How To Change Careers: A Step-By-Step Guide

By Natalie Briggs
Oct. 12, 2022

Find a Job You Really Want In

We often hear about how the average adult changes careers ‘x’ number of times throughout their working life, but we never hear exactly how they go about doing it. As common as it is, it’s tough to know the best way to do it.

The unfortunate truth is that there is no set path for changing careers, and each individual has to pave their way.

Everyone has different starting points and destinations when it comes to switching up their professional life, so it’s okay to feel a bit disoriented when you first start considering a career change.

The good news is that anyone can change careers at any time. Whether you’re a former project manager who wants to become a CEO or a former mechanic who wants to break into engineering, your dream job is within your reach.

Key Takeaways:

  • Consider your interests, passions, and what you’re good at when considering your new career.

  • Make a list of things in your current job that you would like to change and what you want to stay the same to evaluate what you want in your next job.

  • Staying in a career that you don’t like can lead to stress and burnout, lack of fulfillment, and decrease in work-life balance.

  • Take some classes on things you are interested in to see what you are good at and what you want to do as a career.

How To Change Careers: A Step-By-Step Guide

10 Steps to Changing Careers

Creating a path to your dream job can be daunting, especially if you don’t know what job you want. To make the process a bit easier, here are some steps to follow:

  1. Evaluate your current job satisfaction. Make a list of the things about your current job that you would like to change and a list of things you want to remain the same. Review the jobs you have enjoyed and why you enjoyed them.

  2. Follow your interests. Identify what you like to do and how you could incorporate your interests into the professional world. Try taking a career aptitude test to assess your interests, behaviors, and skills.

  3. Evaluate your skills. Take a look at the skills you have, and ask yourself if your current position makes effective use of these skills. Think about your transferable skills that can take with you to another position.

  4. Consider alternative careers. Take into account your core values and interests, and research possible careers you could see yourself in. Consider meeting with a career counselor who can provide insight and guidance.

    You can also reach out to people in your network and set up an informational interview to learn more about what they do. Try discussing with your friends and family considering they know you the best and they will have valuable advice.

  5. Research job market and possible positions. Pick a few positions that seem interesting to you. Research the market for these positions, if the industry is growing or not, and if jobs are being created for these types of positions.

    For example, joining a career in social media marketing may be more promising than a telephone operator (if they even have those anymore).

    Look at job listings for these positions to get a sense of what skills you are expected to have and what hiring managers are looking for.

  6. Set up a job shadow. Shadowing professionals in the career you want to switch is a great way to understand the ins and outs of the everyday work life. Spending a few hours a day with this person can help you figure out if it’s what you want to do.

  7. Bridge the gap. Now that you know the skills your dream job requires, bridge the gap between the skills you have and the skills you need. Consider taking online courses, earning a certificate, or volunteering to gain some valuable experience.

    Freelancing opportunities can also be useful for this. Attend seminars and contact professionals in your network. While taking this step, you can also get your toes wet and try out the kind of work that interests you.

  8. Reach out to the career office and alumni network. Your college career office may seem like it is made for graduating seniors, but they are also full of career experts who are more than willing to give advice.

    They may also have contacts within the alumni network who are willing to be shadowed, allowing you to get a closer look at the day-to-day of your next career. The alumni network can also be useful for informational interviews and general industry information.

  9. Rebrand yourself. Now that you have the skills you need, it’s time to start rebranding yourself. Revamp your resume and cover letter so it highlights the skills your new job will require. Try writing or rewriting an elevator pitch for yourself.

  10. Accept it will take time. There are no worth-whlie shortcuts, unfortunately. Your next career move is a transition that will take time and hard work. This does not mean you need to make large, leaping steps toward your goal; small, daily efforts will get you where you want to be before you know it.

    This is not a process that can be completed overnight, and you may take a few chances that don’t end up panning out. These are still steps in the right direction. Keep in mind that learning what isn’t a good fit for you can be just as valuable as learning what is.

Why People Change Careers

Just as everyone’s path to a new career varies, so does their reason for leaving their current career.

Here is a list of the most common reasons a career change may be an option worth considering:

  • Burnout and stress. Burnout refers to the feeling of reaching the end of your rope. To be at your most productive, you need a cycle of work and rest. Some people require more rest than others, and perhaps your current job doesn’t accommodate your needs.

    Consistent stress, without a restful period, leads to burnout, as well as a drop in productivity, motivation, and happiness.

    Being burnt out is your brain’s way of saying, “time for a break.”

  • Lack of fulfillment. You don’t feel as though your work is rewarding or important. You feel as though the job takes more than it gives.

    When you lack fulfillment, you feel like your work is empty, and you don’t get the same satisfaction of completing a task as you maybe once did. Perhaps you would rather pursue a passion of yours, and find more fulfillment in your professional life that way.

  • Work-life balance. You shouldn’t have to choose between your professional and personal lives. If your current job is encroaching on your ability to enjoy your time off the clock, it may be time to consider a career change.

  • Changes in circumstances. Marriage, divorce, a new child, and relocation are things that can radically change your priorities in both your personal and professional life.

  • Money. This is a big one for a lot of people choosing to change their careers. If you’re having difficulty meeting financial expectations, you’re trying to save up, or you believe your skills would be more valued elsewhere, a career change may be in the cards for you.

  • Unchallenged. The mind hates boredom. Feeling overqualified for your position can leave you feeling disinterested in work and desiring something more stimulating and demanding.

  • Changes in the job market. This is another big one. Economic changes inevitably affect the job market. Maybe the industry you work in is in decline, or maybe layoffs are expected. These circumstances may force your hand in choosing a new career.

  • Want to be happier. In general, the biggest reason for changing careers is that you simply are unhappy with the career path you have now. The odds are you’re going to spend most of your adult life at your job, so being happy in your position is a necessity.

The Benefits of a Career Change

Changing careers can seem daunting, especially when the risks seem to outweigh the rewards. To help you make the switch, we’ve compiled a list of pros to combat the con:

  • More money. This one is self-explanatory. Changing careers can mean more money in your wallet, which then translates to a general improvement in the quality of life. It can also help if you’re trying to save up for a big purchase, like a house or a car.

  • Be happier. Pivoting in your career can result in a more fulfilling position, one that makes you happier with your professional life. Leaving an unfulfilling job can also allow you to have a better work-life balance, which will make you happier in your personal life, too.

  • Learn new skills. Some of us miss learning things once we leave school and enter the professional world.

    If you find yourself thirsting to take on a new skill or hobby, changing careers can be the perfect opportunity to add something new to your repertoire. This can also help you diversify and become a more well-rounded person and employee.

  • Adaptability. Taking the leap and changing careers forces you to become adaptable, and allows you to practice making the best of your circumstances. This is a skill that you can carry with you to any position and allows you to continue your growth journey.

    That being said, making a big change now will also make it easier to adapt if you decide to change careers again.

  • New relationships. Lastly, changing careers is a great opportunity to branch out from your current network. Meeting new professionals can help you in the long-run, as these relationships can lead to new possibilities.

    Making new connections can also help you in the process of changing careers, but there will be a little more on that later.

Tips For Changing Careers

  • Take classes. If you aren’t sure what you want to do, try taking some classes in different fields at a local community college to help you decide. It’s a great way to figure out what you want to do without committing to the career. It will also help you build some necessary skills in that field if you do decide to do it.

  • Know that every path is different. There is no one way to change careers, and each person does it differently. Your path will be custom-made by you, for you.

  • Don’t be afraid to apply. Even if you don’t meet every qualification and requirement for the position, apply anyway. The hiring manager might be impressed with something on your resume. Don’t let the fear of possible rejection keep you from trying to follow your dream.

  • Grow your network. Along with your college alumni network, grow your professional network as well. This could be with your current coworkers, supervisors, or previous supervisors. Someone will know someone and it’s a great way to connect with people.

  • Follow your gut. If you are unhappy in your current situation, listen to what your gut is trying to tell you and leave. Don’t think to yourself “oh its just this week it’ll get better” because you can quickly resent your job if you just go week by week.

  • Don’t be afraid to change industries. Sometimes all you need is to change industries. If you tried nursing but didn’t like it so you switched to be a physicians assistant and still didn’t like it, try something that’s not in the medical field.

Final Thoughts

Deciding to make a career shift can be scary, but following these steps, keeping a positive attitude, and putting in the work can bring you to your dream job in no time.

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Never miss an opportunity that’s right for you.


Natalie Briggs

Natalie is a writer for Zippia with a passion for research and storytelling. She is a graduate of Lake Forest College and holds a degree in both English and French.

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