Though switching careers is
encouraged now more than ever, you shouldn’t turn in your two-week’s notice and
try something new without thought. Since changing careers, as with changing
anything, inherently involves risk, it helps to have a few secret weapons up
your sleeve to successfully ease you through the transition. We’ve gathered
five of the best here, from upping your online presence game to giving yourself
some financial leeway.
Utilizing even just one of
these secret weapons will get you ahead of the game before you take the leap.
But try all five and you may just guarantee a career switch success.
Weapon #1: A Clear Vision
Begin with the end in mind
is a common piece of advice—and with good reason! A clear vision of your end
goal and how you plan to get there allows you to accurately anticipate what
this move is going to take. Plus, seeing the shiny new career at the end of the
tunnel will help you survive any bumps in the road along the way.
Start by getting really
clear with yourself and asking the big questions:
do you actually want? Be as specific as possible! Try to go beyond
“a career in advertising,” for instance, and get clear on the type of
environment you’d like to work in, the different projects you’d be excited to
take on, and the way you’d like to feel around your manager and colleagues.
do you want it? Simon Sinek’s advice to “start with why”
extends to more than just entrepreneurs. It’s solid advice for anyone who is
looking to make a big change. Get clear on why it is you want to switch
careers—if you’re just burnt out at your current job, perhaps, maybe it’s not a
whole new career that you need, but simply a new role (or some time off!).
And if you’re sitting there
thinking, “I don’t know what I want to do, I just know I don’t want to do
this!” you have options, too. Your first step is to get clear (or, at least,
clearer) on exactly what it is that you would like to do next. This can seem
like an overwhelming task, but it doesn’t need to be! Remember that you don’t
have to figure out the rest of your life right now; just plan for the step you
want to take next. A few ideas to get you started: consider what you do like
about your current work, think about the things you do for fun, and ask
yourself what you’d like to learn to do or do more of—now, brainstorm the jobs
or industries where those overlap!
Once your end goal is clear,
start planning. Make a list of:
you have to offer, including transferable experience and skills
you’re lacking, such as new skills you need to learn, and
how you might be able to gain them
can help you make the switch, including connections who
can make introductions, write recommendations, or simply give you insight into
a new industry
else you need to prepare, such as setting up a new budget to help
you plan for a pay cut (more on that in a minute)
By getting clear and making
a plan, you’ll be more confident in your decision and in the next steps you
need to take to successfully make the switch.
Weapon #2: A Targeted Online Brand
Once you know where you’re
headed, you need to make sure other people know that, too—by changing the way
you present yourself to the world. Think about it: If you’re in finance and
looking to move into writing, but all of your tweets and LinkedIn posts are
about financial news, nobody is going to immediately think you’d be the right
fit for a writing job.
That’s why your next secret
weapon is an online brand that’s targeted to your new industry. There are so
many affordable ways to build a presence online—from creating a personal
website to writing guest blogs for industry publications, you have a unique
opportunity to bill yourself as a thought leader in a new space, with a small
investment of your time and money.
Don’t just slap up a new
professional bio and call it a day, though. Really consider the field and the
connections you’re targeting as you build (or update) your online presence.
What do they want and need to know about you to take you seriously as you make
this career shift? What topics are they interested in that you can weigh in on?
What pictures will best convey your personality and the appropriate level of
Start by setting up a
personal website that acts as your home base, covering your background, your
experience, your interests, your thoughts on the industry (this is where a blog
can come in handy!), and links to other places people can find you on the
internet, such as LinkedIn and Twitter (then make sure to update those, too,
and start sharing content relevant to your target role). Squarespace has
quickly become known for its intuitiveness and user experience as a
website-building platform, and you can set up your own Cover Page (a one-page
site) in just minutes!
It might be helpful to
return to your vision and action plan, too. As you update your online persona,
integrate some of the answers to your big questions on your website and throughout
your content: What do you want? Why do you want it? What are you willing to do
to get it?
Each online platform offers
you an opportunity to frame yourself in a new light for a new career.
Weapon #3: An Active Network
You’ve got a clear vision
for career switch success and an online persona to prove it, so you know what
you need and you’re showing off what you’ve got. Now it’s time to ask for help.
Reach out to the people in
your network—your peers, your mentors, and any connections in the industry
you’d like to transition into—and let them know about your plan to change
careers. Don’t discount close friends and family, either! You can and should
send an email to your nearest and dearest, updating them on your career shift
and asking for their support and connections.
Don’t have contacts in your
desired field yet? Go out and meet them! Do some research on the industry you
want to move into—do they have clubs or events they frequent? What blogs and
magazines do they read? Are there certain people who are clearly thought
leaders? Do as they do—and find ways to meet them! Whether it’s buying a ticket
for the next industry conference, emailing an influencer in the industry to
connect, or setting up an informational interview with someone who does what
you want to do, you can start building the new network you want now.
With every request, be very
specific about the help that you need—whether it be an introduction, more
information, or a heads up on any relevant opportunities. Personalize each
email you send, and give each recipient all of the background information
they’ll need to support your request. Remember, they’re doing you a favor, so
make this process as simple for them as possible.
Finally, take time to
research the top recruiters in your desired industry and reach out to them on
LinkedIn. Let them know that you’re interested in making a move and you would
love to stay in touch if any relevant opportunities become available. Again,
show them that you’ve done your homework and be specific about the role you’re
looking for—telling them you want any job in engineering or at Facebook just
won’t cut it.
Weapon #4: Financial Leeway
It’s always a good idea to
have a little financial breathing room, but it’s especially helpful when you’re
hoping to traverse a whole new career path. The reality of starting fresh in a
brand-new industry is that, well, you may just have to start fresh. It’s very
possible that you’ll need to take a lower-level role (and the accompanying pay
cut) or be out of work for a period of time. That being the case, it’s helpful
to plan ahead financially, too.
Once you know that you plan
to make a move, start incorporating one (or more) of the following fallback
strategies into your financial planning:
Your Budget: It’s time to take a look at your budget, and
see where you might start cutting back. Look for new ways to trim regular
expenses, or consider what you might be willing to forego (at least
temporarily) while you start to save up.
More to Savings: If you’re not already, now’s a great time to
start setting aside some of your income for a nest egg. Use the extra savings
from your new budget, or have a little more of your paycheck deposited directly
into your savings account each month.
a Side Hustle: Try taking on extra projects, particularly
if they’re in your new field of interest—you’ll develop more of the requisite
skills while making a little extra cash!
Hopefully, you won’t have to
touch any of this extra money, but if you find yourself in a situation where
you need to fall back on extra finances, you’ll be so glad that you planned
Weapon #5: Persistence
The reality of changing
careers is that it’s risky—and not always easy. Again, there are a lot of
unknown scenarios (all which you’ve planned for, of course): You may have to
start at the bottom, you may take a pay cut, you may be told you’re overqualified
(or not qualified at all!).
It’s a journey that will
likely require a lot of hard work, patience, and humility, but it’s important
to remember that the best opportunities come to those with patience and
persistence. You have planned and prepared for this next step; after all of
that hard work, don’t give up on your new dream just before it comes true.
Keep your spirits high and
your eyes focused on your end goal. Remember, you started out with the end in
mind, telling yourself why you wanted this new opportunity: Be persistent in
your pursuit of it and you’ll undoubtedly get there.