Inside Jobs Blog

Career Change: 7 Steps to Prepare for a Successful Switch

Career Advice | September 17, 2012


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You want to change your career. Maybe you’re frustrated in your current job. Maybe you’ve been off the market for a while and are ready to get back in the mix. Maybe the job market in your area has taken a dive.

Whatever the reason, you want a career that’s a better fit for who you are—today.

Changing careers is an exciting step for your future. But if you don’t know where to start, it can also be challenging, confusing, or just plain overwhelming. Follow these seven essential prep steps to make your career change a success.

STEP 1: FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU WANT TO CHANGE

To change your career path, you’ve got to figure out why you don’t like about the one you’re already on. See if you can answer these three questions:

• What do you dislike about your current role, environment, hours, responsibilities, or field?
• What tasks drain you and what tasks do you look forward to doing?
• What changes ( like more responsibility, less stress, etc.) would make you happier?

If you need some perspective to tackle these questions, try keeping a daily work journal, detailing what you do and how it makes you feel. At the end of a week or a month, look back through your entries to spot recurring themes.

Action ⇒ Make a list of the specific changes you want out of a career switch.

STEP 2: PINPOINT STRENGTHS AND INTERESTS

Another important part of career transition involved determining your interests, strengths, and skills. For example, you can:

• Think about situations in which you’ve felt successful. Can you spot any trends?
• Brainstorm the things you’ve always loved to do, or are interested in learning more about.
• Talk about your core values with friends, family, or professional contacts.
• Take a self-assessment test like the Keirsey Temperament Sorter or the Jung Typology Test.

Even if you’re jumping into a totally new field, you’re not starting from zero. Because you’ve got work experience, you’ve already developed general work and life skills that you can apply to your new career path.

Action ⇒ Create a list of what you’re good at (strengths) + what makes you tick (interests).

STEP 3: EXPLORE CAREER IDEAS

The key to exploring careers is to start by casting your net wide. Plug your strengths and interests into the Inside Jobs Career Finder. This tool also lets you browse career ideas by favorite school classes, personality strength, and more.

The detailed information you’ll find on our career profiles can help you explore and compare careers to find ones that fit your lifestyle, values, strengths, and interests.

When evaluating career, remember to keep these key points in mind:
• Salary Range. Will this career financially support the life I want?
• Personality Traits. Is this career a good fit for my personality?
• Job Outlook. Is this field growing? Are there many available job openings?
• Education. What schools can train me for this career?

You can take this career research to an in-person level through volunteer work, job shadowing, interning, or talking to people in the field. It’s surprising how happy most people are to tell you about their career experience—you’ve just got to ask.

Action ⇒ Explore and compare careers to find a career area you’d like to pursue.

STEP 4: FIND THE RIGHT TRAINING

Depending on what career you’re aiming for, you may need additional training. Sometimes this can be accomplished by taking on new responsibilities at your job, but many career shifts require a new certificate or degree.

The good news? You’ve got lots of options including online classes, community college courses, and traditional degree programs.

At Inside Jobs, we make it easy to find the right career training. Each of our career profiles comes with a list of schools in the country that offer related education. You can also use our School Finder tool. Request more information from a school to learn how they can help you prepare for your future.

Action ⇒ Discover and connect to schools that can prepare you for a new career.

STEP 5: TACKLE YOUR FEARS

Fear of the unknown comes with the territory of career change. It’s not easy to walk away from what’s familiar. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s totally normal! Try this simple exercise to turn undefined fears into actionable problems that can be broken into do-able chunks:

1) Write down any fears. For instance, maybe you’re worried a career switch is too expensive.
2) Turn each fear into a “How” question. For example, “How am I going to afford a career change?”

Fear isn’t always a bad thing. It can help us hone our ideas, find flaws in our thinking, and prepare better for a change. Just don’t let it weigh you down so much you can’t accomplish your goals.

Action ⇒ Identify fears so you can create realistic action plans to handle them.

STEP 6: LAY THE GROUNDWORK

Now that you know what you’re aiming for, you’ve got to make plans for the logistics of how and when you’re going to make it happen.

For example, if you’re worried about how to afford training for your career change, now’s the time to put aside savings, keep a stricter budget, or take on a part-time job for extra money.

This is also the time to rally your support network. Whether you have a close-knit group of a few friends, or a wide community of allies, it’s important to let people you know about your career change plans. They will be the cheerleaders who will keep you going, give you fuel, and support you through the tough patches.

They’re also the foundation of your network for when you start looking for a job.

Action ⇒ Take steps to prepare for your change.

STEP 7: TAKE THE LEAP

Being prepared is essential for career change success, but at a certain point you’ll need to bite the bullet and take action. As Dale Carnegie once said, “Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Congratulations on your career change and good luck!

Explore career options ⇒ or Find schools + training ⇒