4 Steps for Successfully Changing Careers

In today’s workforce, changing careers is virtually inevitable for the average person. Many people end up changing careers out of necessity because of the many technological, cultural, economic, geographical, and other forces that constantly shape our world.

Other people change careers out of desire. It is common for the average middle-aged person to have an urge to transition to a different career field. This is often because of the many changes that they have experienced throughout life.

Around mid-life the average person doesn’t have the same influences or mitigating factors that helped them to make their first career choice. Typically, these individuals are more financially stable and socially empowered to decide on the career path that they are truly passionate about.

If you are one of the many people considering changing careers either by choose or force, here are some steps you should take when making your career move.

Assess Your Career Aptitude

The average, traditional college student selects his or her career major based on financial or social influences. They usually select a career field in which they can easily find a job and earn a decent salary. Typically, they are heavily influenced by their parents or guardians and/or their peers.

When this happens, the average person doesn’t usually select a career based on their innate passion. They decide on what is convenient from a variety of aspects. They may go on to have a fulfilling and pleasurable career. However, they may not have made the best career choice according to their natural aptitude.

When changing careers, this is something that you should think critically about. Does your chosen career field align with your natural aptitude and desire? If not, you will probably be setting yourself up for disappointment.

There are a number of ways that you can assess your career aptitude. You can take a career aptitude test. There are many free and fee-based aptitude tests available online or through college career service centers. Such tests can give you a basic foundation in which direction to go in when selecting a suitable career path.

Another great way to dig deeper into your career aptitude is to work with a career or life coach. Working one-on-one with a coach can help you discover your passion and purpose on a deeper level. The right career coach can give you substantial feedback in an unbiased and professional manner.

Research Your Desired Career Sector

Once you decide on which career path you want to take, you need to do some research. You need to understand how the career field works and how you plan to navigate through the career path.

All careers aren’t created equal and all career paths aren’t for everyone. You may feel a burning desire to pursue a career that just isn’t a good fit for your age or your life path. You must consider your financial situation and responsibilities when changing careers.

Some career transitions may necessitate a pay cut, schedule change, etc. that may interrupt the flow of your life. These are things that you need to be aware of before moving forward.

Get the Proper Education and Training

When it comes to changing careers, you should never shortchange yourself when it comes to education and training. It may feel daunting or overwhelming to think about going back to school or completing an entry-level training program but it may be necessary.

In some cases you may be able to transition to a new career field without much time or effort. But the average person will spend about one to two years preparing for a career transition.

The good news is that it is not a long period of time in comparison to years of joy and fulfillment that you experience in your new career. Anything worth having is worth waiting and working for.

Redefine Your Personal Brand

Finally, you need to redefine your personal brand when changing careers. Most likely your career portfolio is solely based on your previous or current career. You will need to fine tune your career portfolio and your sense of self in order to access opportunities in your new profession.

In order to do this you will need to take inventory on how your past education and experience integrate with and complement your new skillset. In essence, you need to reinvent yourself. Not just on paper, but you need to reinvent your person.

Changing careers comes with new demands and requires a different way of relating to yourself and your work. Chances are you won’t be able to show up in the same way unless your new career is closely related to your previous or current one.

It is a good idea to work with a professional such as a career counselor or coach to help you redefine your personal brand.

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 over night 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 a 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 in order 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 in order to enter a different career field. For instance, you may have a master’s degree in cyber security but you desire to become a registered nurse (RN). Even with a strong educational background in cyber security, you will still need to complete the appropriate amount of college credits and internship hours in nursing school in order 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 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 to 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 internship and/or 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 may 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 valuate their transferable skills in the transition so they aren’t confident enough to ask for what they truly deserve. That’s were I come in. I help them to assess their real value and prepare to them to negotiate like a pro.

Need more career coaching advice? Contact us for more assistance.