How To Make a Career Change: A 6-Point Action Plan

Are you fed up with your career? You’re not alone.

One study found that close to one-third of professionals between 25 and 44 have considered a career change. Nearly 30% have changed careers after starting their first job.

Why do people make a career change? It could be to join a career field with high salaries. Others switch careers because their passions have changed. Work-life balance, work flexibility, boredom, pay, and personal philosophy all factor in when changing careers.

If you’re looking for a career change, here’s your 6-point action plan to make it happen.

How To Make a Career Change in 6 Steps

Step 1: Why Are You Unhappy?

Understanding why you are unhappy in your existing career is the only way to ensure your next career doesn’t put you right back in the same place.

If a better work/life balance is your primary motivation for switching careers, it’s wise to choose a career field that allows you to spend more time with your family. Or, if your compensation is your main concern, be sure to look at career fields with higher average salaries than the one you’re in.

Write down why you are unhappy in your existing career. Also, note your values and core interests. Don’t keep this in your head. The act of writing helps reinforce why you’re prepared to switch careers and helps confirm that it’s something you need to do.

Step 2: Look for Jobs in Your New Career Field

Proactively looking for job opportunities in the career field you’re pursuing is a great way to understand the skills and qualifications you will need to succeed.

Pay attention to the specific skills, certifications, and education required. Required technical skills such as knowledge of software applications, programming languages, and business processes are commonly mentioned in job openings. Jot these down.

Before applying for a job, take note of any required skill sets that you don’t yet have and mark those down to pursue. Acquiring some skills may require going back to school.

I recommend looking at ten or more job openings to get a good feel for common skills in the industry.

Step 3: Acquire the Skills/Education Needed

From step 2, decide how to acquire the skills you need to succeed in your new career path.

Consider attending a local community college. Depending on the skill, you may also find self-paced online training programs for specific skills and software.

Many industries require certifications to work. If your targeted industry is one of those, begin looking at online schools or training programs to get those certifications. Most certifications take anywhere from 50 to 100 hours of class time and generally require passing a test at the end before officially getting your certification.

A+, AWS, CCSP, MCSE, CISM, CCNP, and PMP are all well-known certifications within the information technology industry. Not all jobs require a certification, but having one could help distinguish you from other job candidates when applying for a job.

Step 4: Explore Your Network for Opportunities

Making a career change is the perfect opportunity to utilize your network of coworkers and professionals you’ve met in your career. Take the time to sit down with some of them, especially those who may already work in your new career field.

If someone inside your network refers you to a company, you have a much better chance of getting your foot in the door. Most companies heavily rely on personal referrals from respected staff members during their hiring process.

At the very least, seek out those in your network who have already done a career change and ask them for their advice and lessons learned. This is the perfect time to use your network.

If your network doesn’t work out, consider hiring a career coach to help you switch careers.

Step 5: Freelance/Volunteer to Gain Experience

If finding a job proves difficult, consider freelancing or volunteering your time with work related to your targeted industry. You won’t get paid for volunteer positions, but your experience with volunteering will help you get your first paid job later.

For freelance opportunities, check out places like Fiverr (if you’re moving into remote IT work or graphic design). If business consulting is your thing, offer to work with a local small business owner. Do a good job and you might get a personal referral from the business owner out of it for full-time work.

Step 6: Rebrand Yourself

Lastly, take some time to “rebrand” yourself and start on LinkedIn. Keep your previous work history, but rewrite your bio and summary to accurately reflect your new industry and career interests. Also, don’t forget little things like your email signature and business cards.

Any social media profiles, documents, biographies, or signatures should get updated to reflect your new career.

In conclusion, starting a career change can be a daunting task. But, this 6-point action plan makes it easier by using concrete steps and actionable advice. Thousands of people switch careers every year, and with a bit of effort, there is no reason why you can’t be one of them.

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