Career Changes: Your Path To A New Life

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated April 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Does a career shift seem like the best move for you? Are you interested in exploring new opportunities in your industry? Perhaps an entirely new sector? People have been changing careers at a high rate recently, particularly after the pandemic. Workers are now considering ways they can work remotely, become independent contractors, or join organizations with values that align more closely with their own. If you’re contemplating pursuing a new career, there are a variety of considerations to keep in mind and tips for ensuring you land in a role that works for you. Below, we’re going to cover the ins and outs of making a career change. 

Are you considering a career change?

Understanding your career goals

Career changes can be hard, so it’s often important to evaluate the reasons for your potential career shift. Thinking about what a career change means to you can help you start connecting the dots between your current job and a future role.

Are you wanting to go into an entirely different industry? Or simply seeking a new role in the same field? 

The following are common reasons people seek a career change:

  • Receive better pay and benefits
  • Engage in more meaningful work
  • Identify a creative outlet
  • Exit a demanding career or role
  • Make better use of their talents
  • Transition out of a closing business or role
  • Seek better opportunities for advancement
  • Honor their personal values
  • Make a fresh start after a perceived failure
  • Pursue a different form of work (e.g., from an office job to manual labor)
  • Leave an unhealthy work environment
  • Take on more (or less) responsibility
  • Have more autonomy in designing their schedule

Consider spending some time brainstorming the reasons you want to make a change and write your thoughts down. This information can help inform the decisions you make regarding your next career, which we’ll discuss below.  

Deciding on a career

Given that your career will likely play a significant role in your quality of life, choosing a route that works for you can be crucial. You might already have a good idea of where you want to land; or you may simply have ideas based on your goals for your career change. Either way, it can help to find roles in which you can combine your interests and skills. Maybe you want to stay in the same field because you find it interesting, but your current position does not match with your skillset. For example, you may be an architect but eventually discover you enjoy writing about architecture more than practicing it. In this case, you could decide to pivot to architecture journalism. 

Or you may want to find an industry about which you’re more passionate, while utilizing the skills you’ve acquired in another sector. For example, you may be in finance but discover that you’d like to use your talent for numbers as an engineer. From there, you may decide to obtain a graduate engineering degree or go back to get a bachelor’s degree. Deciding to change industries can be a good first step toward laying out your career path.

Talking to a career transitions counselor can also be helpful, especially if you're unclear about what you want out of a career or what skills it will take to make a career change. Consider utilizing resources like the US Bureau of Labor’s Statistics site, which provides information on emerging industries, average salaries, growth for specific careers, and necessary qualifications. 

You can also browse sites like Indeed or LinkedIn, which have jobs from various sectors. There, you can identify common skills and qualifications that are necessary for specific roles while also eliminating options that may not align with your goals. Having a solid understanding of the positions that are available, the outlook for a certain career, and your earning potential can help you decide what job you’d like to land. 

It may take time for you to identify the exact position towards which you want to work. You may decide that you want to go into a new industry, despite not being sure what role you’d like to pursue. In this case, you could try to obtain an internship with a company that will expose you to the different positions that are available. Companies in many industries offer rotational internships, which allow interns to rotate among several different roles to get a sense for the various responsibilities employees have. Given the magnitude of your decision, it’s OK to take your time at this stage and ensure you’re following a career path that works for you.

Preparing for the change

Now that you understand your goals, both broad and specific, you can map out this new career path for yourself. Depending on what you’d like to do, you may need to go back to school, attend seminars, obtain certifications, or further develop the skills and talents you already have. The following are several tips for preparing to make a career change.


Consider educational advancement

Educational opportunities are often key to a successful career change. In addition to providing you with vital skills and knowledge, educational advancement can help you obtain required qualifications, utilize helpful career resources, and develop your professional network. For some career paths, an advanced degree is necessary (e.g., the law, medicine); in others, a graduate or bachelor’s degree can supplement a lack of experience or help signal to employers your high level of knowledge in the field. There are a variety of other types of educational opportunities that don’t involve a degree but can advance your career, such as online courses through universities (e.g., HarvardX) or programs through professional organizations (e.g., Chartered Financial Analyst Institute). 

Look closer to see what educational qualifications you already possess that may be applicable to a new career. For example, if you have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and are interested in tech, you may be able to get the education you need without starting over with a bachelor's in computer science or attending business school. You could choose to build on your psychology degree by finding a niche that uses both, such as making websites more user friendly based on the way the human mind works. Educational advancement can help boost your qualifications, improve your knowledge, and feel more confident as you make this transition. 

Hone existing skills and develop new ones

As you start your career search, it can be crucial for you to further develop the skillset you already have and identify the skills that are necessary for the jobs you want. Consider how you can use your talents in new ways. Pursue hands-on experience and new skills by practicing at home, in a hobby club, or through volunteer work. Remember that not all skills are tangible—soft skills like interpersonal communication, leadership, and problem solving could help you stand out to a potential employer.

If you're not sure where your skills and talents lie, an aptitude test may be a good idea to help assess your skills. These evaluations can give you an idea of your current skills and potential weaknesses and offer suggestions regarding industries, companies, and specific roles to which you might be well suited. Developing a skillset that matches your chosen field is often crucial to a successful career change.  

Obtain licenses/certifications

In addition to reaching certain educational benchmarks and acquiring pertinent skills and experience, you may need specific certifications or licenses to practice in your field. For example, many teachers need to pass standardized tests in their subject area to gain a teaching certification. Be sure to include these credentials on your resume once you obtain them. Even if it isn’t required, certification can help set you apart from other candidates and fill gaps that you may have in other areas. 

Build a professional network

Attempting to make a career change on your own may be difficult at times. As you undergo this transition, it can help to build a robust professional network. Consider reaching out to people who work in your desired field and asking them for an informational interview, which you can conduct over the phone, through email, or in person. Professional contacts are often wonderful sources of information, job leads, networking connections, and inspiration. If you’ve networked with someone who is interested in helping you get started, nurturing this connection can lead to a mentor/mentee relationship and useful insights into the best way to approach your career change. 

Prepare for job applications and interviews

After doing plenty of research, you’ve likely identified job descriptions that match roles you’re seeking. This is a good time to polish your resume and ensure your profile is updated on networking sites. Your resume is a critical place to highlight transferable skills and relevant experience. 

You can also write a cover letter that displays your skills in a more narrative form. Having a cover letter that you can edit based on the role you’re looking to fill can save you time and make the application process easier. Your cover letter can be a great place to catch an employer’s eye and, depending on the industry, express your passion for the career you’re pursuing. If writing isn’t your strong suit, you may want to enlist the help of a specialist to help you polish up your cover letter and resume.

It can also help to participate in mock interviews, particularly if you haven’t interviewed for a job in a while. If you’ve connected with someone who is familiar with the interview process in the field you’ve chosen, they may be willing to help you out. Even if they don’t have time to participate in a mock interview, they might be able to give you a list of common questions or tips you hadn’t considered.  

Talk to a counselor

A career counselor can bring a new point of view to your job search and give you tips for success. In addition to providing an unbiased perspective, a counselor can help you with career changes in the following ways:

  • Suggest aptitude or interest tests and assist with interpreting the results 
  • Encourage new ways of thinking about your skills and talents
  • Assess your suitability for any career and define next steps 
  • Direct you to resources for making a career change or entering a specific profession
  • Help you communicate more effectively
  • Talk through mental and emotional health challenges
  • Support your adjustment to new settings, responsibilities, and relationship dynamics
Are you considering a career change?

Consider online therapy

Research shows that online therapy can help individuals feel more prepared and confident when starting on a new career path. For example, in one study, researchers found that online therapy improved participants’ career adaptability. Career adaptability is the mental and emotional capacity to manage the potentially changing demands of a future or present career. The study also notes that online therapy can help people entering a new career better understand their options and evaluate their career interests. 

If you’d like guidance as you shift careers, online therapists are available to provide support, insights, and motivation. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can address concerns related to your career change remotely, which can be convenient if you’re short on time during this transition. Your therapist can also connect you with useful resources, such as at-home exercises that can help you better understand your goals and navigate your new career path. A qualified mental health professional can provide you with valuable tools and advice as you change careers. You can read below for reviews of BetterHelp therapists from people undergoing similar experiences. 

Therapist reviews

“I came to Val because I was having issues with relationships, my career, and depression. She helped me with all of these. It's clear that she is very experienced and has a lot of knowledge on these topics and how to help with them. I always look forward to speaking with her.”

“Sherida has helped provide me clarity in life allowing me to feel freer & has tremendously helped drop stress and anxiety. I feel like I have more purpose and direction in life - I'm excited to continue to work with Sherida!”


Changing careers can be a daunting prospect, but it is one that can lead to a more balanced, rewarding work life. Identifying your goals, researching thoroughly, and creating a solid plan can help make this transition easier. If you’d like additional help addressing the practical and emotional challenges that can accompany a career change, consider connecting with a licensed therapist online. With the support of a professional, you can take the next steps on both your career and mental health journeys.
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