How To Change Your Career Path. Step One: Look In The Mirror

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Switching careers is difficult but rewarding. Here are some ways to make it easier to know what you are getting into and how to succeed!

Just thinking about changing your career can bring up a lot of emotions: Excitement about what seems like a better path, anxiety of how to achieve it, and fear of failure. While changing your career isn’t easy, it is possible to do. The key is to go about it so you are confidently moving it a direction where you understand both the journey and what is really at your destination. After all, you don’t want to work hard just to end up wanting to change careers the moment you get there! Here are some ways to change your career effectively:

1. Make Sure It’s A Career Change You Really Want

You’re thinking, Duh. Why else would I be reading this? But before you go back to school or start down a new track, make sure it’s your career and not your job that you hate. Write down what it is about the jobs you’ve had in this career that make you want to try something new. Did they each leave you feeling unfulfilled or feel like they didn’t align to your values? If so, you probably should be looking into other lines of work. However, if you feel like it’s a toxic boss or overwhelming work schedules, it could be your current situation or a pattern of habits you can solve. Have the tough conversations with your boss to see if you can make adjustments to what is stressing you out. If you feel like there is a constant pattern in every job, career coach Kathy Caprino suggests seeing how you could be “participating in sustaining these patterns” so you can break them. If you still want to change your career, at least you’ve practiced talking with superiors and breaking habits that you don’t want to carry into your new path.

2. Figure Out Who You Really Are

It’s time to dive deep into what kind of person you truly are and what lifestyle you want to lead. Caprino recommends knowing what you’ll give up everything for, what you value, your priorities, standards of integrity, non-negotiables and your style, preferences, and ideals.” Now is the time to seriously get to know yourself if you haven’t already. You need to ask yourself what lines you want to draw for yourself, like work-life balance, and what boundaries you are excited to push past. Look at all of the jobs you have had in the past and ask yourself what you liked about each and what you hated. See if you can find patterns and think about what that means at the core. Maybe what unites past experiences is you enjoy things where you work directly with people or you don’t like working without a team. All of this soul searching will help you figure out your own boundaries so you don’t fall into the trap of trying a new career that fits someone else but wouldn’t fit you.

3. Test-Drive Your New Career Before Fully Jumping In

Many of us have had an experience where we accomplished something, like completing a marathon or starting a blog, and someone nonchalantly says they want to do the same. There is a part of you that screams internally how they have no idea how much work you put into that goal! In the same way, how we view jobs from the outside totally can differ from what the job entails daily. Many jobs seem like a dream at the outcome stage: being at a movie premiere, getting a photography spread in Vogue, or accepting the award for an ad campaign. Behind that success you see are hours of day-to-day duties that may not align with your skills and values. Caprio suggests to “try on the professional identity of this new direction before you leap.” How do you do this? Job site Monster.com recommends taking on an internship, contract role, or volunteer position where you are in the thick of what the career really entails. Interviewing people who have both succeeded and failed will help you learn lessons from people with years of experience and also tips for succeeding yourself.

4. Network With People In Your New Career Path

Career strategist and recruiter Jenny Foss suggests getting to know people in the industry and career you want to work in so you can implement their input to your work and build a network. Networking is a terrifying word for many, but find people who you truly admire and reach out to them with a compliment on their work. If you are coming from an authentic place, they will see that and potentially let you pick their brain. Just like how college had advisors, finding a mentor or network of people already in the business is essential to becoming someone in the industry yourself and to have boots already on the ground when you reach out for possible job leads. Just make sure you thank anyone who meets with you. A note and gift go a long way to showing you appreciate someone’s help!

5. Apply Your “Past” Life To Your New One

Don’t be so quick to leave your past career entirely in the dust! When you pivot to a new career path, you’re not entirely hitting the reset button. Whatever work you’ve been doing has built up skills and many can transfer over to your new career. It is all about finding what you did that is similar to what you will be doing and shifting your brand to make that clear to employers. Foss cites computer scientist Cal Newport when she suggests leveraging “the career capital you’ve already built up over the years” when looking or transitioning into a new role. You also want to make sure recruiters and HR heads see how your past experience makes you a good fit for their roles. Foss says you can’t rely on them connecting the dots. She says it needs to be, “’smack in the forehead obvious’ on your resume, your LinkedIn profile, your cover letter—why you make perfect sense for the roles you’re applying for.” So figure out your own elevator pitch that unites your past with your future!

6. Don’t Go It Alone

Sometimes we think that wanting to make a major change is something to keep to ourselves but you need to bring in people you trust to this process. Caprino points out that close family and friends may see what we are capable of or solutions to problems we’re having that are difficult to see for ourselves. Plus, having a team who has your back can help when you are job-hunting, as Monster.com points out your network may be able to introduce you to people they know in the industry or point you to jobs that aren’t advertised.