Ready For a Career Change? Your Prep Guide to Jumpstart Your New Life

Business.com / Starting a Business / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Regardless of the reason for desiring a career change, here are some critical pointers to jumpstart your new life.

Plenty of professionals find themselves at crossroads during their careers and while some choose to stay in their present career, others choose to look for new job options.

There are many reasons people choose to change their career. Many are seeking a better work/life balance, some may be seeking out more money, and some just have an innate need for a major change in their life.

Whatever your motivation for a career change, always keep short-term and long-term goals in mind and understand that the process entails an investment of time and effort. To get ahead on your new career, follow the below guide. 

Related Article: A Career Coach Reveals: What's Wrong With Your Résumé?

Why Do You Want Change?

Take some time and evaluate your true motivations for changing careers. If changing careers is truly what you want, figure out what dissatisfied you in your current career.

  • Do you feel worn out all the time?
  • Do you feel your job tasks and responsibilities did not match your skills?
  • Do you not feel fulfilled by your current job?
  • Do you feel they could not pay you enough to do the work any longer?

Realizing what is making you dissatisfied in a previous profession can guide you to a more fulfilling second career.

Research Markets

Obviously, there are certain occupations that draw committed individuals despite the industry’s poor economic forecast. For most people, however, rebranding themselves into an expanding market matters a great deal.

Research expanding industries with resources such as the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, job boards run by online placement agencies, and information gleaned from business publications. While a career in a growing industry may not be your biggest motivation, knowing what you are getting into can help assess risk and opportunity.

Participate in a Self-Assessment Test

After deciding upon a career change, do some self-assessment. Various tests may reveal talents and creative bents. Some of the popular tests include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which looks at personality preferences, and The MAPP™ Career Assessment Test, which evaluates task types you prefer, how you undertake tasks, how you handle people and data and your reasoning and language abilities.

There are also a number of free self-assessments that can be of benefit:

Consider conducting an online search for “free job assessment test” and take a few, then compare and contrast the results you receive to get the best overall assessment. 

Related Article: The Best Careers for Introverts

Educate Yourself

If moving to another field in which you have little or no experience seems your destiny, make sure you prepare yourself properly. If you are deep in your current career, you will take a drastic step backward in terms of seniority and may take a step backward in compensation.

Consider creating a job change fund to tide you over during the transition to take the stress off of early earnings in your new role. Once you are reconciled with that reality, make a complete inventory of the skills you need to develop in order to get a job in your chosen area. This may entail additional college or professional courses.

In many cases, committed volunteering in the area of interest proves to employers a genuine interest in entering the field. Experience from your initial career path may be highly transferrable to a new one but at the same time, recognize you may require training in many new areas.

Find Mentors

Many successful professionals acknowledge that a mentor was instrumental in getting them off to a great start in their chosen profession. Mentors make a difference to those in the midst of a career change, as well.

An article published by the National Institutes for Health acknowledges the power of mentoring, stating mentors impart specific knowledge and expertise, contribute to protégé learning and skill development, as well as facilitate professional networking by introducing protégés to influential individuals.

Take an inventory of people you know personally and consider reaching out to them for friendly advice. Chances are you already have a network of contacts who, in turn, know people in other industries. It never hurts to ask, and a resume sent to someone you know stands a better chance than one sent in a mass mailing.

Create a Killer Resume

Start out by creating a personal mission statement. It serves as a basis for convincing potential employers you are worth hiring. It will help focus the message of your resume and cover letters, which must clearly convey your reasons for seeking a career change while also highlighting how your previous experience relates to the new position.

Linda Spencer, Assistant Director and Coordinator of Career Advising at Harvard Extension School, suggests treating resumes as personal marketing documents, and includes the following as components of outstanding resumes:

  • Start with action verbs that make accomplishment statements rather than just describe a job role
  • Customize the pitch to each potential employer
  • Include details about the impact your actions had, such as “increase, decrease, modify, or change”
  • Statements that quantify accomplishments, with specific statistics when available

Spencer also emphasizes the importance of a compelling cover letter, which should be “…one page, highly customized to each position you’re applying for. It answers two questions: why are you the right fit for the position? And how will you add value to the organization?”

If you are truly at a loss as to how to approach creating a new resume, consider engaging the services of a professional career coach or resume writer.

Hone Communication Skills

In a piece on changing careers, the Wall Street Journal suggests creating a “30-second introduction that sums up what you can do for employers.” Going into an interview with a clear description of your vision projects confidence and competence. Consider reinvigorating your negotiation skills so you obtain the job you want at a decent salary.

People change jobs all of the time. However, the uncertainty of whether a change in job equals a career change makes pinning down statistics difficult which is why the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) never estimates the number of times people change careers during their working lives. What you perceive as a new career may not be that different from your previous job. It all comes down to how you define career change.

Take heart, you are one among many changing jobs: although the BLS refrains from providing career change statistics, it reports that for people born in the years 1957 to 1964, the average individual held almost 12 jobs between the ages of 18 and 48.

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