You know it’s time. You’re not satisfied in your current job and are ready to make a significant career change. But how do you begin? What steps should you take to facilitate a smooth transition from one career to another?
In this post, I will discuss some of the strategies you can use to pursue a new career path. It piggybacks off my last blog post, which focused on how to identify when it’s time to make a significant career change. As a career coach, I am well aware that each career transition is unique (and requires varying degrees of re-education, networking, and rebranding), but there are some fundamental steps you can take, no matter the circumstances of your career change. Use the following list as a springboard to get started.
Even though your next steps may be challenging, remember that you are attempting to make a positive and healthy transformation in your life. Go boldly in pursuit of your dreams!
- Enlist help from a career coach
Seeking a new career path can be daunting, confusing, or frustrating at times. You don’t have to do it alone! A career coach can help you clearly define your direction, create a game plan for reaching your goals, and work through practical details (such as revamping your résumé or helping you with a cover letter). As a career coach, I emphasize the importance of identifying your core values and how they translate into a career. I also address the other side of the job search: What types of jobs, work environments, and management-types do you want to AVOID?
A qualified career coach will offer guidance, support, and professional assistance throughout your career transition. She will enable you to work through all of the steps listed below and empower you in your search.
- Uncover the reality behind the dream
Sometimes your dream job turns out to be a lot different than what you might have envisioned. You may think, for instance, that a naturalist gets to spend most of her time in the field, but there is actually a lot of paperwork and meticulous record-keeping that accompanies this position.
To get a clear idea of what someone in your dream job does on a day-to-day basis, start researching. Look for information online and set up informational interviews or lunch meetings with people who work in the job you’d like to pursue.
- Set goals and a timeline
When you make up your mind to go after a new career, it can be easy to lose focus or motivation after the first few weeks, especially if you feel somewhat secure in your current job. Fight complacency! Set a timeline for yourself that lays out when you’d like to make a full transition into a new career and what steps you need to take along the way. Look at your timeline every morning and ask yourself what you need to do TODAY to work toward your end goal.
- Educate yourself
Depending on the career, you don’t necessarily have to go out and invest in a whole new degree. You may already have some of the skills necessary to make the switch. Oftentimes, education can come from meeting with people, online research, free webinars, low cost community classes, conferences and seminars, or even working or volunteering part-time in your desired field.
- Talk to your support system
When you’re making a major change, it’s always a good idea to call upon your family and close friends for support. You’ll likely run into obstacles or emotional lows during your career transition, and your support system can help build your confidence or give you a shoulder to lean on during these trying times. Additionally, your support system can also act as an accountability system. Ask your friends and family to periodically check in with you about your progress. When you have someone (or multiple someones!) invested in your career change, that can motivate you to keep on going!
- Build a financial safety net
Oftentimes, there is a little lag time between leaving your old job and stepping into a new one. You’ll want to be financially prepared, in case you have to wait several weeks (or months) between paychecks.
And, what if your new job doesn’t work out? What if you find yourself in a position or company you dislike and decide to return to the job hunt? It’s best to build up your savings account so you can handle unexpected financial hurdles.
- Celebrate milestones
Although the road between one career and another can seem long and arduous, you will have victorious moments along the way. Recognizing and celebrating your achievements can give you a motivation bump and help you remember that you are making progress. Celebrate when you finish revising your résumé or when you complete your continuing education classes or when you’re asked to come in for your first interview. Remember: having a positive frame of mind is an essential component of any successful job hunt.