When you’re considering a career change, it’s important to start planning how to shift your career as early as you can. One consideration I often recommend is to think about the type of career change you’re planning. Is it an industry shift, an occupational shift, or a change of both? Read more to learn about how to navigate all of these career changes in order to find a new role that is the ideal fit for you.
1 – Industry Change
This one is always the most straightforward. In this type of transition, you’re looking to leave a specific industry and get a similar role in a new industry. In many cases, this might not even be considered a career change. However, industry experience is often very important for a lot of roles, and if you’ve worked all your career in one industry, it can be a challenge to shift to a new one.
A good example of this might be someone working in Pharmaceutical Sales – so for this example, let’s call this fictional person Dan. Dan wants to transition out of the pharmaceutical industry and into Technology – maybe selling an enterprise software product. The good news – sales skills are transferable to lots of different roles, and Dan likely has experience in client relations, sales strategy, and marketing – but he most likely DOESN’T have the knowledge of the software industry and technology. If Dan wants to make the transition, he needs to prove to employers that he either already has the knowledge/skills in software/technology, or convince them that he is going to be able to develop them.
2 – Occupation Change
Perhaps you’ve decided that your current occupation isn’t the right fit for you, and you’d like to move into a completely different type of role. Let’s use another fictional example – Lisa, who works in Human Resources for a tech company, but is interested in moving into a Marketing role.
Depending on the type of role you’d like to move into, your industry experience might be able to help you make this transition. You may already have connections within the industry that know you, trust you, and may be able to support your transition into a new role within the company.
With Lisa’s example above, she may need to take a few courses in Marketing to gain specific knowledge and skills within the marketing industry. However, she likely already has a lot of knowledge about the tech industry (and specific knowledge of the company she is currently working for). She can use this knowledge and experience, along with the additional skills she has gained in Marketing, to facilitate her transition into a Marketing position.
3 – Industry and Occupation Change
Do you want to move into a brand new occupation AND a new industry? This is a more challenging career change to navigate, because you’re moving into uncharted territory and you likely have limited experience within both a new industry and a new role. Think of it this way – you need to convince an employer that you have the skills to do the job, without industry experience or previous experience in the role. That’s a challenge, but it can be overcome!
I’m going to share a few strategies about how to navigate a career change like this, but first, you need to be aware that it’s going to take some time. You’ll have to convince employers that you have the skills to work in both a new industry and occupation – and you’ll have to be committed to putting in some hard work to learn new skills (maybe even enrolling in post-secondary education) and also to build new connections to successfully move into a new career.
Here are some key strategies to navigate this change:
Research. Before leaping into this, it might be worth it to do some research. Are you 100% sure that you want to make this change? How do you know it’s the right role for you? What will the impact be on you (and if applicable, your family) personally and financially? These are all considerations you need to take into account while you plan to navigate this change. The next two steps (networking and learning) are part of this process.
Network, network, network. Try conducting some informational interviews to build connections and learn more about what it’s like to work in this career.
Start Learning! Learn all you can about the new role you’d like to work in. Start researching job postings online to learn more about the requirements for the role – and then develop a plan to gain those requirements (or the equivalent). Can you take online/part-time courses to start developing those skills? Do you need to enroll in full-time post-secondary study? Whatever may be required, start developing a plan and setting goals in order to achieve the knowledge and skills you need.
Emphasize Transferable Skills. This is a key part of any career change. You likely already have work experience and a wide range of skills, so how can you leverage those to get into the career you want? Check out my article on transferable skills to learn more about this.
Get Excited About The Change. If you decide this is the change you want to make, that’s amazing! So get excited about it!!! Let your passion for your new career choice shine through when you’re talking to friends and new connections. Try to channel any fear you have about the change into excitement, and put that energy towards networking and learning all you can about the new industry and career in order to make the change happen.
4 – Entrepreneurial Change
Have you ever thought about working for yourself? Although challenging, becoming an entrepreneur can be one of the most satisfying career changes out there – if it’s the right fit for you.
You might be in the right industry and the right career – but your ideal role (and the one you find the most satisfying) could be working for yourself and building your own business. It is undeniably a huge step, and more than a little scary, so it requires some detailed planning to make sure that it’s right for you.
Here are a few questions to consider if you’re thinking about becoming an entrepreneur:
Do you have a business idea? How is it related to your previous experience and skills? Think about the work you’ve done in the past and ask yourself if there is a way you can use your skills to offer products/services to customers. Look at other businesses that offer similar services – is there a gap in what’s offered? Is there a way for you to set yourself apart?
Have you put together a business plan? Have you thought about questions such as: Do you know your target market? How will you reach customers/clients? Who are your competitors? How will you stand out from the competition? – I recommend putting together a full business plan to look at all aspects of your business idea fully, from finances to marketing to customer service. Once you have put together the full picture, you will have a better sense of the viability of the business, as well as what areas you need to work on to make the idea a reality.
Have you considered starting a “side hustle” to test out your business idea before leaving your job? Rather than taking the leap first, you can test out your ideas before leaving your steady income behind. Depending on your situation, this can take a lot of the pressure off – you can get started right away, test out your business idea, and get a sense of what the entrepreneurial change might look like.
Are you truly committed to this business idea? Most entrepreneurs have a passion for the services and products they offer – and they don’t necessarily view it as a 9-5 gig. When you’re first starting a business, you need to be truly committed to making it a success and willing to put in the hard work and long hours to get there. Ask yourself how committed you are to being your own boss before you start thinking about this career shift.
As a Career Coach, I’ve helped many people navigate all types of career changes. Do you have any thoughts or questions about the process of career change? If so, feel free to get in touch with me – I’d love to hear from you!