6 Steps to Make a Career Change

Have you reached a point where it’s time to make a career change?

If you’re contemplating a change, you’re not alone! 

Most researchers generally agree that people change careers between three and seven times in their lifetime. That means questioning your path is perfectly normal.

This is where most people find the next big hurdle - you’ve decided you’re ready for a change, but now what? How do you know what to do next?

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the weight of the decision that you go around in circles.

Now, change is almost never comfortable - it’s much easier to cruise along with what you already know. But mapping out a decision-making plan can build your confidence as you consider whether it’s the right time to switch careers.

The right decisions tend to be made with good planning. Have you planned out your decision-making strategy?

Here are some key steps or milestones for that journey:

Craft your own personal brand with my steps here

#1. Start with why

You already know you’ve outgrown your current role or that you just don’t like doing what you do anymore. To head down a new path, you need to go beyond that - you need to understand your “why.”

The danger of not working on this “why” question first is that you might jump into something new only to find yourself in the same position, wanting a change.  

To address that danger, consider these questions:

  • Why do I want to do this?
  • How will a career change make my life better?
  • If I could magically alter my current job to fit my needs, what would need to be different?

#2. Make a decision about what’s next

This is a major hurdle for most people - you’ve established that you’re ready for a career change, but what should you do next? How do you know you will make a decision that you’re happy with?

When I’m counseling people through this kind of decision, I like to take a systematic approach that first defines the problem we’re trying to solve. Get very specific about the ultimate end-goal. Because that often reveals opportunities to meet your need that you had never considered before. It can reveal solutions that don’t involve an entirely new career.

#3. Map out what you need to do to get there

What skills, qualifications and experience are required for your desired role? Is there anything needed that you don’t yet have? It may be that you can’t simply hand in your notice tomorrow, but you can strategically plan to meet the requirements of the job within a reasonable period of time.

Be careful not to assume you can step from one management role or executive position to an equivalent position in another industry. If you’re under the impression that you can, I recommend you read Dawn Graham’s book, Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers -- and Seize Success.

Graham describes the psychological barriers you have to overcome in the minds of the hiring teams you’ll encounter. And she helps you consider ways to establish your value in a new industry without starting from the very bottom rung.

Create a roadmap to get you from where you are now to the job role that you want to be in. Writing down a plan and breaking it down into clearly defined tasks tends to help you move ahead. Making it time-bound is even better.

#4. Work on building your networks

Who do you need to meet to help you along the path to your chosen career? It’s not just because “who you know” can open doors, but learning from successful people within that profession can help to guide your own path.

Somewhere around 80% of jobs are never advertised online or in classified advertisements. Recruiters and hiring managers use their networks too - it is beneficial to them if the process is made easier because someone already knows someone.

One of the big questions people often ask is, how do I meet these people? The first step is to mobilize your current networks. Talk to trusted people you already know and tell them what you are hoping to achieve. People are often willing to make an introduction to someone they know, especially if you are expressing interest in what they do.

Second, work on putting yourself out there. Join career-focused groups online or local meetup groups. Chambers of Commerce, community organizations such as Rotary, or Young Professionals groups can also be great for meeting new people.

#5. Map out your “personal brand”

If you’ve been involved with marketing in any way, you will know that it is all about branding for the right target audience. The same goes for marketing yourself for a career change. Your current “personal brand” is probably geared toward your current career - you may need to make intentional adjustments to how you present yourself.

The idea is to make it immediately obvious that you’re a good candidate for your ideal role across any medium you use to advertise yourself. This might include your LinkedIn profile, your resumē, and any other personal profile that you have.

A friend of mine was making a career change from banking professional to travel writer. She completely changed the way she “showed up” online. Her social media accounts became devoted to travel photography and writing, her LinkedIn profile showed clips of her writing, and her resumē focused on skills and experience relevant to travel writing.

Work started coming to her because there was social proof available - her personal brand said “travel writer.” Had she left her profiles as they were, they still would have said “banker” to anyone who looked. It’s important that your “branding” meets the expectations of your target audience.

Map out your own personal brand - download my worksheet here.

#6. Work with a coach

I leave this point until last, but of course this could be the very first point, to help you map out your career change journey.

The point of working with a coach who specializes in career changes is that you get a clear-headed, non-judgmental person to help you work through the big decisions. A coach doesn’t have skin in the game like a friend who doesn’t want you to move, or a spouse who fears financial instability.

This can be helpful when you’re stressed, or so close to the problem that it’s difficult to see where to go. A mentor will help you take a step back, look at the possibilities, and weigh your decisions objectively.

“One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.” — John C. Maxwell

Final Thoughts

Change is scary. It’s part of the innate human condition though, and one of the only constants you’ll encounter in life. So you might as well get good at it, especially in the current age of accelerating change.

We humans have a natural bias that causes us to avoid change in favor of the status quo. If you’re willing to take the steps to make a change, kudos! You’ve already taken an important psychological leap forward.

A career change may be terrifying, especially if you’re stepping into the unknown, but which is more scary? Staying in a career where you’re unhappy, or making the moves to get out of there?

It starts with one step to get you on the path to a new career and you’re already on your way.


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