Many times career change happens to us. Our industry starts to fade, our employer goes bankrupt, or we personally are downsized, fired, laid off, demoted or otherwise find ourselves at a crossroads.
But occasionally we choose to change careers of our own free will. It’s exciting, a little scary, and getting more common. If you can, take the opportunity to think it through.
First, know why you want to change careers. If it’s because you simply hate your current job, make a list of those things you don’t like so you don’t inadvertently land on a career that’s too similar. (It happens.) If money is the reason, figure out how much more money you’re looking for. You should also list what you liked about your old job, so you can try to replicate those good things in your new one.
Identify the areas of overlap between your old and new careers. If nothing else, important job skills such as organization, thoroughness and communication are easily transferable. Leverage everything that be leveraged.
Recognize that it may take time. You probably won’t end your old career on a Friday and start the new one on the following Monday. Chances are you’ll need to acquire new skills or certifications, build up your savings and/or reduce your debt and create a new network. You may even need to work at an interim job while easing into — or working up to — the job you really want.
Get clear on what you want to keep and what you’re willing to give up. It can help tremendously to make a list of what you must have (a flexible schedule, a certain salary, etc.) and what you’re willing to compromise on (Are you willing to relocate? Would you be happy with a lesser level of power and authority?).
Finally, you need to believe in the possibility of change. After we’ve done the same kind of work for a few years, we start to think of ourselves in a certain way — as a tech worker, say, or a teacher or an attorney. It becomes part of who we are. Changing careers means changing identities, and that can be a challenge, even threatening. So be prepared for setbacks and always keep working toward your goal.