A career change is one of the single biggest life transitions we can go through and therefore should not be taken lightly. Nor should we be overwhelmed by the thought of the process, as daunting as it may seem. By breaking it down into different stages, we can change careers without fear and with success.
1. Think about it. Make a commitment to think about whether you really want to change careers. Also consider what exactly you want from the new career and how much of yourself you’ll need to invest in the process. Never embark upon a career change without really thinking about what you’re doing before you start. Think hard about why you want this next move, if indeed you really want it at all.
2. List the reasons. Identify your reasons for wanting a career change and be honest with yourself about whether or not they’re the right reasons. Of course, we should only ever do anything for the right reasons, but this is especially the case with something as massive as a career change. Don’t attempt a career transition just to run away from something. It’s much better to be building on the things that you’ve achieved in your working life than to be trying to block them out or erase them from history.
3. Look at yourself. Examine what makes you – and has made you – the person you are today. By consciously thinking about how all your experiences, achievements, qualities and skills have shaped you, you will gain great insight into your capability and, in turn, the best career move for you.
4. Show some appreciation. Take the time to appreciate your skills and experience and reflect upon where they can take you. Don’t allow yourself to underestimate how much you know now, what you do and how you do it. At different stages in our lives, we all too often take for granted what we’re accomplishing and what we’re capable of.
5. Develop your options. There are a number of ways to review and expand your options. Look at opportunities for a new career within your current organisation and get onside with the appropriate individuals in the relevant teams or departments. Let your close network know you’re changing careers and be specific about what you’re looking for and what they can do to help you. Experiment with voluntary or pro bono work to see what other fields are like and to gain experience in them.
6. Be realistic. As much as it would be nice to have completely free rein over what you do next, you will have some constraints that influence your decision. Look at what’s going on in the world right now in terms of which sectors are growing and which aren’t. Consider what aspects of your own life you’ll have to take into account, such as finances, family commitments and geographical location.
7. Set criteria. Although you’ll have to take note of constraints, you also have the opportunity to set your own criteria in order to guide your choice of new career. Look at where you want to work, what kind of work you want to do, how much you need to earn, who you want to work with, what type of commute you want and everything else that matters to you.
8. Take action. Take action in a smart way, that is. The clearer you are about what you’re going to do, the smarter you’re going to be when you go to market. Therefore get specific about what you’re looking for, plan how you’re going to find it and enter the market with a target in mind. Stay on the path you’ve carved out for yourself until you get to where you’re going.