Deciding to change your career can be a daunting process. It’s a pretty big step to admit that you’re just not happy with your current role, and even scarier to try to figure out what you can do instead. The whole idea can be so stressful and scary that many people may actually give up, or decide to stick with their current career, rather than face the uncertainty and risk of a change.
However, if you approach a change strategically – it becomes much less terrifying. It starts to become something that might actually be possible to do. And while it’s never going to be easy, developing a plan for your career change will help you figure out what’s most important to you, develop a career goal, and plan out how to get there.
This article is an overview of the general steps to take in order to change your career.
How to Change Your Career – Step 1: Self-Reflection: Values, Interests, Preferences, Goals….
If you’re not happy with your current career, you need to learn more about… well, YOU… in order to figure out why. This is potentially the most important part of the process, so don’t neglect it!
Self-reflection is key here. Take some time to reflect on yourself – what are your values? What’s important to you in a career? What are you interested in? What do you enjoy? What type of work environment do you prefer?
Career assessments can also be very helpful in clarifying some of these answers. There are a number of assessments available that can help you learn more about your values, interests, personality, and preferences.
Once you’ve done some serious self-reflection, think about how your values, preferences, interests, and personality fit into your current role. What’s missing in your current role? Alternatively, is there anything in your current position that you actually like that is a match for your values or preferences?
Take your time with this part of the process. You need to know yourself before you truly know what YOU want to do with your life.
How to Change Your Career – Step 2: Self-Reflection: Personal Life and Finances
The next part to consider is your personal life and finances. A career change is a major shift in your life, and it will affect your personal life and potentially your finances too. What should you consider?
- How much time will I need to invest in this career change? How much time do I want to invest in this?
- Will changing my career impact the time I have to pursue other things in life? If you’re married and/or have a family, this could include time spent with your spouse and children. It could also include time spent with friends, extended family, hobbies, travel, or community activities.
- Will I need to go back to school or obtain more training? Is this something you’re willing to do?
- What will be the financial impact of this career change? Would I need to pay for additional education/training and spend time away from work?
- Would I need to accept a pay cut in my new role? Can I afford it? Would this require a change in lifestyle?
- How would long-term financial planning be affected (i.e. retirement)?
These are just a few questions to consider from a financial and personal perspective. There are no right or wrong answers in these areas – this is all about you and what you’re comfortable with. And before you decide to make a drastic shift, it’s important to think about how these changes will impact your life (and the lives of people who are important to you).
How to Change Your Career – Step 3: Explore Occupations and Narrow Down Some Options
I encourage you to spend some time writing down every possible career you might want to consider. Yes, I mean everything that pops into your mind, no matter how out there it might seem. So if you’re currently an accountant, but you’ve had secret aspirations of being an artist, a personal trainer, and a yoga teacher – write them all down!
The reason for this? It’s really helpful to thoughtfully consider all options, even if you ultimately decide against them. And if you’ve had a career option consistently popping up in your mind – that means you feel some sort of a draw to it. And it’s important to explore WHY you have that interest, even if ultimately you don’t decide to go in that direction.
Do some research and reflection, and take notes on the following for each career you’re considering:
- Why are you interested in this job?
- What are the job responsibilities?
- What are the skills/education required for the job?
Revisit your list and start to compare the occupations to your goals in steps 1 and 2. How do they fit with your values, preferences, personal life, and financial goals?
Take some time with this and see if you can narrow down your potential choices.
How to Change Your Career – Step 4: Identify Your Current Skills
Depending on how much work experience and education you have, there could be a lot of work in this step!
What types of roles have you worked in? List all of the jobs you’ve worked in and review them. What skills were required for each role? What were some of the most important projects you worked on? What areas do you think you excelled in?
Maybe you’re a great negotiator or extremely organized. Maybe you’re a fantastic communicator and great at building relationships. Perhaps you have technical skills in a specific subject area.
Whatever it is – write it all down. After creating your list, ask trusted friends and family what they think are your greatest skills. They might come up with similar ideas, as well as some skills that you actually didn’t think about yet. It’s always great to get another perspective.
How to Change Your Career – Step 5: Compare Your List of Skills to Your List of Careers
So now that you’ve done your research, it’s time to come back and review everything. You have a list of careers you might be interested in, and a list of your skills. So do they match? Are there any careers you’re interested in that also require similar skills?
Sit back and review your list, and check out what’s required to navigate into each career. Be honest with yourself – do you have all the qualifications? If you’re missing something – like a degree or a diploma – are you interested enough to actually pursue that degree?
If there’s somewhere you’re lacking in skills, really think about what you’d need to do in order to gain the skills and/or education required.
How to Change Your Career: Putting It All Together
It’s a lot of work to get this process started, and believe me, it doesn’t happen all in one day.
Take it step by step, and make sure to take some time to recharge in between brainstorming sessions.
It can be immensely helpful to get someone to help you (such as a Career Counsellor or a Coach!) I’ve worked with many clients on this exact process and I know that it can be a daunting and stressful procedure. Just remember – don’t pressure yourself to get this all done in one day. Remember – a career change is a process!