Though switching careers has become much less stigmatized of late, that doesn’t mean you should do so flagrantly or without a plan. Add these 5 weapons to your arsenal before putting in your notice. Wielding even one can significantly increase your chances for career change success.
Clarity of vision and purpose is key. It’s much better to start the career change process with an end in mind, rather than just an aimless idea. In other words: being ready to quit one job isn’t the same thing as being ready to start a new career. Before you initiate what can be an exciting, but challenging process, ask yourself two questions. First, what do you actually want? You know you don’t want to be in this job anymore, but where do you want to be? And then second, why do you want it? What about that job excites you and makes you want to pursue it?
If you don’t have answers to these questions, take some time to take stock of yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses, who you might know who could be useful or helpful to you in making the change, and then figure out what you’ll need to prepare to make it happen. Being clear about what you want and need to do in order to get it will help you develop a plan. Once that’s set in motion, all the work you put toward changing jobs will be productive and you’ll have the confidence of knowing you are moving in the right direction.
In this age of social media, it is increasingly more important to have an online brand that is distinctive and unique and targeted to your industry and career goals. Take every opportunity you can to tailor your professional networking sites not just to your current job, but to the job you hope to attain.
Try doing guest blogs and posts for websites in your field. Wherever possible, try to join the conversation that’s most relevant in your industry. Also make sure to put up a personal website that covers the information that would be on your resume, but in a way that sells you and provides context and personality as well as bulleted facts. Remember that every online space is an opportunity for you to show yourself in your best light and set yourself up to step into your new career.
Your network is the key to your career success, both in your current job and wherever you’d like to end up next. Maintain the active connections you have, no matter where you go. And if you don’t have that many connections in the new career you’re trying to transition into, start building them through friends of friends and acquaintances of acquaintances. Brick by brick, you’ll build a powerful building full of contacts that can help keep you current and moving forward.
Keep on top of trends in your field. Research the kinds of contacts you need to make, then put yourself in a room with them. Attend mixers and conferences. Get your business cards in circulation, and start accumulating a pile for yourself! Above all else, start figuring out who the top recruiters in your new field would be and begin reaching out to them on LinkedIn or other networking forums.
4. Financial Wiggle Room
It’s always good, when making a career change, to have a bit of wiggle room. A safety net, if you will. Just in case you need to take some time off work in the course of your career change. You might have to start lower on your new totem pole as well, and it’s best to be prepared to keep your current standard of living on an even keep through your transition. Step one: update your budget, finding ways to cut frivolous costs and make a plan to save more aggressively for the time being. Take on a side gig or two to build up your cushion. Having the money side sorted out will help take away some of the major stresses of the career change.
Above all else, your biggest secret weapon is a combination of patience and persistence. This can be a long and stressful process—much longer and more stressful than we usually budget for when making these initial decisions. Keep your spirits up, but keep in mind that you’ll have to work hard and be a bit gentle on yourself as you make your way from one career to the other. Stay focused and you’ll be sure to get there!