How To Make A Career Change: Finding Your Way To A New Life Path
By: Marie Miguel
Updated February 04, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Rashonda Douthit , LCSW
Are you thinking of making a career change? Does it seem almost out of reach? Perhaps you feel like it should be easier than it seems. After all, career changes are a fact of life for most people, right? The truth is that every career change is different. People change careers more often than they once did. However, contrary to what you might read online, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has never estimated how many times people change careers in their lifetime. On their website, they explain why. Very simply, it's too difficult to determine what constitutes a career change.
Thinking about what you mean by career change can help you focus more clearly on what you need to do to achieve your goals. From there, you have a lot to consider, preparations to make, and connections to build. Then, with your goals in mind, you can follow the new path you've mapped for yourself. Making a career change doesn't have to be an impossible dream. With some soul-searching, the right career information, and solid support from others, you can make that change and achieve success.
What Do You Want from Your New Career?
If you're thinking about a career change, chances are you've realized your current career isn't satisfying to you anymore, if it ever was. You may know exactly what's lacking, or you may only have a feeling that something's missing. The following are some of the reasons people have for a career change:
- Better pay and benefits
- Work that's more meaningful to them
- A chance to be more creative
- A career that's less physically demanding
- To make better use of their talents
- The business they work for is closing
- Better opportunities for advancement
- Advances in technology have left their industry behind
- A career where they can honor their personal and spiritual values
- A fresh start after a perceived failure
- To find and pursue a new passion
- A less stressful work environment
- To overcome boredom
- More or less responsibility
- More freedom to make choices
Look hard at where you are now and where you want to go next. Find the reasons that resonate most with you. Now that you know what you want, it's time to decide on a specific career path.
Decide on a New Career to Pursue
Take your time deciding what career you want next. It may take a lot of effort to prepare yourself for your new career and it will require commitment to get started once you're ready. If you're unemployed, you may need to accept a temporary job to tide you over as you explore your options. That's okay. It won't be forever. Spend the time to find your ideal career before plunging in headfirst.
If you're not sure where your skills and talents lie, an aptitude test may be a good idea. However, you don't have to be ruled by the results of the test. It's just to give you an idea of what you're best at and offer some suggestions about what kind of job you might be naturally suited to do. Remember that you can develop the skills you already have or add new ones before you begin.
Talking to a counselor can be very helpful at this point of the process, especially if you're unclear about who you are, what you want, or what it will take to make this career change. Consider all the information you've gathered about yourself and the workforce, and decide what you want to do next. These are questions you must decide for yourself, but having an objective therapist to guide you as you sort them out can be very beneficial.
Prepare Yourself for the Career You Want
Now that you've decided, it's time to get started with the preparations. You may need to go back to school, attend seminars, get certifications, as well as develop the skills and talents you already have. With the decision made, don't lose your momentum and motivation. No matter how old or young you are, don't delay your dream.
Look for the Fast Track
With any career change, it's important to use what you have and build on it whenever possible. Perhaps you already have an education, but it doesn't seem well suited to the career you want. Look closer to see what skills or education you already possess may be transferable to a new career.
For example, if you have a Bachelor's degree in psychology and want to get into computers, you may be able to get the computer education you need without starting over with a Bachelor's in computer science. Then, you can build on the psychology degree by choosing a niche that uses both, such as making websites more user-friendly based on the way the human mind works.
Another example is a high school teacher who wants to get into the business field. They can learn about a specific area of business that they can teach in a business setting. Teaching adults - especially adults who will use the information you give them to further their careers - is so different from teaching adolescents that the entire experience will be new. Unless you're a business teacher, the subject will be new to you too. The education requirement may be short and easy. For example, if you want to teach people how to use business software, the only education you might need is to attend a short course by a software company and get some experience using the programs offered.
Advance Your Education
Now that you've found the quickest way to get the required qualifications to enter a new career field, get started! Chart an educational course, and follow your plan. Choose electives that relate to your career field in some way, if possible.
Hone Your Skills and Develop Your Talents
To have a successful career, it's always a smart idea to go beyond the requirements of an educational program. Whenever you get the chance, practice using the skills you already have. Experiment with using your talents in new ways. Get hands-on experience by practicing at home, in a hobby club, or through volunteer work.
Get the Credentials You Need to Succeed
With your educational requirements satisfied, you may need a certification or special license to practice in your field. Research what will be needed. You may need to take a test, complete an internship, develop a portfolio, etc. Even if not required, certification is always a good idea. It looks good on a resume and can set you apart from others in your field.
Build Support For Your Career Change
Making a career change is never easy and trying to do it all on your own can be tough. Talk to others and work on building a strong support network. Your network may include your loved ones as well as people in the career field you're entering.
Get Your Friends And Family On Board
Talk to your trusted friends and family about your decision to change careers. Welcome their input, but remember that yours is the opinion that matters most. Own your career change, but don't be afraid to share your progress with the people who mean the most to you. If you're happy about it, the people who care about you most will be happy for you.
Start Networking Early
Early on, perhaps even when you're still undecided, start connecting with people who are already doing the work you want to do. Ask people you know to introduce you to professionals in the industry. You may also be able to connect with future colleagues through a career-focused social site like LinkedIn. Build relationships with people in your new career field while furthering your education. Those already in the industry are often a wonderful source of information, job leads, and inspiration.
Find A Mentor
One of the best ways to make the transition to a new career is to find someone already in it who is interested in helping you get started. Finding a mentor isn't always easy, but it's a great way to learn the ins and outs of the work and gain some insight into the details of how to make a career change. A mentor may offer specific advice based on their own experience in the field and may point you to new experiences that will help you learn more. They may also help you make connections within the industry. Because it's a one-to-one relationship, the mentor can focus on your specific interests and needs.
How A Counselor Can Help You Before And During Your Career Change
You already know it's better to have support on this journey than to go it alone. Although well intentioned, your friends and family may not know a lot about how to make a career change to your field of interest. A counselor can help you explore your skills, strengths and interests as you plan to transition to a new career.
Get An Objective Perspective
The biggest advantage of talking to a counselor before and during your career change is that they remain objective. They put your needs and desires first during sessions. They are there with one main goal: to help you do what it takes to live a happy, healthy life.
Manage Practical Matters
A counselor can help you in other ways, too. They can suggest aptitude and interest tests and help you understand the results. They can help you find new ways to think about your skills and talents. They can guide you as you assess your suitability for any career and help you decide what to do next and commit to that decision. A counselor may also be able to point you to community resources for making a career change or entering a specific profession.
Learn To Communicate More Effectively
You may need to improve your communications skills for interviews or to manage your new career. Counselors study interpersonal communication and use them in their daily work, so they can help you on that count, too, with advice, practice, and homework so you can learn the skills to get your point across in the most effective way possible.
Practice Thinking And Behaving Differently
Your new career may require you to behave differently than your previous one. Maybe you need to think and act in ways that are more professional, for example. A therapist can help with stress, anger management or assist you with other skills that can help you be successful in your new career.
Get Continuing Support
As you enter the workforce in your new career, a counselor can continue to provide support for your career change. They can help as you adjust to your new role and job. You may welcome their guidance as you set career goals. Obstacles nearly always arise as you make a move from the familiar to the unfamiliar, even if you're happy to be making the change. A counselor can help you find ways to overcome problems that could otherwise hold you back.
A therapist can help you build healthy positive self-esteem. As you value yourself more, you may find the courage to make a career change. If you go back to school, your grades may be better, and your class participation may improve as your self-confidence grows. You'll interview better and command more respect on the job.
Where To Find Help With Your Career Change
Finding a counselor to help you on your path to a new career doesn't need to be a long, drawn-out process. Licensed counselors are available on BetterHelp.com to help you get started right away. When you talk to one of our counselors, you can learn all you need to know about how to make a career change and get help every step of the way. Are you ready to change your career and your life? If so, we're always here to help.