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Changing Careers

How to Change Careers

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated August 13, 2021

Guide Overview

Career change motivationsWhat career can you change to?Career change ideasHow to change careersIs it too late to change careers?Tips for a midlife career change

Guide Overview

You went to college to become, let's say, an accountant. But after a number of years in the business, balancing the books all day for a corporation isn't doing it for you. Instead, you think you'd like to have a career in the arts - a 180-degree change from your previous nine-to-five job.

You're nervous. Is it even possible to make such a big career change? We're here to tell you not only is it possible, but it's probable if you're willing to take the correct steps to achieve your career dreams. Here's how you can change careers and get a new job.

Career change motivations

You’re unhappy in your current field or you wouldn’t want to make this change. But instead of wallowing in your misery, recommends Aurora Meneghello, Transformational Coach, you should take the risk and apply for something new.

“It may be disappointing to hear, but you probably won’t know what to do and how to be successful at it until you do it,” she says. “You will have to follow that hunch that you should be doing something else and then try to do something different, fail, pivot and try again until you find your calling.”

She continues: “You might not experience an epiphany before quitting your current job, but when you finally find the right career, you will know for sure.” The point, she says, is to try.

Only you can decide what your career change motivations are. Have you reached the ceiling salary in your current discipline, or hit the top of the promotion ladder? Or is it something more abstract – a desire to put untapped potential to work, or to learn new skills?

It’s often towards the end of our careers that we develop this kind of yearning. If your motivation is simply to try something different before it’s too late, don’t delay – there’s no time for regrets.

What career can you change to?

The sky’s the limit. Just because you have worked in one industry or profession, it does not close the door to working in another.

Like when you chose your first job, it’s a case of deciding what you want to do, and then making it happen. You can do this in a number of ways, for example:

  • Choose a career where you have relevant knowledge, even if it was not gained on the job (e.g. if you have close friends or family in the relevant industry)
  • Choose a career that capitalises on things you have learned from hobbies and interests (e.g. if you have learned skills like woodworking and/or read academic works on a specific subject)
  • Choose a career you can retrain for (e.g. by attending evening classes, online tutorials or part-time university degrees)No matter what career you want to enter, there is likely to be a way to make it happen. So if you have a specific profession in mind, it’s then a case of deciding what you need to do, in order to become a viable candidate for jobs in that discipline.

Career change ideas

Early in your career, there are few limits on the types of jobs you can enter – although you may need to retrain, if you want to do something highly skilled and specific.

Later in your career, your knowledge and experience can open more doors than you’d expect. Some career change ideas for experienced individuals include:

Life Coach

Soft skills are something you develop over time, and combined with a successful career or home life, this gives you unique insight to share with paying customers who would like to follow in your footsteps.

See Open Jobs

Teacher

Either as a permanent teacher or as a substitute/supply teacher, you can apply your knowledge to a role many people find incredibly rewarding, as well as working around young people whose energy can be invigorating if you’re bored in your career.

See Open Jobs

Virtual Assistant

A virtual assistant (or virtual PA) takes care of admin for other individuals or businesses. Not everybody enjoys admin, but if you have an affinity for the invoicing and paperwork, this could be a good way to earn an income without facing less enjoyable tasks and duties.

See Open Jobs

How to change careers

Now that you know you’re ready to change careers, it’s time to start a job search. But you don’t want to apply to any ol’ job in your new chosen field, or you could end up back where you started – unhappy and looking for yet another change.

So when you launch your job search, “be clear on what you want, why you want it and what qualifies you,” even if this is a brand-new field for you, advises career coach Roy Cohen.

Because “without clarity from the very start, virtually every stage that follows will be based on little more than a hunch – and that is an extremely fragile foundation for navigating a dynamic job search.”

Cohen says your job search should include some form of self-assessment. “It could involve taking a standardised assessment instrument, keeping a journal, or talking with people whose advice and feedback you value – friends, family, or a career coach,” he says.

“The goal is to achieve self-awareness in the form of a career target.” After that, “the next – and equally important step – is a reality check,” Cohen says. “Here is where you determine that the goal you selected makes sense. Is it appropriate for you and is it attainable?”

Is it too late to change careers?

It’s never too late to change careers, and you’ll often find the experience you’ve gained in one industry can be applied equally well in another. For example, if you’re applying for boardroom, executive or senior management roles, your people skills are likely to count for a major portion of your required skill set.

You might be surprised by how valued your specific industry is, even in a seemingly non-related discipline. A scientific background or understanding of maths and engineering is relatively rare in the arts, and conversely, excellent written communication skills can be highly sought after in technical disciplines.

Ultimately, you only get one chance at living your life, and that includes the time you spend at work. If you feel like your heart is pulled in two different directions and your current career path is no longer fulfilling, it might be time to try the road less travelled. You can always change again in the future, if it doesn’t give you the satisfaction you seek.

Tips for a midlife career change

You’re at or beyond the midpoint of your working life, and you’ve built up a good amount of business acumen. But how do you apply that to a totally new field of work? Here are our top tips for midlife career changes, to make the most of the experience and connections you have already made.

Related: 6 Things You *Don’t* Want to Hear About Changing Careers (But Need to Anyway)

Straighten out your CV

While you may not have experience in the field you’d like to enter, everyone has what are called transferable skills – skills any manager would want their employees to have.

These skills are very important to highlight when you’re making a career change, according to career coach and resume writer Anish Majumdar. In fact, Majumdar insists, after a certain number of years as a worker, your training and education take a backseat to skills such as:

  • Managing change i.e. can you handle change well and adapt to new conditions?
  • Communication i.e. can you build relationships, manage conflict, and influence people in positive ways?
  • Leadership i.e. can you coalesce people around a vision for the future?
  • Problem solving i.e. can you find the opportunity in adversity?

Take a look at the new job and career field you’d like to enter and identify which of these transferable skills will be the most valuable. Then make them stand out on your CV.

Majumdar recommends you show – rather than tell – your transferable skills on your resume. Think in terms of hard numbers and facts. For example, if you’ve managed change well in the past, she suggests writing something like: “I mitigated the effects of a $42 million revenue shortfall as a result of new policy affecting direct marketing efforts [and] led a digital marketing campaign that cut a $42 million loss into a $5 million loss in eight months.”

Use your network

Much like dating, scoring a job – in your current industry or in another one – is about getting out there. Putting yourself in networking situations will help you speak to people in the industry about trends, companies hiring and current events. It will also allow you the opportunity to vocalise your intent to change careers.

It’s not enough to simply apply to jobs in a new industry. You must speak up for yourself and let your network know that you are actively looking for a new job and that you are taking the necessary steps (i.e. taking classes, learning new skills and rebranding yourself) to position yourself for the change.

A big no-no when networking is coming right out and asking someone you’ve just met for a job. You may be eager, but nurture the relationship a bit before launching into asks. While speaking directly is important in business, being this direct is downright presumptuous and rude.

When networking, it’s risky to ask for a job from a new acquaintance. It’s just as risky to request a reference, especially if you’ve just met the person. Networking should yield a mutually beneficial relationship, not an Aladdin and the genie arrangement. Your wish is not their command.

Lastly, remember to think beyond your intended industry. Industries and careers are more fluid than ever, so having a network beyond your immediate skill set may give you a leg up when you plan your next career move.

Instead of looking specifically to cultivate your network, try to find ways to meet more people organically through your interests outside of work:

  • Join a running group
  • Talk to the regulars at your yoga class or gym
  • Volunteer at a community fundraising event

The point isn’t to talk work – it’s to expand the group of people you know, which could lead to new networking opportunities.

Approach experienced peers

As you’re choosing your new career – and applying for new jobs in your chosen field – consider setting up a few informational interviews with people who are doing what you’d one day like to do.

They can give you solid advice on how to enter the field and impress in an interview, which is invaluable information to someone completely new to the industry.

“The best way to get a meeting with decision-makers is to ask for informational meetings with them,” says April Klimkiewicz, career coach.

“Rather than the hard sell of ‘I’m looking for a job, do you know of anything?’ this informational meeting takes the soft-sell approach of asking for information, and for them to share their story, so you gain advice for your job search and career journey.”

Don’t be nervous to ask for a face-to-face, Klimkiewicz encourages. “People who are happy in their work generally love to talk about what made them successful,” she says, “so if you reach out to decision makers and ask for informational meetings, it’s only a matter of time [before someone agrees to meet].”

Put yourself out there

You’ve found your dream job. You’ve whipped your CV into shape. You’ve talked with people in your new career field. And yet you’re still afraid to apply because you could get rejected.

Apply anyway, encourages Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, MRW. “If you feel stuck in toxicity at work, then do something that feels tangible,” she says. “For example, if you want a job at a specific company, send a resume there. Even getting a rejection letter – or in some cases, no response – is better than doing nothing.

“In other words, the energy vibe you will feel – the palpable traction – will be invigorating. The act of composing a cover letter and focusing yourself on an action that may resolve your work discord is empowering.”

No matter what stage you are at in your career, a well-honed CV, a fearless attitude towards rejection and an outgoing approach to networking with new business contacts will all help to maximise your presence in your chosen industry, and improve your chances of finding a job opportunity that perfectly fits your transferable skill set.

Learn More!

Ready for a career change, but have no idea what else you could do – or where to start? Need more nitty-gritty advice on pivoting into tech, changing careers after a sabbatical or wondering how to navigate the interview questions recruiters are sure to ask? Here are a few related articles that will answer all of your questions:

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