Change your career
How to prepare for and navigate a career change.
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Determining what to do next
“Be okay to be in the moment of changing from one thing to another. It’s a little scary, but it’s also filled with a huge number of possibilities.”
Gary Bolles, Chair for the Future of Work, Singularity University
Why people change careers
There are many reasons why people change careers. Those reasons may come from a shift in personal interests, finances, family needs, or even health concerns. Some common reasons include:
- Inadequate pay and benefits
- Poor work-life balance
- Limited career advancement
- Lack of fulfillment or interest
Is it your company, industry, or career?
Before you decide to switch careers, think about what’s really driving your need for change.
Would you still enjoy the work you were doing if you were in a different work environment? Whether it’s the company culture, promotion opportunities, or even the benefits package—these might not mean a career change. A similar role in a different company might be your answer.
Sometimes you can solve a lack of interest in the work by changing industries rather than careers. Often, your experience can carry over from industry to industry. For example, maybe you work in marketing for a retail clothing company but don’t feel fulfilled. You can still use those skills as a marketer to work for a nonprofit or government agency with a different kind of impact.
If a change in company nor industry will help, then it may be time to switch careers. Changing careers can open more possibilities but will take a little more work. You may need to build new skills, earn a degree, or get a certificate for the career you want.
Take note of your current experience
Your experience in your current role is valuable. Take the time to write down what skills you’ve built and what you’ve learned about yourself. And remember, changing careers doesn’t necessarily mean starting over at entry level. Your experience and skills are valuable to an employer, even if they aren’t in the exact same field.
Inventory your skills and accomplishments
If your resume is up to date, you may have already inventoried your skills. If not, create a list of skills you’ve learned in your current career. When creating your list, consider the following:
- Knowledge and expertise of certain topics
- Tools and technology you’ve used
- Soft skills gained (e.g., public speaking, people management)
- Major accomplishments or projects
Identify how you work best
Think about your current career and the work you do. What tasks energized you that you were quick to jump on? What tasks felt draining that you avoided? These sorts of activities will be helpful to keep in mind when learning about the day-to-day of other careers. They can also help you avoid careers with the tasks you don’t like and find careers with the tasks you do like.
Set criteria for a new career
Before you start sifting through hundreds of careers, think about what matters most to you. By setting criteria for yourself, you can narrow your search and save time. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What hourly pay or salary do you need, at a minimum?
- What city or region (e.g., Austin, Texas) do you want to work in?
- Which skills do you want to use on a regular basis?
- Are you willing to get a degree, certification, or training?
Explore Career Options
Get a better understanding of the job
If you’ve found some careers you’re interested in, it’s time to get a better feel for the day-to-day. Reading about a career is helpful to get an understanding. But speaking with or even observing someone with experience is even better. Try the following two methods before committing to a career switch.
Schedule informational interviews
An informational interview is an informal conversation with someone to better understand their career. You’ll have the chance to ask them about their day-to-day, the industry, and even the company they work for.
Shadow someone on the job
Following an informational interview, it might make sense to shadow someone. Shadowing means observing someone in their workplace for a few hours or even a full day. Depending on the employer, they may let you sit in on meetings or review some of their work. Shadowing will give you a chance to ask specific questions and network with more people.
Determine education and skills requirements
Does your new career require a degree, certification, or specialized skills? If so, consider taking night classes or online courses. You might be able to start your new career without additional education. However, you may need a degree, certificate, or license to advance to better roles.
Start your job search
Ready to start applying for your new role? We’ll help prepare you for your search. We’ll show you how to prepare a resume, find relevant job listings, and apply.
Read more: Start your job search