Changing Jobs Professional Development

6 Things You Must Know About Changing Careers

Written by Kate Lopaze

If you’re switching to a whole new career (or are just thinking about it), there are some things that will be true no matter what your field is. Keeping these in mind can help you get that crucial foot in the door in your new career. Here are 6 things you must know about changing careers.

1. You’ll need to shift your mindset.

“Change” is the mantra here. You’ll be the same you, but everything else—your day-to-day, how you apply your skills, the challenges you face on the job—will be different. Part of what makes a career change so appealing is that “everything is new!” aspect. Embracing that freedom, where anything could happen, is a big part of being ready to make the switch.

2. Your resume needs an overhaul.

You might think a few “find and replace” tweaks will cover your resume as you start sending it out to a new field of job openings. After all, your history is your history, and they’ve never seen it before, right? It’s all new to them! …Not quite.

The best thing to do is to build your resume from scratch so that it fits for your anticipated industry. The way you interpret your past jobs and your current skills may be different for this new field, so take the time to think about a) what the industry needs are; and b) how to give your skills and experience a makeover for that brave new world.

3. Even if you don’t have experience, you have skills.

It may seem like you’re totally starting over. But guess what? Even if your experience doesn’t really translate to your next professional life, you’ve also built up a stash of abilities that could serve you well no matter what. Focus on the kinds of skills that transfer well across job lines, like communication skills, problem solving skills, and leadership skills.

4. You should think big: industry, not job description.

I usually recommend that you tailor your resume for a specific job description. But as you get started on a new career path, where you may not be as familiar with the ins and outs of that industry, it’s better to approach it on a macro level. This is especially true if you don’t have some of the necessary experience. Focus on what the company does, what it provides, their audience/consumers, and what you can offer in those areas.

5. It’s okay that there’s a lot you don’t know (yet).

If you have a strong background of skills and experience behind you, it can be tempting to let that translate into swagger, even if you’re walking into an all-new professional world. The whole point of switching careers is the challenge of learning new things, and taking a different direction. So bring that eagerness to grow, not the “I know everything” confidence, into the process with you.

6. There will be disappointments.

Changing careers can be a really hard process. You’re leaving behind a very familiar world for a field you likely don’t know as well. You might be leaving behind a reputation, and sets of skills that you worked hard to build. When you take a risk like that, it can be doubly frustrating when things don’t happen right away, or you don’t get the level of job or salary that you were hoping for. So as you go into it, take a deep breath and understand that there will be challenges.

Changing career lanes is a brave thing to do. It involves making the best decision for yourself in the long term, even knowing that the short term may be a bumpy transition. The more prepared you are for these challenges, the readier you’ll be to face them and move on to your next great opportunity.

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.