate position, you can find these opportunities elsewhere with a little creativity. Sometimes, this means taking unpaid positions such as an internship until you can learn what you need to know to apply for more advanced positions.
Volunteering is also a great way to build an entirely new set of skills and to make unexpected connections. They can help you further determine what you truly want to do. It may make you realize that you have interests you otherwise would not have known to pursue.
10. Maintain your optimism.
When making a career change, it’s easy to get frustrated at times. If you lost your job, it can feel especially discouraging to start from scratch. You may be worried about making enough money to get by and you might feel overwhelmed by the prospect of searching for something new. If you view your job loss as the potential to pursue something that will eventually be better, then you may be able to adopt a more positive outlook, overall.
Of course, if you’re searching for a new career on your own accord, it can also be intimidating. It takes time, patience, and a great deal of diligence to pursue what will make you will make you feel fulfilled. Constantly staying proactive through making new connections and developing your skills will help you stay motivated.
Here are some of the key ways to make sure that finding a new career is as easy and successful as possible.
- Establish your goals and strengths and then use this to make connections and discover the career that’s right for you.
- Be diligent about seeking out new opportunities and learning new skills, even if it means doing so in non-traditional ways.
- Be emotionally and financially prepared to start from the beginning.
- Be flexible, realistic, and optimistic.
Following these tips can help even the most spontaneous career change less nerve-wracking.
Stewart, Cooper & Coon offers Human Capital Strategy Services to both individuals and corporations. Our staff is dedicated to our clients’ success via innovative job search processes, employment management strategies, and state-of-the-art technologies. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200