In a prior post, I wrote about why the desire for a career transition can be linked to fear rather than a desire to actually change careers.
However, if you’re sure you’re in the wrong career and you want to get on the right path, I’d now like to give you some concrete tips on just how to do it:
Step 1: Make the Decision
I know. You’ve already decided that change is needed, but I urge you to obtain feedback from people you trust prior to deciding to transition careers and quit your job. Talk to your spouse, your mentors and your personal board of directors. Be as confident as you can that the step you’re about to take is the right one for you.
Step 2: Know Your Direction
Where are you going? It’s one thing to know what you don’t want, but do you have a good idea of what it is you do want? You can hate your job all you want, but you don’t want to be unemployed.
Make a list of careers you’ve considered. How viable are these choices? Be honest with yourself. If you’re an accountant who can’t dance, you can probably take “ballroom dance teacher” off the list.
It’s okay not to have a definitive career goal, but you need to have a few steps planned out. If you think of your plan like a ladder, sometimes you can’t see what’s at the top until you’ve taken a few steps up. But don’t confuse your lack of direction with a lack of information about how to change directions. If you know you’d like to obtain a job in the healthcare field, you should have an idea of why that works for you and what type of job you want, even though you may not know exactly how to get started.
Step 3: Remove Obstacles
Your family, friends, coworkers and even strangers know you hate your job and want to make a change, but you haven’t done it yet. So, what’s different about today?
What has changed that’s provided you with the fortitude to act? What prevented you from making a change before? Do the roadblocks that were there three years ago still exist? Do you have new excuses — I mean, “obstacles” — in your path? If so, why? And what steps are you planning to take to get around them?
Step 4: Assess Your Skills
Is it really necessary to obtain another degree or certification prior to making your career transition? Women in particular struggle with this step.
Review job descriptions for the career you want. Look at the skills and education the employer requires versus prefers. Review your past jobs to see if you’ve ever had the opportunity to perform the tasks listed. If you look really hard, you may find that you have all the experience you need.
And if you really need additional experience or skill sets, keep reading…
Step 5: Volunteer
Utilize external volunteer organizations to test-drive the skills needed for your new career. For almost anything you want to do, there’s an organization that will accept your offer of free labor. You can try your hand at marketing, accounting, fundraising, grant-writing, event planning, sales, website development, project planning, recruiting, legal advice, negotiation, contract writing… the list goes on and on.
An additional benefit of volunteering is the ability to grow your network. You’ll meet a whole host of people you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet had you stayed behind your desk and not ventured out of your comfort zone. Let these people know what you’re working to accomplish and the career change you intend to make. They may be able to assist you.
Step 6: Cultivate (or Build) Your Network
You should be doing this all the time, not just when you’re thinking about getting a new job. If you have to build, rather than cultivate, your network, it will just take you a little longer.
Utilize your network by asking for advice from those who already work in the career you want to get into. They can tell you all the ins and outs, introduce you to contacts and provide advice when needed.
Step 7: Apply for the Job
All the planning in the world won’t transform your current job into the one you want without you taking the final step of completing a job application. Now that you’ve built up your confidence with volunteer organizations (which you can now use to pad your resume) and you have a network of people who can provide a reference or a connection, you need to start applying for the job you want.
Depending upon how different your new career is from your old one, it might take a little longer to get the job you want, so don’t get frustrated. Be aware of the current economic climate and the size of the job market for your new industry. Don’t get down on yourself. Lean on your mentors, your sponsors, other volunteers and professionals in your network.