A career change can be an exciting time in your professional life. Deciding to swap what you do or who you do it for to something new, for whatever reason, can provide a great refresh to your work. Whether it's for reasons of passion, opportunity, or skillset, it's a good idea to stop thinking about taking that leap and instead put yourself into action. Once you decide it's time, it's important to take the proper steps to make sure your transition doesn't transform into a downgrade.
Here are some tips on how to make a smooth career transition.
Consider all the variables
The first thing you’ll do in a career transition is decide what exactly you want to change. To properly kick off your career change efforts, it’s important that you understand and consider all the variables involved.
Consider if you want to start completely from scratch or bring along elements of your career that are familiar. The former is more difficult than the latter, as starting anew implies changing not just your ideal role, but other factors like industry, company culture, and team size. You won’t be able to take full advantage of your existent professional network, as most of your contacts are likely in your current industry.
Figure out if you’d be willing to take on lower pay or lower responsibility to make your career change possible. After all, you are trying to take advantage of a skillset that you haven’t gotten as much formal schooling or experience for or are applying it in an unfamiliar space. No matter how much managerial, leadership, or cross-functional experience you may have, your expectations should match up with the reality of a fresh start.
Finally, decide how drastic you want this change to be. There are varying degrees of career transition that you can take on depending on your career goals. For example, if you’re a marketer who wants to take on software development, you can look for a new role as a software engineer -- but only after going through some courses or a developer bootcamp to make sure you have the ability. On the other hand, if you want a less drastic change, you can look for roles that combine some technical skills you might already have with your marketing savvy, in the field of growth or technical marketing.
Focus on translatable skills
A big challenge in making a career transition is the perception that you have no formal experience in the new field or industry. Your career thus far has focused entirely on a single path, and all your work and education points in that direction. And since the best way to stand out to employers is to be highly relevant and catered to their hiring needs, you may feel like you’re lacking in that department.
Luckily, there are a lot of skills in the working world that translate from one field to the next. Be sure to talk to others in the roles and industries you're targeting so you can find out what parts of your experience sound most applicable for a resume and cover letter.
Any leadership, organizational, and project management skills you learned at your last job are critical to your future success. Find the skills you’ve developed that are uniformly translatable, figure out how they will benefit you in your new role, and market them to prospective employers in your resume, cover letter, and interviews. Because if done correctly, you may stand out to employers as a candidate with a unique and multifaceted skillset.
Many career transitioners decide to dive straight into the change without considering the difficulties of the process. Career change isn’t easy. It takes time, effort, sacrifice, and investment -- which is why it’s crucial to take care of your current stability. That way, when the time comes to make the change, you won’t have to worry about environmental factors that can derail your career goals.
First and foremost, take care of your finances. Do so by saving up an emergency fund for potential job loss. Save up for 6-8 months of expenses at the minimum. Stabilize your debt by regularly and swiftly paying off any credit card charges, and take care of your larger debts (college loans, car payments, etc…) to the best of your ability. If you find yourself lost in debt in the midst of a career change, you might find yourself forced back to your old career path.
Next, take care of yourself. Career change can be stressful, both mentally and physically. It pays off to be in good shape before you start your transition. You can begin by eating healthy and exercising regularly. Take advantage of any existing health insurance plan to get routine health screens and do what you need to do to resolve any nagging issues.
A career change is a worthy endeavor for professionals who need to liven up their working life. It allows you to find the job satisfaction and motivation you may be missing in your current role. Just make sure to consider all the variables and contingencies that can throw a wrench in your ambitions.