How to Make a Successful Career Change

Life is filled with big decisions. When we are young, many of those choices are made by our parents – which area we live in, the school we attend, the church we visit every Sunday and sometimes, the career we choose to pursue. It’s not uncommon for youth to follow in the footsteps of their relatives and choose professions that have been passed down generations, are socially acceptable and are a good fit for them.

But, is this the right way to look at your career? Considering that only 14% of people believe they have their dream jobs and 73% of them didn’t land in the job they had expected, it is evident that many of us are looking at it all wrong. Research shows that having a sense of satisfaction and purpose on the job has a demonstrated impact on our overall well-being. Having a meaningful career makes us happier, healthier and more engaged at work and at home.

So, why are so many of us choosing to stick in jobs that make us unhappy, offer us no real meaning or purpose and aren’t going anywhere?

Well, it’s because making a successful career transition can be stressful and uncertain at times. This is why so many of us decide to stay in a job we hate. However, you don’t have to settle. In fact, you absolutely should not settle! In this day and age, making a successful career change is easier than ever – with endless online resources and professional career coaches available to offer you guidance and support.

Here are some expert tips to help anyone make a career transition.

What career feels “right”

When you are looking at other possible career options, it’s important to do some self-exploration in order to figure out your strengths, values and interests. One way to do this is by taking career and personality assessments, some of which even provide you with a list of career options that best suit your personality! Working with a career coach is another great way to uncover these details about yourself. Many career coaches use a variety of career assessments and techniques to learn more about their clients, which jobs they are best suited for and guide them through the job search process.

“I believe everyone is on this earth for a purpose and when you learn to tune into your heart, you will know what that is,” explains career coach Marla Williams. “As a result, I work closely with clients to teach them how to truly tune into their heart, their intuition and their inner wisdom, as it is always right. They will just “know” when we identify the right path as it feels good or feels right inside.”

Know your skills and how they translate

Once you have that inner knowing of what career feels right and what your purpose is, you need to take stock of all of the skills, training and knowledge that you already have based on a lifetime of experiences and education. The ideal situation is when we are able to combine your current skills and expertise with what would truly make your heart sing to identify potential careers that you could earn a living at. The majority of the time, the skills and knowledge you have already gained are extremely useful in moving you into what you are meant to do.

“It’s likely that you do a ton of different tasks on a day-to-day basis in your current role,” explains career coach Lynden Kidd. “However, when considering your transferable skills, you should keep the 80/20 rule in mind – that 20% of those tasks produce 80% of our results. These are the skills that will be the most desirable to an employer in a new industry.”

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are those key skills which account for the majority of your productivity and which will carry forward to a new industry?
  • Do you enjoy using those skills?
  • Do you have solid ‘accomplishment’ stories to tell about successes when you have applied those skills?
  • Do you know if the skills are described similarly in the new or targeted industry?
  • Are you prepared to describe what you do with a potentially new vocabulary?

Identify industries of interest and learn about them

Begin by finding job descriptions that match your skills – no matter the industry – and research them in depth. If you don’t know how to do industry research, stop at your local library and invite the business librarian to help you identify resources.

You will want to look for:

  1. What’s the industry’s outlook? Is it growing and adding jobs? How financially stable is it?
  2. Who are key employers in the industry? Do they have local branches/divisions in your area? Who are their competitors?
  3. What trends are influencing the health of the industry? Again, look for growth or possibly disruption in the future.
  4. Who are the key players; regulators, vendors/suppliers and thought leaders?

Reach out to thought-leaders in your new target industries

Network, network, network. The most efficient and effective way to land a job in a new industry is to network.  It also is important to have great referrals and references from thought leaders, co-workers, supervisors, vendors and clients who know your work intimately and who can speak to your outcomes and personality on the job. Set up informational interviews with professionals in your field of interest to get the inside scoop on what the job entails – it is a great tool to use to learn about your industry of choice.

Figure out what else you need to learn

At that point, you have to figure out what’s missing. What other skills, knowledge or certifications do you need to make a career transition? If we feel a skill is critical, we may pause to give you time to acquire that skill or knowledge. Or keep moving while you are attending classes or taking an online course. This step in the process helps build confidence that you are qualified and you can do it.

Start planning your career change

Once you have that vision of your future life, it’s time to put a plan in place to make it a reality.

  • Start assessing timelines for when you want to transition into your new career.
  • Determine the skills, training or education you will need to be qualified to move into this new field.
  • Review your financial situation to determine how your lifestyle may be impacted not only during the actual transition, but long-term as well.
  • Research the anticipated earning potential and work demands for your desired career path.
  • Set-up informational interviews and speak with people who are already successfully working in that field to get some real-life perspective, and potentially start to build your new professional network.

A word of caution. Planning is key to moving toward a new goal with confidence and the right qualifications, but don’t get so bogged down in this stage so that you never actually DO anything. It can be tempting to stay in “planning mode” forever, because it allows you to feel as though you are making progress, when in fact you may just be playing it safe in your current situation.

Make it happen!

After all the soul-searching, planning and studying, the only way to move forward with your career change is to step out and make it happen. You have to go out and do it, even with some amount of uncertainty about the outcome. There are no guarantees and usually no instructions. The time comes when you have to trust yourself and believe you can do it.

Signs you need to change careers NOW

What are some of the signs that you are ready for a career change? We’ve put together a list of signs you should consider a new career.

1. Feeling tired and drained - The most common sign you are ready for a career change is the constant feeling of being physically drained. You just don’t feel like doing anything, never mind getting out of bed to go to work. You are unmotivated, tired and completely disinterested in work, which is making you less motivated in other aspects of your life.

2. Feeling emotionally numb - People who start hating their jobs are likely to become numb to everything around them. Imagine someone who doesn’t react to anything that’s happening around them, whether it’s good or bad. This is only the starting phase of being emotionally numb and it’s dangerous to develop such habits.

3. Toxic work environment - Many professions have toxic work environments by default. High-stress careers (lawyers, journalists, public relations) can lead to toxic work environments because everyone is on edge; customer service-focused jobs in retail or the food industry can also prove to be toxic if your dealing with difficult people. If you think that your colleagues and the profession in general are suffocating you, maybe it’s time for a change.

4. Lack of personal development - The number one reason that many young people leave jobs in today’s world is the lack of personal and professional development. People are far more likely to jump into careers when they notice that their development is stagnating.

5. Boredom and impatience - We all get bored during our working hours from time to time. However, if you are struggling to make it through your work day without being bored to tears, maybe it’s time to change something.

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

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