Make Your Career Change Succeed!

Feeling stuck in a dead-end job? Here are 5 tips that can help you take control of your situation and transition into a career that is perfect for you!


It is hard to pinpoint what constitutes a career change because the distinction between a job and a career is never entirely clear. Everyone agrees that career changes are happening more often, with estimates running as high as seven over an average worker's lifetime. Even modest estimates report that the typical American worker is doing more than job-hopping; they are making full-fledged and frequent leaps into new careers. These changes happen because people are looking for job satisfaction, improvement, and better opportunities. Some people got stuck in the wrong job during the recession when they felt that they had to take whatever was available. Others realized their dream jobs weren't all that dreamy. Still others lost interest in careers they previously enjoyed. Whatever the reason, if you're planning a change these steps can help you achieve a successful transition.

Do Your Research

Before you sail full speed ahead, make sure you know what you're getting into. Careers often look different from the outside than the inside, which is how many people wind up hating their jobs in the first place. Often the real job doesn't live up to their idealized view of the position. The internet can only tell you so much. The harsher realities of a job, or even a whole field, are often suffered behind closed doors. Contact someone who has the job you want and take them to lunch. Ask them how they spend the majority of their day. Ask them to tell you about the most frustrating part of their job. In some fields, it may even be appropriate to shadow a professional. Before you go through the legwork of a transition, you should complete as much research as possible.

Start Saving

If you are transitioning into a job that is similar to your current position, you may be able to use your years of experience to avoid an entry-level position. If the jump is significant, however, you will likely find yourself starting at the bottom of the totem pole, with the salary that accompanies that position. For a mid-level professional, this can be a financial shock.

The financial hit is one reason many people keep jobs they hate. As long as you plan, a healthy mixture of increased savings alongside a minimizing budget can pull you through. The earlier you start making the financial changes necessary to follow your ambitions, the sooner you can start down the road toward job satisfaction.

Know How Your Current Skills Complement Your New Destination

Even if you're planning to move into a field entirely different from your current position, there are likely to be transferable skills. Having a firm grasp of what these skills are and how to speak about them to potential employers will be invaluable in a successful transition. Soft skills, for example, can be applied to almost any career. Communications skills, problem-solving ability, and experience working in teams can make the transfer easier through a wide variety of options. A sales job, for example, requires you to connect with people, identify their needs and then help them to achieve their goals. There are few jobs where those skills are not valued. Evidence that you are an innovative self-starter will also go a long way.

Beyond skills developed on the job, people have often been developing useful skills on the side. Sometimes hobbies or side projects convince a person to pursue a new career in the first place. Be sure to emphasize these skills and experiences throughout your transition. Include them in your resume. They often show passion and drive in addition to straight skills.

Develop Additional Skills

Depending on the distance between your current field and the work you would like to do, you may need to develop new skills. In extreme cases, your dream job may require you to go back to school. You can't be a doctor without General Biology or a physicist without Calculus. In other cases, you can fill these gaps on the job. You will need to convince an employer that your experience and existing skills allow you to fulfill the majority of a position's needs. Remember that developing new skills doesn't necessarily require classes. Sometimes a volunteer position or part-time employment opportunity in a related field will do the trick.

Land Your First Job

Landing your first job in a new field is the most challenging part of a transition. Even entry-level jobs are hard to secure. You will be competing against a hoard of eager recent college graduates. You will likely be competing against people with a few years' experiences in the field as well. The market for professional work is not on the side of labor these days. That doesn't mean it isn't possible or that you shouldn't try. Emphasizing your skill set, especially soft skills, is key.

Landing that first job in a new field, however, isn't all about skills. Often, employers are looking for the "right fit" during job interviews. Though this phrase is sometimes a nebulous idea that is impossible to qualify, it isn't that mysterious. People want to work with people they like. Your personality matters. Don't be afraid to show an employer that you're fun as well as hard-working.

A career change is not a decision to make lightly. You've worked hard to get where you are, and a new direction will certainly bring unexpected risks. You owe it to yourself to be sure that you're moving into something better and the change is something that fits your plans for your life. If you're sure, though, there's no reason to hesitate. Make your plans, set your course, and follow it!