Have you been considering a career change, but are unsure how to approach it? Perhaps you’ve been unhappy for a while, but don’t know what else you would like to do. Or, maybe you’ve noticed warning signs in your current career that suggest it may be time to look for something else.
If you are thinking about making a career change, here are 5 steps to a successful career transition.
1. Know Who You Are
Before you can determine an appropriate next step, you must have a clear understanding of who you are. Most importantly, you need to know your strengths. What comes naturally to you? What skills do you possess?
Take inventory of all of your talents, skills, experiences, and other unique attributes. Think broadly across your life and career, including unpaid work experience, community involvement, etc. Try to include as much detail as possible. While you may be tempted to dismiss certain things as insignificant, the goal is to paint a comprehensive picture of yourself.
2. Know What You Want
You may not know exactly what you want to do next, but you likely have a clear sense of what you do and do not want from your next job. Think carefully about previous roles. What did you find most enjoyable and rewarding? What was missing that you’d like to include moving forward? And what do you never want to do again?
Think also about the type of environment in which you would like to work. What type of manager would you prefer? What types of co-workers would you like to have? What type of schedule would you like to work? The more clearly you can envision your ideal work setting, the more easily you will be able to evaluate potential opportunities.
3. Understand Your Options
Once you have a clear understanding of who you are and what you want, it’s time to explore your options. A simple way to do this is to identify potential career paths that interest you. Based on information from the previous steps, enter relevant keywords into the search function on one or more of the major job boards and see which results appear. What roles and fields align most closely with your strengths and interests?
When you’ve identified some potential career opportunities, talk to people who are currently in those roles. Reach out to professionals in your network, or seek introductions from your contacts, and schedule informational interviews to better understand what they do and how they got there. Ask them for specific advice on how to break into their organization or field.
4. Narrow the Gap
After meeting with professionals in your areas of interest, you should now have a much better sense of what you would like to do and what would be required to make that change. Think about the skills, strengths, and experiences that you have today. How can you transfer these to a new role?
Think also about anything you may be missing. How can you narrow the gap between where you are today and where you need to be in order to successfully transition to the new opportunity? Do you need to strategically expand your network? Are there courses or training classes you can take? Can you gain additional experience through volunteer or contract work? Create a plan to address this gap so that you are best prepared to pursue your next role.
5. Have a Clear Story
Once you are clear about what you want to do next, it is important to develop a compelling message about why you want to make the transition and why you are well positioned to do so. This is particularly important if you are interested in making a major shift from one field or role to another, as this type of career change often requires a more powerful message.
As you pursue new opportunities, be sure to connect the dots for networking contacts, recruiters, and hiring leaders with whom you may be communicating. Don’t leave it to others to put the pieces together, as this often leads to unjustified assumptions. The more clearly and convincingly you can articulate your career goals and why they make sense, the easier it will be for you to make the transition.
Making a career transition can feel frustrating, overwhelming, and scary. These five steps, however, will help you to overcome many of the challenges associated with making this change. If you find yourself continuing to struggle, consider seeking the support of a mentor, career coach, or other resource who can offer guidance, as well as an objective perspective on the process.