Have you reached a breaking point at your current job? Maybe this role once served the person you were or the goals you once had, but people and circumstances change— and you may be in desperate need for a career change.
But making a career switch can be a frightening concept, often associated with the massive time commitment of learning a new trade, mounds of college debt and the defeating sense of “starting over” at the bottom of the corporate ladder.
While there’s no doubt that starting a new career will take a lot of dedication and work, for those truly ready for the transition, it can be the best decision they ever made.
Here’s how you can make a career change a little easier:
1. Critically Ask Yourself, “Why?”
What’s at the root of your desire to make a career shift? Are you truly dissatisfied with your profession or just with this particular company or work environment? A bad boss or a poor-fitting culture can really affect your happiness— but for these scenarios, a job hop could be the positive change you need… not an entire career rehaul.
If you’ve just lost passion in your role and want a change in pace, before you do a complete career shift, ask yourself if a different position under the same field could be your answer. Perhaps you can still use your degree or skills, just channel them differently. If after careful consideration, you truly want out of this field, your next step should be to formulate a transition plan.
2. Explore New Career Path Options
You may reach a point of realization that your current field is the wrong one, but aren’t sure which one is right. Here are a few ways to help you through this self-discovery:
- Take a few assessments. Find some career tests online and look for common themes in your results. Or, seek the advice of a professional advisor for help discovering your passion.
- Mindmap. Jot down a few of your core values and buzzwords that represent fulfillment for you on notecards, and mix them up. Group similar cards together and reflect on what types of jobs these coincide with.
- Ask close friends and family. Seek the advice of those who know you best by asking for their input on what they could see you doing. They might say something that surprises you, or springboard another idea.
- Consider casual connections. Pull up your LinkedIn or your phone’s contact list and start scrolling through the names. Do you know of anyone who could set you up? These people don’t necessarily have to be your friends, but could connect you with the right person or resource you need.
- Talk to others who are in the position you desire. Find someone doing the exact job you want and ask for honest advice. What do they love about the position? What do they hate? What’s one piece of advice they could share with someone just starting in that role— something they wish they knew 10 years ago?
3. Test the Waters Before Jumping In
Realistically, it’s not always possible to drop your current job, go back to school and press the reset button on your life all at once. Seek a compromise by signing up for a class or two at a local college, or find a way to slightly dip your toes into a new career without making a giant splash.
For instance, if you dream of leaving your bank job to be an art teacher, try teaching an evening “Paint & Sip” class while maintaining your current job to see if it’s as rewarding as you envisioned. Or, if you’re obsessed with interior design but have no portfolio, convince a friend to let you transform their study. These baby steps will either deepen your assurance in your transition, or set you on the path to testing a new passion out.
You may need to work hard without pay for a bit, Forbes reminds us. Don’t overlook volunteer or internship opportunities; these experiences can really pay off in the long run by getting you a foot in the door.
4. Set Micro-goals that are SMART
One reason a career transition can seem so intimidating is because it’s viewed as a huge change all at once. But in reality, it’s actually a series of tiny changes that lead to the grand finish.
Ensure your career change is realistic by setting specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely micro-goals. These SMART goals are clearly defined and are easier to check off one at a time— and they hold you accountable for timeliness and for tracking progress towards the shift. For instance, one SMART goal might be, “I will complete my Advanced Accounting online class by May 18, 2020.”
Suddenly, it’s not a career shift you’re working towards, but more attainable, smaller goals that ultimately lead to the big change you desire. “Slow and steady wins the race” in the career change game.
5. Celebrate Your Progress
Making a commitment to learn a new trade is challenging and time-consuming. You won’t be able to switch careers overnight, and depending on the new industry you choose, it could take years to transition.
After setting SMART goals, celebrate every time you reach one. Whether your victory treat is splurging on some expensive chocolate or an evening out with friends, keep the momentum going with a little gratitude for your efforts. With a positive attitude, you’ll be starting your new career before you know it.
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