Here’s some “food for thought” to help ease your transition.
1. Have you built up your network?
Your networking skills will likely be key to landing a new position. Without knowing anyone who is working in your new field, it may be difficult to make connections with potential employers. “You absolutely must get to know passionate and successful people working within that new field of interest,” says Jenny Foss of themuse.com.
And as with all networking, remember that “the goal is not to add 100 people on LinkedIn or to collect a ton of business cards,” as career author Nathan Tanner puts it. “Think about you, your industry and the goals that you have and how you can improve. Then, rather than thinking about what you can gain, try: ‘How can I build relationships?’ ‘How can I give something to this person that he or she would find valuable?’”
2. Do you need additional education?
If your network in your new (or current) field is sparse or nonexistent, try making connections with classmates and instructors in a workshop, course or certificate. Once completed, be sure to add these courses and certificates to your résumé and LinkedIn profile!
Evan Brookes forged crucial connections in our Certificate Program in Paralegal Studies, which he leveraged first into an internship and then into more stable positions. “From the internship, I got a temporary job working in litigation, which became permanent,” says Brookes. “Then I got my current project coordination position at Robert Half Legal.”
3. Have you identified your transferable skills?
Take inventory of your professional skills, accomplishments and experiences. Do you see any consistent themes? These can point you in a new direction, or help craft a story about how they transfer to the new role you are seeking.
Career-changer and current project manager J.P. Ouellette recalls: “It dawned on me that when I went down the list of my past experiences, there was a pattern of always managing a team of people to get something done according to a budget and a schedule. I knew I should take a look at project management as a career.”
4. Have you done any informational interviews?
Informational interviews aren’t just useful for those who are starting out in the world: They can provide clarity on your options and the steps others have taken to establish themselves in your dream career.
5. Have you considered the hybrid job?
If you are targeting a stand-alone job that is in declining demand, perhaps a hybrid role would better incorporate the new challenges you seek, with fewer of the risks. Researchers with Bentley University and labor market data firm Burning Glass found in an analysis of 24.5 million job postings that "71% of in-demand skills are required across two or more job categories.”
6. Do you have a fallback plan?
While it’s essential to maintain a positive mindset while changing careers, an American Institute for Economic Research study found that almost one in five people failed to make a late career change stick. Before making the transition, make sure you discuss your plans with loved ones and decide what to do if the career transition doesn’t work out.
Map out if-then scenarios, budgets and time limits: If there aren’t clear signs of progress in a year or two, what then? Can you go back to your old career if the new one doesn’t work out, or moonlight in your new career before taking the plunge? Will your personal or family budget accommodate a temporary income reduction while you gain career traction? Figuring out the answers to these questions can help you weather the inevitable surprises and setbacks as you pilot your career change.