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Must-Know Expert Advice for Making a Career Change

Making a career change can be daunting. The fear of the unknown is enough to stop even the most ambitious career transitioners from taking the leap, if they let their fear get the best of them.

So, how do you overcome those fears and take the necessary steps to make a successful career transition? We asked our career experts to provide us with their must-know tips on how to make a career change with confidence.

Get clear on your WHY

“More than anything, you must get very, very clear on what the vision is for your career,” explains career coach Lisa Pachence. “This is commonly referred to as your “Why.” Oftentimes this is the one thing that’s overlooked when it comes to changing careers, and many coaches (myself included!) can get sucked into created the HOW before the WHAT with our clients. As human beings, our brains are hard-wired into finding what’s wrong and fixing it – it’s a survival mechanism created thousands of years ago so we could survival in the wild. Because of this, we’re often more present to what we DON’T want (what’s wrong) than to envisioning and creating what we DO want (what’s possible). ”

Use this short exercise as an access point to uncovering your WHY:
  • Find a quiet space and focus on your breath (eyes open or closed is fine)
  • Imagine yourself 10 years from now: what do you look like? Who are you with? Where do you spend your time? What are your core values?
  • Answer the following questions, from this state of mind:
    • What’s the career path(s) that are aligned with that version of your self?
    • What’s the hobby, passion, craft, profession that you can’t NOT do?
    • If there’s nothing wrong, and you have all the time and money in the world, what profession would you take on? Why?
    • Who are the types of people that you admire, and what commonality do they have in their professions?
Once you have clear responses, write them down. Work with a coach to solidify your WHY and brainstorm. Examples:
  • Supporting people to live lives without regrets (health and wellness, travel agent, guidance counselor)
  • Bring more heart-centered leaders into Fortune 500 companies (human resources, executive coaching, organizational psychology)
  • Being fully expressed and acting out meaningful movies, plays, documentaries (directing, acting, improv teacher)

Don’t listen to people

“You will receive tones of advise from your friends, family, colleagues telling you what you should do,” explains career coach Bénédicte Flouriot. “None of them know what you should do because they are not you. You are the only person knowing what is truly important to you and what will fulfill you. Focus on yourself!”

Create a career portfolio

“Begin gathering references, testimonials and work samples- especially if you plan to leave your current role,” says career coach Mary Kruger. “Begin a career portfolio- samples of projects, recommendation letters, degrees and certificate copies can all go in here. Start updating your resume while things are fresh in your mind- this goes for those who aren’t considering leaving their jobs too. It’s always easier to make small resume edits than a complete revamp!”

Surround yourself with positivity

“Surround yourself with positive people who will encourage you and support you in your career change process: a career change can sometimes scare others who do not have the guts to transform their life for the better. You do!” Bénédicte says. “These people can sometimes be drowning, and you do not need such negative energy in a time of change. This does not mean they cannot be part of your life anymore, it just means they are not serving you right now and that you should place your energy on others.”

Stick to your goals

“My advice would be to stick to your goals and act on them! It’s important to wake up every day and ask yourself what you’re going to accomplish to get one step closer to that goal,” productivity blogger Kayla Matthews explains. “You could make a motivation/mood board for your career, for instance, or list out the things you want to do weekly to complete established obstacles.”

Mary agrees. “Set dates deadlines and goals. A goal that has no deadline cannot be achieved easily. By setting a date as to when you want to change careers by you will have something to work towards and measure.”

Do a lot of informational interviews

When you are moving into a new industry, it’s a good idea to set up informational interviews with people that are working in the space, so you can get the inside scoop about the job and the field.

“Speak to a lot of professionals who can tell you more about what they really do in their job, company, industry,” Bénédicte suggests. “This will inspire you and will show you the reality of a profession. By doing so, you also create your “new” professional network.”

Consider your transferable skills

“Always consider your transferable skills when thinking of changing careers,” Mary explains. “Every job we have provides building blocks and new skills that can be used in other careers. Talk to people about the type of work you are looking for. These can be formal informational interviews with people doing the type of work you are interested in, or casual conversations with your network. ”

Get outside perspective

“Get outside perspective on how to package your skills, strengths and personal brand,” says career coach Sally Anne Giedrys “So many people get stuck here, and it’s not surprising. We are all used to seeing ourselves in the usual ways, and can be blind to all of the transferable skills and strengths that we bring to a role that is different than the one we’ve been doing. I work with clients on this all the time, helping them to mine ALL of what they bring to the table (not just their previous work) and package it in a way that puts their best foot forward.”

Do an internship

“If you can afford it, intern in a targeted field so you can gain valuable experience that isn’t a financial “risk” to the company,” explains Russell Cranford, owner of ResumePundits.com. “Make sure you learn the jargon of your targeted field as well. Half of getting a job is sounding like you know what you are talking about. Lastly, since hiring someone without experience is risky, it is important to leverage your relationships. Find out who you know in the targeted company and utilize the relationship to “get you in.”

Be humble

“Changing careers in some ways means starting over,” explains career coach Tonya Echols. “For someone with decades of experience and accomplishments in their current field, it is important to be prepared to practice humility and take on a beginner’s mind.  In no way does changing professions discount your previous experience, but moving into a new career may mean that you are working for and with people who have less overall experience and knowledge, but are years ahead of you in your newly chosen field. Allow yourself to remain open to learning and yes, even, correction when needed, as you move into this new stage of your career.”

Seek out a mentor

“In my experience, seeking out a mentor that is in the position in life where you want to be is a good start to finding a clear direction of what one needs to do to get ahead in a career,” advises professional writer Makeda Waterman.

Mary agrees. “Don’t go it alone when considering making these life changes. Seek out friends and family to provide emotional support. Consider hiring a career coach who can provide non-judgemental support, advice and accountability to help you follow-through on your goals.”

“Reflecting on your career change with a coach will save you time and will equip you with the right tools to achieve your goal,”Bénédicte says. “You can do it on your own, but this will take so much longer. Articulating your thoughts with someone neutral is very powerful and will bring you many more insights.”

Get clear on the big picture

Spend the necessary time to get clear on the big picture of how you want your career to integrate with the rest of your life,” Sally explains. “Knowing what your non-negotiables are, why you most want to make a change and what your definition of work/life integration looks like will help you to make smart choices, essentially “baking in” real life balance and sustainability from the start. (I cannot tell you how many people do not consider this important point).”

Don’t limit yourself

“Don’t be limited by what you know or have seen before,” Sally says. “The world of work is continually changing, and it’s never been easier to design your career to suit your interests and goals. Think expansively about what excites you and what you would love to be doing, and get out there and research your options. Network, explore, ask questions and generally put yourself on a fact-finding mission. From innovative workplaces that are combining or reimagining roles to self creating a portfolio career, there are so many options.”

Thinking of hiring a career coach to help you make a career change? Connect with our career experts, browse our directory of career coaches and get a FREE consultation or request a personalized coach recommendation!

About the Author Kristen Moran

Kristen is the editor and community manager at Noomii.com and the Noomii Career Blog. Kristen's desire to ask questions and share information with others led her to pursue journalism. While she has worked at various publications, covering everything from municipal politics to local restaurants, it was her love of self-improvement and sharing inspiration with others that made Noomii the perfect fit. Connect with Kristen on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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