7 Tips For Successfully Changing Careers
When we watch the weather report each evening, we could be forgiven for being at least a little skeptical, especially for forecasts of more than 2-3 days. With that in mind, why is it that we expect is a 18-22 year old not only know the true extent of the career options that exist but to then choose the right career for the next 40-plus years?
As a consequence, most people will at least contemplate a career switch, at several points in their career. If you find you7rself moving beyond it being a daydream and want to take action, you will first need a well-considered period of exploration and planning in order to be successful.
Firstly, it is important to remember that a career change is not without its own costs and risks. These often involve a pay-cut and a drop in seniority. As a result, the excitement of the change has to be balanced the daunting nature of the task and your willingness to take a step back, in order to move forward. However, as in the case of most things, planning, patience and persistence are necessary – without those three ingredients no career change will succeed.
If you find yourself considering a career switch, here are just a few tips to consider:
- Undertake careful self-reflection of your situation. Do you truly understand WHY you are wanting to change careers? Failing to really understand why you want to make the change can result in a lot of time, effort and cost be expended, with little to no return. A change in careers undertaken without understanding why and what you want out of it might leave you in same position you are now, in a few short years.
If you are entertaining a change and you’re genuinely dissatisfied with your current career, it is vital that you need to know why? Are you working too many hours? Maybe the work is just very dissatisfying satisfying? Can’t stand your boss? Are your stress levels starting to impact your health or relationships? Are you underpaid for the work you do? If you know your why, you will ultimately find the what.
Accordingly, you should avoid fleeing a career and taking the first opportunity. Acting out of frustration, panic or despair is a recipe for ‘rushing to failure.’ Instead, make a conscious decision about your future and move toward it. In short, ‘more speed, less haste.’
- Understand what you really want to get out of the change. What is the end goal? If you can truly grasp what you don’t like about your current role, and the things you really want in any new career you can start to get somewhere. For example, if you hate being chained to a desk all day, then going to law school isn’t likely to magically solve your problem. Perhaps you like working with people, but don’t enjoy the pressure of sales? Moving from real estate sales to pharmaceutical sales won’t address the underlying point of friction. Moving from real estate to financial planning might – depending on what the underlying issue is.
That being said, don’t believe the hype that ‘if you do the thing you like, you’ll never work a day in your life.’ In all honestly, it is total BS. Ask any professional athlete, they no doubt spent the vast majority of their youth training for and playing their chosen sport. They no doubt spent countless nights unable to sleep because they were consciously thinking about the day that they finally ‘made it.’ Now that they have, and despite the love for their sport, going to the gym and working out EVERY single day, together with massive amounts of travel and sacrifice will still be ‘work.’ That doesn’t mean they hate their job, but we call it ‘work’ for a reason. There is no job in this world that is exciting, enriching, challenging, fun and ‘rainbows and unicorns’ every day, all the time. Instead, you need to see what things matter most and to find the job that meets most of those needs, most of the time.
Now… that should not put you off considering a change though, but it does highlight the importance of pre-switch planning. The chances are, there are several careers out there that will make you feel happier, more engaged and make greater use of your talents, but even those jobs will have days that feel a lot like ‘work.’
- Don’t limit your own options but look at everything through the lens of reality. How old are you? What is your academic and professional background? As much as it might sting, becoming a playing professional athlete, a neurosurgeon, or sitting on the Supreme Court is probably not on the cards, especially if you are starting over in your 40’s. Now, this doesn’t mean it hasn’t been done, or can’t be, but you need to accept that not every possible career is a viable one. If you are going to execute switch, you want the switch that has the highest chance of succeeding, with the highest reward.
Being able to set unattainable goals will lead to frustration, a lack of progress and the destruction of your self-confidence. These are the enemies of a career switcher.
- Determine the skills and education you need for your new career. Do you need a new degree? Are you missing technical skills? What soft skills do you need to be effective in the new career you’re aiming for? What do you need in order to transition to the next level? Begin developing the necessary skills as quickly as possible, as this is very often the thing that delays or stalls a career change.
- Do not quit your current role, unless you have a new one confirmed. If you’re in a situation where you don’t have that option, fine (we will deal with that) but if possible, wait until you have another position confirmed before jumping ship. It is always easier to find a job while you have one. You will also appreciate how fast your savings will dissipate once you don’t have a check coming in at the end of the month!
If you’ve lost your job unexpectedly, you may need to consider taking a short-term job until you’ve successfully made your career change. A career switch is rarely impossible, if you have the time, patience and the willingness to do what is required. That being said, you should do what you can to avoid extended periods of doing nothing. Hate your job? Good – use that as motivation to plan and execute your career switch plan as quickly and cleanly as possible.
- From the start, you need to willingly accept that you may have to start at the bottom. Were you sales champ with a corner office at a multinational corporation? Great, but if you want to change to computer programming, you may need to accept a shift to being a lot further down the food-chain. Lateral career changes are rare – the bigger the switch, the more likely that you will need to start at the bottom. You won’t stay there, but you need to be willing to accept it – ego kills a lot of things, including career changes.
- The more connections you can make in your desired field and the nature of those connections will have a huge impact the success of your career change. If you don’t have those connections – you need to. Do you know anyone in your desired career field? Can you do an internship or volunteer? Can you use your current network to create an introduction? Could you find a part-time in your desired career to get some experience? Even in the midst of pandemic, it has never been easier to connect with people than it is today – take advantage of that!
Ideally, if you do change careers, the goal is to make as few as possible as it will be emotionally, personally and financially draining. With that in mind you do need to carve out the time required to carefully consider why you to change, and to what – measure twice, cut once. What is the end goal, and will a change get you there?
Finally, check your ego. The reality is that almost every career change involves a step back/down in seniority. You don’t have to stay there, but if you can’t check your ego and accept that, no career change will be effective, or satisfy your current frustrations without it.
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