Change is scary. There’s always uncertainty and risk involved in leaving the unknown and trying something new, however at the same time, change is a necessary part of growth and an essential part of a successful professional career path.
Though switching careers is encouraged now more than ever, you shouldn’t turn in your two-week’s notice and try something new without first thinking about what you need to do. Since changing careers, as with changing anything, inherently involves risk, it helps to have a few weapons up your sleeve to successfully ease you through the transition.
Here are some tips that will help you though your career switch.
#1: Have a Clear Vision
Begin with the end in mind. A clear vision of your end goal and how you plan to get there allows you to accurately anticipate what this move is going to take. Plus, seeing the shiny new career at the end of the tunnel will help you survive any bumps in the road along the way. Start by getting really clear with yourself and asking the big questions:
- What do you actually want? Be as specific as possible! Try to go beyond “a career in advertising,” for instance, and get clear on the type of environment you’d like to work in, the different projects you’d be excited to take on, and the way you’d like to feel around your manager and colleagues.
- Why do you want it? Get clear on why it is you want to switch careers—if you’re just burnt out at your current job, perhaps, maybe it’s not a whole new career that you need, but simply a new role (or some time off!).
Remember that you don’t have to figure out the rest of your life right now; just plan for the step you want to take next. Consider what you do like about your current work, think about the things you do for fun, and ask yourself what you’d like to learn to do or do more of—now, brainstorm the jobs or industries where those overlap!
Once your end goal is clear, start planning for the change.
- What do you have to offer, including transferable experience and skills
- What you’re lacking, such as new skills you need to learn, and how you might be able to gain them
- Who can help you make the switch, including connections who can make introductions, write recommendations, or simply give you insight into a new industry
- Anything else you need to prepare, such as setting up a new budget to help you plan for a pay cut (more on that in a minute)
By getting clear and making a plan, you’ll be more confident in your decision and in the next steps you need to take to successfully make the switch.
#2: Your Online Brand
Once you know where you’re headed, you need to make sure other people know that, too—by changing the way you present yourself to the world. Ensure your online brand is targeted towards the industry you want to move into.
Don’t just slap up a new professional bio and call it a day, though. Really consider the field and the connections you’re targeting as you build (or update) your online presence. What do they want and need to know about you to take you seriously as you make this career shift? What topics are they interested in that you can weigh in on? What pictures will best convey your personality and the appropriate level of professionalism?
There are so many affordable ways to build a presence online – from creating a personal website, to your profile on sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter. Choose a platform to sell yourself, your experience and your interests.
As you update your online persona, integrate some of the answers to your big questions on your website and throughout your content: What do you want? Why do you want it? What are you willing to do to get it?
#3: An Active Network
You’ve got a clear vision for career switch success and an online persona to prove it, so you know what you need and you’re showing off what you’ve got. Now it’s time to ask for help.
Reach out to the people in your network—your peers, your mentors, and any connections in the industry you’d like to transition into—and let them know about your plan to change careers. Don’t discount close friends and family, either! You can and should send an email to your nearest and dearest, updating them on your career shift and asking for their support and connections.
Take time to research the top recruiters in your desired industry and reach out to them on LinkedIn. Let them know that you’re interested in making a move and you would love to stay in touch if any relevant opportunities become available. Again, show them that you’ve done your homework and be specific about the role you’re looking for – telling them you want any job in engineering or at Facebook just won’t cut it.
The reality of changing careers is that it’s risky—and not always easy. Again, there are a lot of unknown scenarios (all which you’ve planned for, of course): You may have to start at the bottom, you may take a pay cut, you may be told you’re overqualified (or not qualified at all!).
It’s a journey that will likely require a lot of hard work, patience, and humility, but it’s important to remember that the best opportunities come to those with patience and persistence. You have planned and prepared for this next step; after all of that hard work, don’t give up on your new dream just before it comes true.
Keep your spirits high and your eyes focused on your end goal. Remember, you started out with the end in mind, telling yourself why you wanted this new opportunity: Be persistent in your pursuit of it and you’ll undoubtedly get there.