4 Tips for Changing Careers

Changing careers can be tough.

You’re not sure if you’re going to like your new career, if you’ll be good at your new career, or if you’ll have enough professional opportunities to flourish at your new career.

What if your new career isn’t any better than your old one? That was one of my biggest concerns when changing careers. I mean, I’d picked the first one, and it had turned into a living nightmare. What if my career picker (or whatever that is) was broke and I was unable to accurately assess what career would be the best fit for my life?

If you’re making a career change, here are two virtual high fives. Changing careers can be both exciting and terrifying. There’s a lot of uncertainty involved. Most professionals go back and forth, questioning whether or not a career change is the best move before they take the leap.

Are you thinking about changing careers?

Here are four tips for changing careers successfully:

tips for changing careers

Changing careers may require additional education.

Making a successful career change may require you to go back to school for additional coursework, certifications, or degree(s). If you’re making a drastic career change, like switching from nursing to law, the educational investment may be sizable. If you’re making a more horizontal career change, like moving from human resources to finance, the educational investment may be less intensive.

Here are a few education-specific resources to help you navigate this aspect of the career change journey:

Going back to school can be a daunting task, especially if you struggled through school the first time. That was me. I barely made it through undergrad. My professors told me I didn’t have what it took to succeed in business and I believed them. I lacked a quality high school education (I was removed from the public school system in the sixth grade and “homeschooled” due to my family’s extreme religious beliefs, which resulted in me receiving no math and no science education). I had no idea how to study, I struggled on exams due to a then-undiagnosed learning disability, and I was 100% convinced that I was “dumb” (as one of my college professors has so poignantly put it).

Thanks to the encouragement of several people in my life, I was able to connect with educational resources and learn how to learn. Eventually, I finished graduate school and was able to access professional opportunities that laid on the other side of higher education. Don’t let past academic struggles dissuade you from making an opportune career change. If you related to aspects of my not-so-linear education journey, please read 6 Things Professors Wish College Students Knew and check out the learning resources listed.

Changing careers may require developing a new network.

Changing careers may require you to invest in developing a new network that can help connect you with career opportunities in your new profession. While your old network may be a great source of reference when applying for jobs, they may not have the inside scoop on your new industry. Finding professionals within your new career is an important aspect of changing careers that may be tempting to overlook (confession: I did!).

Need help developing a new network? Here are a few networking guides:

And let’s not forget about LinkedIn. When you’re making a career change, you’re probably busy juggling your old profession, additional schooling, and a job hunt – not fun. Also, not a lot of free time. If you just have a few minutes each week to set aside for networking, you’re going to want to spend in on LinkedIn. Check out 3 Ways to Update Your LinkedIn Profile for a quick and easy guide to up your LinkedIn strategy.

changing career tips

Changing careers is easier when you have a career mentor.

I know, I know, I talk about the importance of having career mentors all the time. It’s just that they are so important, and often underutilized when it comes to millennial career development. I waited way too long to connect with a career mentor. My first few attempts at finding a mentor (outlined in Career Toolkit for the Young Professional) were less than productive. No one would mentor me!

I kept at it, and eventually connected with some rockstar career mentors that helped me navigate changing careers, starting a business, and growing the business. My career mentors answered questions I had about negotiating contracts, recommended continuing education resources, and provided valuable introductions to people within their network that led to additional career opportunities.

Ready to unlock the power of career mentors? Check out:

If you’re a veteran or military spouse, be sure to register as a mentee with the eMentor Program (it’s 100% free!). That’s how I connected with my first career mentors.

Changing careers may set you back in the short run.

Changing careers may set you back in the short run, but set you up in the long run. There’s an opportunity cost when you change career, incurred when you take time away from working to pursue required education or if you are paid less in your first new career position. These temporary setbacks are to be expected when making a career change. Just because they (temporarily) feel like they are setting you back, doesn’t mean it’s a permanent state. Maybe you’ll experience more upward mobility in your new profession that will lead to greater earnings over your lifetime. Maybe your new career offers more workplace flexibility (that’s what I changed careers for) which result in a healthier, happier lifestyle. When you’re making a career change, it’s important to assess the long-run implications of your decision, and not get lost in the short term costs.

Can I tell you a sorta-secret? I absolutely hate change. I fight it tooth and nail. Think: two-year-old that missed her nap temper tantrum level of change resistance. That’s me. I like finding my professional rut and sitting in it, which, as you might suspect,  is not a great strategy for changing careers.

If you find yourself struggling with change, check out this blog post on sunk costs. While change isn’t easy, sometimes it’s essential. When you’re leaving a career you hate to pursue the possibility of a career that you actually like, the long-term benefits far outweigh the short-term costs. Changing careers isn’t always easy, however, you can do it (I promise).Changing careers may set you back in the short run, but set you up in the long run.CLICK TO TWEET

Changing careers may be the best thing that ever happened to you.

Yes, changing careers may be stressful; however, making a career change may open you up to professional possibilities that you only dreamed up. There are few things as bad as working in a profession that you absolutely hate. That type of chronic stresseats away at your life.

Changing careers was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Sure, it was terrifying and, oh my god, so stressful. And expensive – I had to go back to school for a Master’s degree before I could even work in my new profession. Some of my colleagues thought I was crazy for making a career change in my twenties. Others were encouraging and said they’d wished they done something similar when they were my age.

While no two career changes are the same, approaching this time of professional transition with a career-building strategy can be helpful in minimizing stress and maximizing opportunity.  

Have you ever made a career change?

Share your tips for changing careers in the comments below!

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