Okay. We’ve all been there. One day, you just snap out of it and realize that maybe, just maybe, this isn’t what you wanted out of a career. Maybe you feel you’re not getting paid what you’re worth. Or that your current career is basically a dead end job.
Whatever the reason, you start thinking of other avenues and career tracks – and you decide that you want to get out of what you’re currently doing. Changing career paths may be a decision you’re contemplating now or in the near future.
Before we get into the specifics of how you can switch careers with as little of a hiccup as possible, lets talk about your motivation behind this decision.
It’s easy to assume the grass is greener on the other side, so let’s first talk about why you want to switch careers. Sometimes, the reasons that led you to start thinking of different careers may actually be stemming from you! The way you handle situations and stress, your technical ability, perspective on authority and other situations in your life can lead to similar unsatisfactory results even in a new environment. In this case, you should try to truly understand what it is you want from a career.
Don’t make the leap if you’re not sure that the same things won’t repeat themselves – it’s very hard and demotivating to come back to an old career after you’ve started putting in the work to make the shift, if only to realize you were better off where you were. Changing career paths is a decision that you should not take lightly.
That said, there are a large number of valid reasons that can and in some cases should lead to a change of career. Some jobs are just ‘dead-end’, in that you cannot expect to grow at the same rate once you reach a certain level. Most people aren’t satisfied with being stagnant and start looking at other opportunities. In some cases, monetary limitations for your current career path force you to look at better-paying alternatives.
Again, I advise caution because I have seen people who take better paying, different jobs only to find that they were much happier in the old one, eventually to come back to their old job. Not everyone will be so lucky though, jobs get filled up almost as soon as they’re vacant, and in some cases even sooner.
Okay, so you’re serious about switching careers. Lets get into it. Here are the top 3 action points I would consider essential if you want to successfully transition into a new career.
1. Get a feel for the work before committing to it.
Nothing beats knowing what you’re signing up for than actually doing the work. Are there freelance, contract or temporary opportunities in this prospective field you can possibly work on? Apart from giving you an understanding of what the work will involve, you will also understand in a basic sense how that industry functions.
In case you are planning to work for yourself, then this should be a relatively simple step to take. You just start working for yourself! There’s no need to quit your current job. In fact, I recommend that you keep doing what you’re doing till the time you’re confident that you can support yourself and your family with your new gig. If all these options are unavailable to you, move on to point no. 2.
2. Speak with someone who’s already doing what you want to do.
There’s no way you can’t do this. It’s always best if you can find someone within your circle who can introduce you to someone working in the job or even industry you’re looking to enter. There will always be aspects not that clear to you from this side of the fence, which become easily visible once they are explained to you from someone who’s already been there.
Understand that every single job or career has its own benefits and disadvantages. Make sure you know what you’re getting into, and don’t be afraid to ask hard questions. If you don’t like what you’re hearing, try getting a second opinion. If you still don’t like what you’re hearing, try talking to someone who speaks the same language you do. *Hint* if this is what’s happening, maybe this new career ain’t such a good idea.
3. Virtually position yourself to enter the new role or industry.
If your research leads you to believe you were right all along – that you are going to find the satisfaction/salary/colleagues you want to work with in your new career, then by all means start working towards it. First off, start molding your profile (resume, LinkedIn, professional website even) and experiences to give them a tinge of color related to this new industry.
I hope that your two careers aren’t too far apart that they require an education to make the change (in many cases, this is true). But in other cases, you should start gaining experience with aspects of this new industry that employers or potential clients will find attractive. Start believing in yourself that you’ve made the right decision, and focus on gaining the satisfaction and rewards you’re looking for in your newly chosen field.
It’s not like you will wake up one day and be working in your new job – it takes time and effort on a daily basis to get where you want to be. Start taking steps now. If you think you don’t have time, try making the time by reducing other non-essential activities till you are fully able to make the shift.
Don’t take too long to make steps towards where you want to in your career. If you wait, you may be leaving money on the table, but it’s the time being spent where you’re dissatisfied and unproductive that really hurts.
You can always make more money but you can’t get spent time back.