Figuring out how you want to earn a living can be tricky whether you’re just starting professionally or you’re trying to pivot to a new vocation. There are so many potential directions to go in, each with their own set of pros and cons, and each with their individual requirements for entry. Your career will be an integral part of your life, so it’s imperative to put significant thought into planning for a successful career change.
Considerations for a New Career
According to Forbes, there are several things to think over when considering a career change – or just starting as a new professional.
- Selling points
- Career path knowledge
- Financial situation
- Support system
- Willingness to start over
Let’s look at each of these in turn. As you consider each point, take detailed notes to reflect upon later.
Do some soul searching to determine what makes your heart sing. Are there specific causes you’d love to support through your work? Is there an industry that’s always seemed exciting to you? Are there particular tasks you enjoy doing? Think carefully and visualize what a fulfilling workday looks like to you.
Tip: Taking personality/interest assessments may assist with clarifying your values. More on this below.
Your Selling Points
Take a detailed inventory of all of your knowledge, skills, and experience. Dive deep into each job, internship, volunteer experience, degree program, etc. It all counts.
While some items in your inventory may be hyper-specific, you’re almost guaranteed to find several that are more universally applicable and can transfer to your next endeavor. For example, if you’ve been in a sales role, you can transfer the skills of relationship building, negotiation, networking, organization, etc. to just about any other profession.
Your Career Path Knowledge
Do your due diligence and thoroughly research the industries, professions, and companies that interest you. You’ll want to have a deep understanding of the issues they’re facing, their long-term viability, and what they require of their employees.
By truly knowing what the industry requires regarding education, experience, and skill set, you can make an honest assessment of how qualified you are currently and create a plan to address any gaps if necessary. Note: If you’re targeting a career that’s on the decline (e.g., print newspaper editor), think carefully before committing time and resources to pursue it.
Take stock of the people you know. Do any of them work in the role/field you’re considering? If so, they may be a great resource as they can provide insight beyond the company website, press releases, and job postings available to the public.
Through what’s called an informational interview, your contact can give you a realistic preview of what it’s like to work for a specific company, in a certain industry, or within a particular career. And, based on what they know about you, they can give you their honest opinion about how well you’d do in the same.
Whether the conversation solidifies that the profession is for you, or makes you scrap the idea entirely, it’s invaluable.
Tip: In some cases, your contact may be able to get your resume in front of a hiring manager, with their endorsement helping you to stand out amongst throngs of other applicants. You’ll have to gauge your relationship with the contact and how well the informational interview is going before making the inquiry. If you impress them, they may suggest it!
Your Financial Situation
Reviewing your financial picture is particularly important if you will be starting in or moving to a profession noted for low(er) wages. You’ll need to determine how much money is required to cover your responsibilities (for yourself and your dependents, if applicable) and maintain your desired quality of life.
If your dream job pays $10,000 less per year than you need, do you have the means to cover the shortfall? Are you prepared to delay retirement or becoming debt free to work in this field? Are there ways to modify your lifestyle to make this situation more workable?
Your Support System
Think about the people closest to you. Are they supportive of your pending career choice or change? Any significant life move is made easier by having the understanding and encouragement of those near and dear to you. Career changes can definitely have an impact on your family, so be sure you’ve had open and honest discussions with them, so they know how they’ll be affected.
Look at your life as a whole. If everything other than your career seems to be in a state of flux, it may be wise to hold off switching professional gears. You’ll also want to consider what’s happening in your current role.
Are you considering a career change because you feel forced? Or, do you have the luxury of time to make a smooth and calculated transition? If your career change involves learning new skills and making new connections, you’re going to need a significant amount of time to prepare.
Your Willingness to Start Over
If you’re changing careers, are you prepared to pursue another degree? Are you OK with potentially taking an entry-level position, despite several years of overall work experience? Making a drastic shift may require one or both of these things, with each costing you money and time.
Attending college is more expensive than ever and assuming a lower level position will most assuredly result in a pay decrease. Pursuing another degree will force you to restructure your schedule, impacting other areas of your life. Climbing the ladder again could take years. How does that prospect make you feel? Be honest with yourself before making any commitments.
Your profession is just one aspect of your life. Even if you land what feels like a tailor-made job, it won’t instantly make your life great. Additionally, every career path has its imperfections. It’s important to keep that in mind as you think through your next move. Think hard about why you’re looking to leave your current profession in the first place.
Will shifting to the new vocation alleviate the pain motivating you to make a change? It’s not possible to know how something will work out until you try. However, you need to ensure you’re making a calculated choice rather than just running from a frustrating professional situation, dreamily hoping everything improves.
Other Career Planning Tools/Strategies
As you can see, many factors go into selecting or changing your career. The above list is just some of the major points of consideration.
In addition to lengthy reflection and attending informational interviews, there are additional tools and strategies out there to help guide your thought process. Among the most common are personality/interest assessments and career coaching.
There are countless personality/interest assessments you can take to gain deeper insight into how your mind works, what you value, where your interests lie, and what career paths may be a good match for you.
Here is a small sample to get you started (presented in order of descending cost):
This 71 item assessment has you rank your preferences for doing specific tasks—some work-related and some not. The evaluation and initial results are free. However, to get detailed results and other related add-ons, you will need to upgrade, costing up to $150 depending on which package you choose. This assessment matches you to career paths/jobs based on your item responses.
The MBTI is an extremely popular personality assessment. It is, among other purposes, specifically advertised to help job seekers better understand themselves. Collecting information based on your preferences, the MBTI gives you detailed information about your personality, to include how to best leverage your strengths. The assessment costs $49.95 and will take approximately 15 minutes to complete.
This assessment is similar to the MBTI in that it provides you with insight into your personality based on your indicated preferences. There are fewer questions (60 vs. 93 for MBTI) and taking the assessment is free. Upon taking the test, you will receive a limited report. To see further information, you can upgrade the report for $29.
This 60 question assessment contains a variety of work tasks that you rank on a 5 point scale based on your desire to do them. At the end of the evaluation, you’ll learn what general types of jobs (creative, social, enterprising, etc.) seem like a match based on your preferences. This free tool is easy to use and seems best for those who are early on in their career exploration, or looking for a validation measure, as the results are very broad.
Please note: Doing a quick internet search, results in a number of free assessments emulating those included here. This article is merely pointing out some of the more well-known tools and does not endorse any specific assessment.
If you’re feeling mired in this whole process, consider consulting with a career coach. A career coach can help you refocus and determine appropriate action steps. They’ll provide guidance, encouragement, tools, and strategies, while you supply the motivation and commitment needed to achieve the desired result.
While career coaching may be a viable option, you should take caution when choosing a coach. You’ll want to look for a coach experienced (preferably credentialed) and well-endorsed by previous clients. You’ll also want to determine that this coach has experience guiding others to do what you’re trying to achieve—changing careers, starting a business, etc.
Finally, you’ll want to understand the coach’s process. If they can’t describe a general framework or methodology for working with them, that’s a red flag.
Final Thoughts on Charting a Career Change
Choosing or changing careers isn’t easy. There are many angles to consider before taking action. Since every professional’s situation is different, it’s impossible to capture every nuance in this article. However, this article is intended to guide your thinking and to point you to additional resources that may help.
By doing some deep reflection, leveraging your network, and utilizing some of the tools/strategies discussed here, you’ll be well on your way to your new career!
Tell us: How did you choose your first career path? If you’ve changed careers, what prompted you to make the switch and what did your process look like?
Article written by Laura