If you’re reading this, you’re considering a career change. Maybe you’ve been feeling an itch in the back of your mind – a nagging feeling that you’d be happier or more fulfilled doing something else.
Maybe you’re a recent graduate and you’ve just realized that the career you studied for isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, or worse, you’ve discovered that your college education didn’t prepare you for the workplace and you’re struggling to find a job in your field.
Maybe you haven’t quite figured out what’s next, and you need some help exploring your options. Or maybe you already know exactly what you want to do, but you’re not sure quite how to make the leap.
Whichever the case, know that you’re making the right decision.
Choosing to broaden your horizons and embark on a new challenge won’t just increase your chances of building a career you love – it’ll also cause you to stretch and grow as a person in ways you never would if you just followed a traditional, linear career path.
We’re not saying it’s going to be easy. Heck, changing jobs is hard enough, let alone changing over to a whole new career. Whether you’re early in your career or you’ve been in the same industry for 20 years, admitting that you’re not satisfied and deciding to make a change is a big step.
That’s why we’ve put together our best tips to help guide you through the process of changing careers.
Why Change Careers?
There are a multitude of reasons why people change careers, and everyone’s story is different. Below, we’ve rounded up ten common reasons people decide to take the leap and start over.
- Career Satisfaction– Maybe you simply don’t find your job or industry fulfilling, or you don’t feel like this field allows for sufficient personal and professional growth.
- Boredom– It could be that you’re bored and don’t feel sufficiently challenged by your current line of work.
- Uninspiring Leadership and/or Work Environment– Perhaps you’re feeling dissatisfied with the way your company is managed. Or you don’t like the work culture and environment you’re in.
- Work Flexibility– Maybe you’ve realized that time is your most important asset, and you want greater control over your work-life balance. Maybe you wish to travel and seek location-independent work that can be performed remotely.
- Desire for Meaningful Work– Perhaps your life goals and philosophy have changed and you find yourself wanting to do more meaningful work.
- Furloughed or Fired– Maybe you’ve recently been furloughed or fired and it made you realize that you want something different in your career anyways.
- Location Change– Perhaps you’ve had to move to a new location and you need to reinvent yourself because your old career doesn’t make sense in this new place.
- Career Doesn’t Align with Expectations– It’s possible that you’ve discovered that you had misinformed ideas about what a career in this field would be like, and the reality doesn’t align with your expectations.
- Seeking Higher Pay – It could be that you simply want to earn more than the earning potential of your current industry allows for.
- New Interest– Perhaps you’ve discovered a new interest or passion that gets you so fired up you want to make it your career.
Whatever the reason, you’ve taken the first steps towards a big change in your life. Keep reading for actionable tips on how to make this transition easier and create a career that gets you excited to get out of bed in the morning.
Taking the Leap
So, for whatever reason, you’ve decided it’s time for a change. Every fiber of your being is telling you to pack it in and start again. But where to begin?
It’s likely that you’re being held back by fear: fear of the unknown; fear of taking a salary cut; fear of what your family or friends will say; or fear of losing hard-earned status.
Recognize that these limitations are 100 percent internal: they’re obstacles created by your own mind to keep you on the track of comfortable discomfort. It’s natural to resist change and want to continue following the same familiar path, which is why many people stay in jobs that don’t fulfil them, year after year.
If you want to build a career you love, you need to overcome this inertia, dismiss these fears, and take control of your life.
The first and most important – and most liberating – step is to ask yourself “What’s the worst that could happen?” for each of the individual fears holding you back. And follow each line of questioning to its logical conclusion.
- What’s the worst that could happen if you lost your job tomorrow and had to make a plan?
- Would you be able to hustle to earn enough money to survive?
- What’s the worst that could happen if your friends or family don’t understand your choices?
- Do you think they would love you less if you changed careers?
- What’s the worst that could happen if you had to take a pay cut? How could you reduce your expenses?
- Would moving to a cheaper place really be the end of the world?
- What’s the worst that could happen if you changed careers and it didn’t work out?
- Would you be able to get another job in your original industry again if it didn’t work out?
- What’s the worst that could happen if you lost status or respect for quitting a career that doesn’t satisfy you?
- Does this status really matter if it doesn’t make you happy?
Odds are, you’ll find that simply naming your worst-case scenarios will make you feel less afraid and more in control. Once you know what your absolute worst fears or worst case scenarios are, you can plan for them.
You can make contingency plans like reducing your living expenses and building your savings to cushion you through periods where your income is uncertain.
Don’t throw away your most valuable assets like time, energy, and potential by sticking with a career that no longer meets your needs simply because you’ve already invested X number of years into this job or getting qualified for this field.
Career Change: How to Do It Without Going Back to School
Changing careers likely means you’ll need to learn some new skills, but that doesn’t have to mean getting a new degree and racking up a lot of debt. Today, there’s a whole world of educational resources available – many of them online, and many of them totally free.
By following the tips outlined below, you can be well on your way to building a fulfilling career without going back to school in no time.
Figure Out What’s Next
(If you already know what’s next for you, feel free skip this section).
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t even know all the possible careers and opportunities out there. Most of us know one or two industries fairly well and have surface-level knowledge of a few adjacent industries, with little awareness of the multitudes of other career options available.
Reflect on your current job and previous roles. What did you enjoy most? What do you never want to do again? Try to imagine what your perfect day would look like, adding as much detail as possible.
Think about your current interests, skills, values and priorities, and consider mapping them out as a Venn diagram to help you identify the sweet spot where they overlap.
You might brainstorm ideas with your friends, family, mentor, or other members of your professional network. If you have a career coach or career counselor, discuss it with them. If you don’t, consider engaging one for professional advice. They may be able to introduce you to potential career paths that you’ve never been exposed to before and wouldn’t otherwise have considered.
If you’re not sure about the career move you’re making, don’t be afraid to sample a few different careers. In our recent blog, Building a Meaningful Career: The Ultimate Guide, we outline a strategy for running low-cost experiments to bring yourself closer to identifying your dream career.
The first thing you try might not be the right fit, so don’t be afraid to hop around and mix it up until you find something that truly interests you.
In the beginning, you may struggle to choose which options to pursue. Which skill should you focus on? What kind of lifestyle is the most appealing to you?
Faced with so much choice, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and want to take a nap instead of starting down a single path. Because let’s face it, choosing to do or learn one thing means sidelining another. However, if you don’t choose one and get started, you’ll still be in the same place six months from now.
Here’s how to overcome analysis paralysis:
Commit a set amount of time to each project, skill, or experiment. Whether it’s blogging every day for a month, spending 60 days learning to code, or doing a 3-month trial period in a new role, commit yourself to your new endeavor 120% for the set time period. At the end of that time, evaluate your experience. If it made you want to get deeper, keep at it. If not, check it off your list and move on to the next option.
If you’re worried that future employers will ask about a series of short stints in different jobs, tell them the truth: that you were actively trying to discover what kind of work makes you come alive. Odds are, they’ll be impressed by your determination and proactive attitude.
“Winners quit fast, quit often, and quit without guilt”
– Seth Godin, The Dip: The Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (And When To Stick)
Fill the Knowledge Gap
If you’re considering a whole new career, we’re willing to bet you don’t know everything there is to know about it. Fill your knowledge gap by creating a self-education plan using online courses, workshops, webinars, bootcamps, and any other resources available to you.
Whether you simply want to learn more about your prospective career or want to take courses to hone complex skills, there are plenty of educational resources available to get you up to speed without needing to make the time and financial commitment of going (back) to college.
For self-directed learning strategies and tips on how to plan your own curriculum, read Self-Directed Learning: A Primer for Ambitious Young Adults.
Try It On First
Before taking the plunge into a brand new career, take it for a test drive. What does that look like?
- Arrange to job shadow someone in the industry you’re interested in changing to.
- Reach out to professionals in your industry of choice and ask them a few questions.
- Do a short course or join a bootcamp, workshop, or hackathon.
- Volunteer in your field of interest or do pro bono (free) work to get a taste of what this career entails.
- See whether you can try it out as a freelancer before taking a full-time job.
- Consider doing an internship to gain a more informed perspective of the field you’re interested in.
- Do an apprenticeship to learn while getting paid.
Your options are limited only by your imagination and determination. Basically, do whatever you can to gain as much insider knowledge into the industry you’re interested in as possible. This way, you can make an informed decision before making any long-term commitments.
Network, Network, Network
Your network can play a crucial role in helping you to identify the right field and build a career that excites you.
While you shouldn’t neglect to leverage your existing network to expose you to prospective career paths, you should also actively broaden your network. And once you have an inkling of the industry you’d like to switch to, start surrounding yourself with people in that industry.
Whether it’s by reaching out to people on LinkedIn, attending industry events (check out Meetup), or joining discussion forums or online conversations, building relationships with professionals who are already doing what you want to do has several benefits:
- You’ll get greater insight into what working in that industry is like.
- You’ll learn more about your goal career, faster.
- You’ll learn the lingo and start to dispel the inevitable imposter syndromethat comes with switching careers.
- You’ll form meaningful relationships with people who inspire you.
- These connections will help hold you accountable when you set goals.
- These relationships may lead to work opportunities in the future.
- When people know the “whole” you, they’re far more likely to take a gamble on you than when they only see your resume, and you’re able to avoid much of the filtering involved with formal job applications.
Finding a mentor in the field you wish to move to can also be immensely helpful in helping you navigate the adjustments and learning curves of your new career.
Have a Plan
As much as we’d love to tell you to simply quit your job and trust yourself to make it work, this wouldn’t be good advice for everyone, because each individual has different capabilities and faces different circumstances.
While some people are in a position to quit without a job lined up in their new career, others may need first to save up to buffer their transition to their new career and learn some new skills before quitting their day job. Be prepared for the fact that changing careers often comes with a pay cut – after all, you’re the new kid on the block with little experience in your new role.
Whatever your circumstances, the key thing is to make sure you have a plan (and a backup plan or two) and hold yourself accountable.
Build a Portfolio
Once you’ve decided on a course of action, it’s critical that you start practicing and documenting your work. A lot of resources will advise you to change your resume to reflect your new role (or dream role) but the truth is, resumes are outdated. Instead, you’ve show people what you can do.
The better you can demonstrate your ability to create value in your new field, the easier it will be to find people willing to employ you or purchase your products or services.
Start building a portfolio and a digital footprint as soon as possible – regardless of whether or not you have paid work. Create projects and work at them until you have something impressive to show for it.
If you’re learning a new skill, learn out loud to accelerate your learning and create a signal that shows prospective employers and clients who they’re dealing with.
Get Your Foot in the Door
Starting a brand new career may require that you use unconventional methods to get your foot in the door, like taking an entry-level (or unrelated) position, interning, or working for free. You might also consider offering to work as a consultant, freelancer, or contractor to give yourself a chance to prove that you can do the job – both to yourself and your prospective employer.
For more tips on making the most of opportunities when you don’t have much experience yet, check out our post Getting Your Foot in the Door: 3 Essential Habits That Matter More than Your Resume.
Join Praxis to Accelerate Your Career Change
If reading this made you feel fired up to make that career change but you’re still not sure where to start, Praxis is exactly what you need.
The 12-month Praxis program is designed to expose you to a wide variety of work experience and help you discover your interests and talents, develop critical skills, build a portfolio that showcases your ability to create value, and help you land a full-time job in a field like sales, customer support, marketing, or business operations.
During the first 6 months of Praxis (the “bootcamp”), you’ll learn the fundamentals of self-directed learning and work on real projects, building your digital footprint (and portfolio) alongside like-minded individuals who have chosen to take charge of their careers.
During this time, our career experts will guide you in finding – and landing – a job that aligns with your skills and interests. We’ll also provide rigorous mentorship and ongoing support for your first six months on the job.
We believe in putting skin in the game, which is why we offer the Praxis guarantee: if you don’t get hired full-time within six months of finishing the bootcamp, you won’t pay a cent. And just so you know, the average first-year income of Praxis graduates is $50K. As far as career changes go, you could do a lot worse.
Curious? Why not read the stories of past Praxis participants? If you’re interested, we’d love to hop on a call with you to hear about your career situation and discuss whether Praxis is a good fit for you.