If you are seeking a career change, make sure you do it the best way in order to be successful. In this market you’re likely not going to be able to tweak a few transferable skills and land your new dream job. It takes effort and strategic planning to be a qualified candidate that will be taken into consideration for a completely new role. And anything as important as your career is worth the effort if you’ll truly be happy!
Even switching industries within the same functional role can be difficult these days when employers have their pick of hundreds of candidates. It seems like they expect you to fit into a perfect little box of what they want. So what do you do? Here I’ll discuss 9 steps to making that all-exciting career change!
1.) Define exactly what you want
You can’t reach a goal without setting it. Self-exploration is the first step to the process. What job do you really want? Do you want a change in role, industry, or both? Take some free online career assessments for additional guidance.
2.) Do your research
Once you think you have a couple of ideas of what your employment goals are, it’s time to research them. Obtain some informational interviews from people already employed in the career you wish to pursue, including people who have recently transitioned into the career and those with long histories in the field. Find out the type of salary, work environment, daily duties, and career opportunities you can expect. Check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics to read profiles and outlook data on your desired career.
3.) Discover what EMPLOYERS want
Let’s face it – what you want is really irrelevant to the job market. It’s about what employers want and how they see you. So examine what employers expect of someone in your goal position. Search for job ads to see what qualifications employers are asking for. Try to gain informational interviews with people who hire for your desired role and ask them their suggestions for how you can improve yourself as a candidate. Gain as much knowledge as possible of what employers in your new field want so you know where you stand. Take a look on Craigslist’s “resumes” section and LinkedIn to see the resumes of people already in your desired field.
4.) Be honest with yourself
Be harshly honest with yourself. This means realizing where you don’t match up for jobs. Too many people waste a lot of time applying for jobs they are not qualified for. Transferable skills will only take you so far when there are others out there with the related experience and education already. Be realistic and view your resume like you were the hiring manager for the type of job you want. Where don’t you match up to the qualifications? Make a list of where you need to improve and what you would like to add to your resume to make you a more valuable candidate.
5.) Make a strategic plan
Next you need to set your goals as to when you will begin actively pursuing your new employment target. Depending upon where you are in relation to that career now, this could be six months to a year down the line. Document a formal plan of what you expect to achieve each month between now and your ultimate goal of landing a job in your new field. This includes all activities noted below including improving your education, experience, and contacts. Let this plan be your guide as you prepare for your transition.
6.) Get educated
Because you’re entering a new field or role there is likely some disparities in your knowledge base and you need to fill your “education gap” with fresh knowledge directly related to this field. You can probably find some free webinars online, some inexpensive courses or professional development workshops, or a formal certificate or certification program that you can take. All of these will be great boosters to your resume, and you may even gain some networking contacts by attending in-person events.
7.) Fill your experience gap
Just as your education may not match up to your new career, your experience may not either. If you’re currently employed, try taking on more responsibilities that are closer to your future career goals. If that isn’t an option, try volunteering to gain experience. The experiences you gain can be added onto your resume, so make sure you’re making the most of any given opportunities by focusing on building accomplishments and achievements!
8.) Build up your contacts
Sometimes it really is “who you know”, so get to know some key players within your new industry or job! Join professional development associations, attend networking mixers and speaking engagements, and connect with new people on LinkedIn. Take professionals in the field out to lunch to pick their brains, and start developing friendships and mentor relationships. The more people you know the better, but remember to add value to the relationship.
9.) Don’t give up
Following your passion is difficult, but isn’t is worth it? It can be a long road depending on what you’re looking to do, so find ways to stay on track and keep motivated. Stick to your strategic plan and reward yourself for milestones. It will all be worth it in the end!
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