STEP #1 — EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS
Uncertainty is one of the biggest blocks which holds you back from changing careers. To create certainty and safety, your brain needs proof that this new career path is possible. This is where moving from overthinking, into action is vital.
The first step to embarking on your career change is to explore potential career pathways. Informational interviews and testing out new skills are two practical ways to expand your knowledge of the career options available to you.
Set up informal chats with individuals doing work — or elements of work — which interests you. Get them to share their career story and ask plenty of questions to gain new insights into their career journey, industry or organisation. Then, test out new skills through volunteering, exploring a new hobby, self-education or taking on additional responsibilities at work.
Clear on the career path you wish to pursue? Say you’re moving from the corporate world and using your existing expertise to start a consulting business. This stage will give you the opportunity to test and validate your new career or business idea upfront to reduce risk with your move.
Alternatively, if you’re unsure what you want next or which career to choose, this initial exploration phase will help you identify and narrow down your options. In the process, you’ll develop new skills and gain practical experience in your career of interest. The key is to take action, pay attention to what resonates and continue moving in that direction.
When you move from analysis to action, you give your brain the evidence it needs to see what’s possible.
STEP #2 — MAKE A DECISION
You’ve explored potential careers and taken steps to test and validate your ideas. Next, you’re going to choose ONE career path to pursue.
Testing and validating your new career or business idea and coming to a decision is a whole process in itself. But for now, let’s proceed on the basis you know your direction and are ready to make a career change.
Once you’ve made a decision, learn more about the career you want to transition into. Talk to people working in the industry or a similar role. If you plan to start your own venture, speak to others running a similar business.
If your career change involves finding a new job, clarify the key criteria required for your new career. Review job descriptions or selection criteria for advertised positions to understand the main job requirements. Focus on the technical knowledge, personal skills or qualifications you’ll need — rather than the number of years’ experience.
Because when you’re clear on your direction and make an informed decision, you will navigate your career change with confidence.
STEP #3 — GET EXPERIENCE
At this stage, focus on gaining relevant, practical experience and developing essential skills before making your career change. Your goal is to bridge the gap between your existing knowledge, skills and experience — and those required for your new career.
It’s not always possible to move into your ideal role or business immediately. Consider opportunities to gain relevant experience via your current job, internships, personal projects or voluntary positions. If you want to build a business, consider starting out with a side hustle, part-time contracting or freelance work.
When developing new skills for your career change, the length of time it takes will vary. Do your research and consider any formal qualifications or certifications you’ll require. You may be able to upskill in a matter of months through a short course — while formal requalification will take longer.
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of self-education. When I started my entrepreneurial journey in 2013, I consumed blogs, books and You-Tube videos to learn how to establish, market and grow a successful business. Free information has never been more accessible, with a wealth of podcasts, articles and courses dedicated to your industry — or designed to teach you the skills required for your desired career.
The lesson for you is this. When you start taking steps to upskill TODAY, you’ll move into your dream career a whole lot faster!
STEP #4 — FOCUS ON TRANSFERABLE SKILLS
At this point, you’ll start to embark on your career change. However, if your transition involves looking for a new position in an area you have little experience, traditional job applications can be challenging. It’s much easier to sell yourself in a face to face interview. The difficulty is securing the interview in the first place!
So, HOW do you get around this?
By focusing on transferable skills.These are the existing personal or technical skills relevant to your new career. Here are my top 3 tips.
First, start by identifying YOUR transferable skills. Jot these down, along with any specific examples of where you’ve demonstrated these skills in previous positions. You can add these to the Key Achievements section of your resume, LinkedIn profile and have relevant examples ready to discuss at interview to back up your statements.
Second, create a skills based resume. Outline your key skills at the top of your CV, highlighting relevant achievements and specific examples where you’ve demonstrated those skills in your past career. Include a summary of your work history (position title, employer and dates) below — but focus on outlining your transferable skills upfront.
Also, look at the core skills listed in job adverts, position descriptions and selection criteria for the ideal role you’re applying for. Then, make sure you include these key words throughout your CV. The technology used to manage online job applications scans your resume for these key words, so customising each application will increase your chances of success.
Third, tell your personal story. Use the About section of your LinkedIn profile, cover letter or email to clearly state the type of role you’re seeking, WHY — and to highlight your relevant skills and experience.
Transferable skills are equally essential for career changers planning to start a business. If you’ve got limited business experience or are starting in a new industry, emphasise the transferable skills, knowledge and experience you bring to the table.
For example, when I first transitioned into career coaching, I communicated my transferable skills and highlighted my relevant recruitment, HR and business experience by sharing my personal story on the About page of my website, in my marketing materials, website copy, social profiles and posts.
When you own your existing experience and communicate your value with confidence, you will successfully change careers.
STEP #5 — CONNECT
This is the secret ingredient essential to the success of your career change. Start by building relationships through one-to-one connections with peers, potential clients, employers or referral partners.
Also, attend networking or industry events in your field. Networking feels uncomfortable for many people because of the association with selling or trying to generate new business. A simple reframe is to see networking as CONNECTING — an opportunity to develop long-term relationships and add value to others.
Next, conduct informational interviews to establish relationships with your network. The trust built between you and the person who shares their career journey, successes and challenges creates instant connection. Informational interviews also put you in front of hiring managers who can connect you to the right opportunity.
Finally, don’t forget to use your existing network. Let family, friends and colleagues know about your career change — EVEN if it feels uncomfortable. Ask them to connect you with potential clients or employers in your area.
Because when you prioritise connection and what you can give versus get, you will be supported by others and transition careers with ease!
STEP #6 — HAVE A PLAN
As a mid-career professional, you’ve grown accustomed to a certain salary level and likely have big financial and other life commitments. So naturally, you may feel anxious about leaving an established career, steady job and income.
Therefore, before making a career change, it’s crucial to consider your financial responsibilities and life stage. Then, to create a carefully constructed plan around your exit strategy and finances to minimise any risk with your move.
Need help with your career change plan? Read this article for a practical, step by step process to create a risk-free financial plan.
One disclaimer though… The tips I share in this article are for guidance purposes only and based on my own career changes and experience supporting many clients through their career transitions. However, I am not a finance expert, so PLEASE always seek independent financial advice before you make a big career change.
Always remember — when you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.
STEP #7 — BE REALISTIC
Changing careers after 10+ years in an existing profession or industry is never an easy process. So this final step is an important one.
Before embarking on your transition, consider the following questions:
- Are you prepared to reduce your salary expectations or start again in a new career and work your way up?
- How do you plan to bridge the gap between your current income level and any drop in pay?
- What steps can you take to mitigate risk with this move?
- How can you develop the experience you need to fast track your way up this new career ladder?
- What are the non-negotiables in your career? And what’s the driver behind your career change? (This is the most important!)
It’s essential to be flexible and have realistic expectations around starting salary, earning potential in your new career and timeframes to move.
The bottom line is this. When you remain realistic and take time to do your due diligence, you will reduce risk with your next career move.
When you’re successful and have worked hard to get where you are, career change is challenging. These are the exact strategies I used to navigate two career shifts and support my clients too. I also hope these tips help you!