Tips on Managing a Successful Career Change

Resource Photo - Tips on Managing a Successful Career Change

A few fortunate people find their dream job early in life and enjoy a happy and fruitful lifelong career. But most people at some points in their lives are not entirely happy with their work lives and dream of something better. For some, a bit of dissatisfaction grows into a desire to go in an entirely new direction.

Going through with a career change, though, is not a step to take lightly after a rough stretch of work. But when the time is right, managing a career change doesn’t have to be intimidating. It just takes self-knowledge, research, planning, and perseverance. Here are some tips to help you through.

Consider if you want a change, and why

Examine the sources of your dissatisfaction with your current career path. Are you becoming disillusioned with the nature of the work and its ultimate meaning? Is the stress too high or the pay too low? Are conflicts leading you to dread work every day? Pondering a change is as much about what you want out of life as it is about those day-to-day considerations about your job.

You also must consider what you like about your current job and why you entered the field in the first place. What would you miss most? Would changing careers solve one set of problems but cause you anxiety in other ways?

Depending on your answers to such questions, it may be better to consider changing jobs within the same career or looking for a new role within your chosen field. Think about whether going in an entirely new direction is right for you.

Follow your dreams - but with a practical edge

So what is your dream job? Whatever it is, don’t lose sight of it. Your goal should be to be happy with your work and fulfilled in your life. But dispel yourself of the illusion that there is one single perfect job for you out there and you’ll never be happy without it. That’s the stuff of daydreams, and the practicalities of changing careers will bring you down to earth.

Research has shown that what people like about their jobs is not so much the subject matter involved in the field, but how they fit into it. People like using skills they’ve developed, whether they be analytical or creative in nature. People like a sense of accomplishment, making a difference in the community or in individual peoples’ lives, and being recognized and rewarded for their efforts.

Once you determine what you really want out of your career, you’ll find there are many different ways to get there.

Research your options

Make an inventory of the opportunities available in the areas – both professional and geographic – you plan to work. Be realistic. Look at possible jobs for which there is high, or at least moderate, demand.

Consider your past work experience and what future opportunities that might leverage. Don’t limit your thinking to direct job experience, but consider the skills you demonstrated in your previous positions.

Look at what others are doing. Talk to others who have left careers to go in new directions and check out websites like, or The Bureau of Labor Statistic's Occupational Outlook Handbook is a good reference.

Inventory your skills and build what you need

Taking an honest look at your skills is an essential step whether you’re exploring options for a new career or have already decided and need to plan how to get there. Consider the fields in which your skills are most in demand.

But don’t be satisfied with your current level of skills. It’s never too late to build new ones! Once you have a direction in mind, be laser-focused on which skills you’ll need to acquire or improve to be successful.

Look to your local community or technical college for affordable ways to add to your skill base. Adult education classes in your community are also helpful if you need to boost specific skills like computer literacy. But be sure to do a cost-benefit analysis on seeking further education. If you have to borrow thousands of dollars for a graduate-level degree, how much would the degree boost your current salary and how long would it take you to pay off the debt and see financial gain?

Examine volunteer opportunities that would provide you with the experience that both build skills and impress potential employers. Be proactive!

Don’t get discouraged

Remember that embarking on a new career is not something that will happen overnight. It can be a long process. Be persistent in your efforts to find work in your newly-chosen career and realize that your first job in the field may not be ideal for you. Take it one step at a time, even if you have to re-trace some steps.

Take the plunge

Change can be exciting, but also scary. Eventually you may have to overcome your fears of uncertainty and take action. Following your dreams is an exciting path to take, but not an easy one.

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