How to Prepare for a Career Change

Career Changers

Changing careers can be a daunting task for someone who has spent 20 or more years in the same occupation. Admittedly, it takes a lot of courage and strength to leave your comfort zone and possibly even your paycheck to start a new career later in life. But the good news is that plenty of people have successfully achieved this accomplishment numerous times over.

A career change most likely will not occur overnight but with proper planning and steadfast action, it can be done. The ultimate goal is to get it done without trying to take shortcuts. And I know that this may sound frustrating to some who have already spent years obtaining their education and even longer honing their craft. But, it is not always easy or efficient to simply uproot your career without taking the proper steps.

I was faced with this same dilemma a few years ago when I decided to transition into coaching. I have over 17 years of experience as a health science educator. My bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees are all aligned with my previous career path. When I felt the need to venture out on my own and start my own business I did not want to spend a great deal of time studying or learning a new skill. But, I had to in order to be successful at what I currently do.

Though I had a number of years of experience in career coaching from my previous career, I knew very little about business or financial coaching. So I dug my heels in and started learning the necessary skills for becoming effective in these areas as well. It took me about two years of planning, preparation, and practice to get to a level where I felt confident in starting my own business as a coach. But, I did it and so can you if you follow these steps.

Start Your Education

In order to successfully transition into another career path, you must become knowledgeable in the key skills that it takes to properly execute the new career path. This may be in the form of going to trade school, college, or university.

You must have a license or certification to legally practice in some professions. Even if you already have a terminal degree in your current profession, you may need to get another degree to enter a different career field. For instance, you may have a master’s degree in cybersecurity, but you desire to become a registered nurse (RN). Even with a strong educational background in cybersecurity, you will still need to complete the appropriate amount of college credits and internship hours in nursing school to qualify to sit for the RN exam.

It typically won’t take you as long to complete another degree if you already have one. You may be able to complete a bachelor’s degree in two years or less if you already have a bachelor’s degree or higher in a different discipline. So the good news is that you may not have to start from scratch.

However, it is not always necessary to get a formal education in order to become proficient or legally practice in certain career fields. You may be able to take a few online courses, read some books, or study under a guru in order to efficiently transition into a different career path. For instance, you can make a lucrative career in web designing but it doesn’t require any formal training to start a career in this profession.

So your education should start with researching the requirements for entering into the career path that you choose to transition into. Thereafter, you will need to plot the best plan of action for accomplishing your education goals.

Complete an Internship or Apprenticeship

Gaining experience in a new career field is an invaluable asset for making a smooth transition. In many cases, colleges and universities provide internship or apprenticeship experiences, which makes a strong case for getting a formal education in a career field. On the other hand, there are a number of internship and apprenticeship opportunities for prospective career changers that are not linked to formal education programs.

If it is difficult to find such opportunities, volunteer experiences can also provide you with valuable experience in your chosen discipline. This can be in the form of volunteerism through established organizations or volunteer opportunities that you create on your own.

When I decided to transition into coaching I started off by volunteering my services to family, friends, and various organizations. I provided my coaching services to my family and friends without charging fees. I also spoke at various events related to my coaching areas. This gave me the chance to hone my skills and get some constructive feedback on how to improve.

Connect with a Career Coach

Another valuable asset in the career change process is a career coach. A career coach can point you in the right direction so that you can make the most efficient use of your time and resources. Such a professional can help you get through the challenging seasons of your career transition when you feel like giving up or when you start to feel stuck. A career coach can give you encouragement, support, and advice on many levels.

A career coach can also help you develop a stellar portfolio, including industry-specific resumes and cover letters that can help get you noticed. Many career changers end up selling themselves short when they start their job search. They may play down their previous experience that is not related to the career they are transitioning into or they may not properly emphasize the new skills and traits that they have gained. This is why having someone with an objective eye is critical in the job search process.

A career coach can also help you prepare for important interviews or salary negotiations. Oftentimes career changers do not truly understand their value when they transition into a new career path. They sometimes ask for less than what they deserve because of their career path trajectory.

For instance, I have had clients who have transitioned from roles in retail management to roles that require a college degree. Oftentimes these clients feel that they should accept an entry-level salary in their career field simply because they don’t have experience in the new profession. They fail to properly evaluate their transferable skills in the transition so they aren’t confident enough to ask for what they truly deserve. That’s where I come in. I help them to assess their real value and prepare them to negotiate like a pro.