How To Successfully Start a New Career
Are you ready for a new career? Are you thinking about pivoting your career and making a change to a new line of work? There’s a difference between changing jobs and changing careers. Changing jobs is typically defined as moving to a similar position at a different employer. Changing careers is more involved and usually means moving to a completely different type of position or a different industry.
Changing Jobs vs. Changing Careers
A career change may mean retraining, additional education, and even starting over at a low-level position and beginning a new career path from scratch. It’s not always easy, which is why I am sometimes surprised by the number of people who successfully change careers, often later in life. It isn’t always easy to do and sometimes takes a leap of faith and a good amount of bravery.
It’s very easy to get set in your ways and to think that because you always had this job or worked in that industry, you can’t do anything else. You may also feel like you chose the wrong career, and you’re stuck. That’s not true.
Tip: We can all make a change if we want to. The timing needs to be right, and the foundation for making a move needs to be set, but it can be done. The hardest part is convincing yourself that you’re ready to do it.
In some cases, we’re not even aware we need a change. We’re bored or tired or simply don’t feel like going to work. We use every excuse we can think of to take time off, and cringe at the thought of going back to work. Even worse, we simply don’t like our job and would rather be anywhere else than at the office. That can happen to anyone.
Signs That it’s Time for a New Career
When it does, these warning signs should be an indicator that it’s time for a change. If you can describe yourself in the following ways, it’s a sign that it’s time for a new career:
- Burned out
- Not interested in the job
- Will take any excuse for not going to work
- Unable to focus on tasks
- Performing poorly
If some of these symptoms describe you, keep in mind, your boss has probably noticed, too. You may want to start thinking about finding a new job before your boss thinks of it.
Tip: It’s easier to job search when you have a job than when you just got fired. It’s also easier to explain that you want to advance your career than it is to explain you lost your job because of poor performance.
Start With a Small Step
That leap I mentioned earlier, by the way, doesn’t have to be a big one. Sometimes it makes sense to start with baby steps. Keep your full-time job, for example, and gain some experience volunteering in the career field you would like to move to.
Or start out by working part-time at a new job until you’re ready to commit to a change. Taking steps in an alternative or new direction can also help you tolerate a job that you probably shouldn’t be working in anymore.
Expand Your Skills
When you have other things to focus on, your situation at work may not seem so tedious or difficult. Other options include taking a college course or two to gain some new skills or to update your skills that are a little out-of-date.
Seminars and short programs (often offered online or as adult learning programs by local school districts) are a good way to brush up your skills or to get started learning something new. If your computer skills need an upgrade, there are free and easy ways to improve them.
Tip: Review these tips for how to upskill your career to get started.
Can You Switch Roles?
Consider different roles within your current industry. Many companies hire internally before they hire publicly. If you are qualified for a different job at your company, apply for it. Discuss alternatives with your human resources department.
Most companies want to keep good employees and will do their best to find another position for them, or may even be willing to carve out a different niche or a new role for workers they want to keep.
Consider Taking a Career Risk
The one common factor most career changers have is a willingness to take a risk. Another factor is the ability to not consider their salary as critically important. They are able to look beyond present circumstances to the future potential of a new job.
That isn’t always easy, but it can be done. An unemployment check, a temporary job, or a side gig, can be used to supplement income. College tuition assistance or student loans can be obtained.
Government funding may be available for retraining or learning new skills. If you really, really want to make a change, you’ll find a way. It may not be as quick or as easy as you would like, but it can happen.
10 Steps To a New Career
The following is a list of the steps you will need to take to start a new career:
- Decide that you need a change.
- Itemize your career interests and values.
- Consider career options.
- Create a short-list of possible career alternatives.
- Research the career options on your list.
- Develop the skills you need to make a change.
- Incorporate those skills into your resume.
- Set short-term and long-term career goals.
- Start a job search.
- Get hired for a new job.
Discovering Your Perfect New Career
The new job or career that’s perfect for you may not be the job that’s perfect for someone else. Everyone has expectations of what a job should be like. We all want different things out of life and work.
Consider Allen, who spent a good part of his working life driving a bus on a college campus. It wasn’t because he didn’t have other qualifications. He took the job deliberately because it gave him time to think and to write poetry.
What he wanted most out of life was to be a poet. He didn’t expect to make a living writing poetry; unfortunately, those people are few and far between. However, this job gave him plenty of time to write the poetry he wanted to—in his head while driving, and on paper when he wasn’t working.
Another example comes to mind. Janine, overqualified by most standards, is happy to work at a part-time job in a local doctor’s office. Why doesn’t she want more out of her job? She’s an aspiring actress, and that low-key day job gives her time to audition and time to rehearse. It also pays the bills, which would be tough to do on the uncertain income she makes acting.
Then there’s Mark. He was one of the best employees who ever worked for me. He couldn’t read or write. Mark brought his wife with him to fill out his job application. He was dedicated, and he never missed a day of work.
He was innovative and came up with lots of ideas that saved the company money. Mark dressed like a college professor topped off with a jaunty Irish Tweed cap, but he was our office cleaning person. Hiring Mark was one of the best hiring decisions I ever made, even though on paper he didn’t have many qualifications.
Mark’s story reminds me of the wise words of Martin Luther King, Jr., who said,
“If you are called to be a street sweeper, sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
It’s important to consider those words and to consider your own perfect career—not what you think your perfect career should be or what the career expectations of your family, friends, and society are. After all, it is your career, and that’s what is most important.
That’s fine, as long as you get started. Even if you aren’t able to start work at your perfect job today, you will be able to find jobs that will help you move in the right direction and navigate a new career path. If you play your cards right, you will also be able to achieve what you want out of work and out of life.
Explore Career Options
The most important steps to finding your perfect job are, first of all, to decide what it is you want to do by exploring career and job options. Next on the list is to research and narrow down the alternatives. What sounds good at first glance might not really be as good as it sounds.
Carefully consider what’s involved in the day-to-day activities you will be doing and decide whether you are sure you are interested in doing them.
Tip: Almost everyone has transferable skills and computer skills that will ease the transition to a new career path.
Decide What You Want to Do
Once you have a good sense of the type of job that interests you, the next step is to consider how you want to work.
- Do you want to work full-time or part-time?
- Are you interested in freelancing or would you prefer to be an employee?
- Do you want a professional career, or would you rather work at an hourly position?
- How about pay? How important is it to you, and how much do you need to earn to pay your bills?
- Flexibility and benefits are important, too.
Needless to say, job searching isn’t always a simple endeavor. If it was, we could all go online and post our resume, get an interview, and get the job. The problem with that, though, is that if we’re not applying for jobs we are qualified for and if our resume doesn’t even come close to matching the job requirements, we’re not going to get called for an interview.
Employers can afford to be selective. There are more people searching than ever before, so in order to be competitive you need to be focused, targeted, and prepared.
The most important thing to remember when choosing job and career options is to follow your dreams so you are seeking employment that will mesh with who you are and where you want to go. Once you have accomplished that, the rest of your job search will fall into place.