Changing Career Paths: How to Transition Successfully

Are you experiencing frustration, fatigue, or loss of interest in your career? These feelings can undermine your quality of life and even your health. Have you thought about changing career paths but don’t know how to go about it? 

Changing careers can be intimidating and daunting. And for those who don’t like taking risks, the idea of transitioning from an undesirable known to a potentially desirable unknown is enough to stop them from even trying.

Before taking the leap

The truth is, changing careers is always possible. In fact, about a third of workers do so at least once in their life. Furthermore, making such a move can be a fulfilling process of thoughtful self-reflection, social networking, and finding new meaning in life. 

People change their careers all the time, for any number of reasons. According to Joblist’s Midlife Career Crisis Survey, nearly half of the people who left one line of work for another did so for better pay. But the other half did so for reasons such as wanting less stress, finding a better work-life balance, seeking new challenges, or simply no longer feeling passionate about their original field.

thinking about changing career pathsSource: Shutterstock

In the same study, three-quarters of respondents indicated that changing career paths made them happier, more fulfilled, and less stressed.

Do you feel like you have to overcome too many hurdles to switch careers? Here are some tips to help you transition successfully. 

Honestly evaluate your discontent

What is it about your current career that has you wanting to make a change? Give your work situation a thorough audit and ask yourself why you feel that it’s time to leave. 

Is it something about your workplace, colleague? Are you having some trouble with your bosses? If it’s any of these, you might simply need to find a new job within a career that was once rewarding for you. However, if you have other reasons for wanting to leave, a change in career path might be in order. 

Consider what gives you joy

Our society has programmed us to believe that the things that bring us joy and pleasure are hobbies or pastimes. But they can also be potential career paths. The term “vocation,” after all, means to be called toward something.

What gives you joySource: Shutterstock

If you’re trying to figure out what you could choose to do for a new career, listen carefully to your inner self, and you might just discover a new career path. 

Look for the middle-ground

One way to identify a new career you could succeed in is to think about the kind of work that would bridge your old job with the one you desire. 

For example, if you’re a doctor and would like to transition into a career as a writer, you might explore medical journalism for a while. This kind of “bridge” job can help you more quickly get up to speed with your new career. It can also help you avoid the added burden of having to learn a whole new field of expertise.

Don’t do it alone

Reach out to friends, family, or colleagues who had successfully changed careers in their lives. Keep in mind, however, that some of your colleagues and mentors on whom you’ve relied on over the years may not be equipped to help you in the new path you set out to take.  

Be a critical thinker about the advice that you get from others. Also, be open to pursuing new networking possibilities within people and groups you might not have explored in the past.

meet other people — changing career pathsSource: Shutterstock

When you do make a new contact, be sure to cultivate and sustain that relationship. Always remember to thank anyone who helps you navigate your transition.

Be realistic

Starting in a new career likely means starting at the bottom of the ladder. Prepare yourself for the probability that you will have to begin your journey at the entry-level. Furthermore, expect your financial situation to adjust a bit, as you may be given a lower salary than you used to have. That said, make sure that your move to change career path is worth it.  

Be realistic about the length of time it may take you to establish yourself in your new field. Additionally, consider the length of time it may take for you to even get started in your new field. Many career transitions can take a year, two, or even three to succeed. This is particularly true for careers that require additional education or licensure.

Gain new experience—and market your old experience

Look for opportunities to gain experience relevant to your new career. This might mean volunteering for a nonprofit, interning for a company, or working pro-bono for a smaller business. These experiences may cost you a little money now. But in the long run, they will strengthen your résumé and help you land the job you really want. 

reinvent yourselfSource: Shutterstock

Don’t neglect those parts of your old career that could be pertinent in your new one, including particular skills or accomplishments. Think about how you can frame those experiences to market them in a way that addresses the needs of your new employer.

Craft an appropriate cover letter

A cover letter typically explains why you are best qualified for a particular job. But a letter about a career change must do a bit more than sell yourself. 

Since you will have fewer relevant experience than most of your competitors, you must craft it to emphasize the transferable skills from your previous role. You should also highlight your greatest successes and your superior performance. Doing so helps your potential new employer appreciate how you could add value to their workplace. 

cover letterSource: Shutterstock

Finally, show how passionate you are about your new career path. Explain your decision to transition as one that is driven by enthusiasm for the new career and not discontent with the old one. In all of these, your goal is to show how your previous experience is, in fact, a unique qualification.

What awaits you

Transitioning careers can be exciting and immensely rewarding, but it also presents several challenges—emotional, logistical, and financial. Prepare yourself for those as best you can by familiarizing yourself with your new field. Develop a strategy for your transition and save enough money to support yourself as you make the change. Follow your intuition and be driven by what uniquely energizes you.

Even if you just take small steps, every step advances you towards finding satisfaction in a new and fulfilling line of work. If you find yourself balking at the task or the short-term costs of making the change, remember that your career is a huge part of what you do with your life and your time. You don’t want to waste either of those doing something you find numbing or stifling. Instead, make a plan and make the change.

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