Are you thinking about changing your career? A recent survey shows that 50% of Americans are considering jumping to another career. If you’re one of them, then these tips on how to prepare for a career change are for you.

Career change is one of the biggest steps you have to make in your professional life, and it can be exciting and terrifying at the same time. This is why, it’s better to prepare for it rather than just jumping into unfamiliar territory. As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Ready to take the big leap? If you are, here are some steps to get out of that rut, and into the career you’ve always wanted.

1. Decide if you really need a career makeover

Evaluate your satisfaction in your current job. Are you excited about coming to work every day? Are you growing in your career? What do you like and dislike about your current position and company? Ask these questions to determine if you need to switch careers.

Also, look out for these signs as they’re the most important hints that you’re in the wrong career. Do any of these seem familiar to you?

  • Your job is affecting your personal life.
  • You feel that your job is toxic because you are emotionally, mentally, and physically depleted.
  • Your salary could not compensate for your stress or boredom at work.
  • You feel that you could use your talent and skills in another meaningful way.
  • Your tasks and responsibilities are not in your career values.

If you can relate too well with most of these statements, it’s time to say goodbye to your current job and say hello to the career you’re truly passionate about.

2. Evaluate yourself

Self-assessment helps you find out important things about yourself that affect your career choices. Things like your needs and wants as a professional, as well as the unique value you bring to the table. Knowing these will help you determine what career is the right fit for you and how you can smoothly transition into that new career.

Perform a personal inventory of yourself. Assess your skills, values, interests and personality type using self-assessment tools and career tests. A variety of these resources are available for free on the internet. You might also want to consult with a career or transition coach. Ask people in your circle for referrals or browse social media for professionals that specialize in helping others in changing careers.

3. Identify alternative careers

Don’t focus all of your efforts on chasing a single career because think about it. What happens if you fail to secure a job in that field? What if that line of work is not really the right fit for you? Or what if you’re not qualified for it? Do you keep pouring your time and energy into chasing your passion even if it means a 50% pay cut or moving away from your family?

Brainstorm and make a list of alternatives. Using all the information you’ve learned about yourself, think of other careers that best fit your capabilities and priorities. Also explore careers that are related to the one you like. You’ll likely come up with a long list, but narrow it down to around 7-10 jobs.

In this step, it helps to do your research. Here are several ways to get as much information you need to determine alternative career paths:

  • Explore different job-search sites like CareerBuilder, Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Monster, and SimplyHired. You will discover what job opportunities exist in different fields, the required qualifications, and how much those jobs pay.
  • Talk to your colleagues and friends and ask for career advice and recommendations.
  • Talk to your boss or supervisor about job opportunities and career aspirations.
  • Seek guidance from a recruiter or employment agencies as they can help you secure an interview by forwarding your application to the right people.

It’s wise not to quit your current job while you consider alternative careers. It’s safer to do it after you’ve already been hired at another position to avoid losing your income, missing better opportunities, or creating a career gap.

Here are some things you can do to stay productive while searching for alternative careers:

  • Learn new skills that are related or useful to the new career path you want to take.
  • Work on the transferable skills (leadership, communication, listening, analytical, creativity, critical thinking, and technical) that you have that your career of choice is looking for.
  • Work on a part-time job or freelance work that is related to the career you are transferring to.
  • If you are still deciding what career you want to take next, search for people who have the same job title you have at the moment and what career or position they are in at the moment.

4. Set your goals and deadlines

Once you have decided on one occupation you want to pursue, you need to set goals and deadlines for each goal to have a successful career change. These goals should be divided into long-term and short-term goals. Long-term goals can be accomplished anywhere from one to five years. On the other hand, short-term goals can be accomplished within one year. 

Here’s a simple example of setting your career goals and deadlines.

“A year from now, I want to be a photographer and editor. I will enroll in photography classes and take online courses on photo editing. In nine months’ time, I will launch my own photography blog with the hope of finding clients and earning from them. Once my photography business is generating profit, I can finally quit my job and focus on my photography business.”

You need to hold yourself accountable for changing your career and achieving your goals. Write concrete steps you’re going to take to achieve each of these goals and the potential barriers that would stop you from accomplishing them. 

5. Develop your skills to advance your career

Changing careers means you need to undergo some training. Before you start it, you need to find out first which skills you already have and which one you need to develop and acquire. At this stage, you should have already identified these during your self-assessment and decided on your chosen occupation.

There are two major types of skills. First is the soft skills, which are the interpersonal skills and other personality traits that allow you to communicate effectively. Second is the hard skills, which are the technical knowledge you have gained through training and life experiences.

Here are several ways to advance your professional development:

  • Overcome the fears that prevent you from growing and progressing. Learn the things that you dread or those you are not comfortable doing—for Example, public speaking or starting a conversation.  
  • Ask someone’s honest feedback about how you perform professionally and use their constructive criticism and positive comments to improve yourself. 
  • Talk to a mentor. This could be someone you look up to, your manager, or a career coach.
  • Expand your knowledge and vocabulary by reading. This also helps with stimulating your critical thinking skills.
  • Learn a new skill or topic. You can take online courses, watch webinars, take advantage of company training, or further your education by taking a degree.

6. Build your network

Form meaningful professional relationships with people who are in the same field that you’re planning to switch to. These connections will make your transition smoother by helping you learn the ropes and vouching for you through job referrals.

Besides the reasons mentioned, building your network also has the following benefits:

  • Being able to nurture professional relationships is proof you have great social skills. This will make you stand out in your job search.
  • More doors of opportunities will be opened to you because chances are, you’ll meet people who are decision-makers in your chosen industry.
  • Not only can your connections help you with your career goals, you also get to help others build towards their own.

And here’s how you can build the best professional network:

  • Create a list of people who can help you grow professionally. It can include your previous and present bosses, managers, supervisors, colleagues, friends with similar interests, and acquaintances you have met. Maintain a connection with them because you’ll never know how they can help you someday.
  • Expand your network by attending events, such as company mixers, corporate retreats, or community events. You’ll be exposed to a variety of people including important key decision-makers.
  • Take advantage of virtual communities. Nowadays, you can go to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Medium, Quora, and Reddit to find people who have the same career interests and goals as you. Reach out to other people and have meaningful conversations. You’ll be surprised to meet professionals who are on the same path as you, as well as thought leaders and decision-makers.

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