Changing Jobs

How to navigate a sudden career change

Written by Guest Contributor

Big life changes are never easy, and when you find yourself in the middle of a sudden career change, it’s natural to be anxious, stressed, and feeling pretty uncertain about the future. Career changes that occur early on in your career or later in life are plenty stressful, and even if you’re making a career change for a positive reason, it’s still a difficult time to navigate. 

Changing courses in a career isn’t unusual, and people opt to try something new all the time for various reasons. You may realize that a profession just isn’t for you or find that your interests and talents are better suited for a new, fast-growing job opportunity. You may decide to leave to pursue another career option that’s more lucrative, or you may shift to a career that pays less but gives you more scheduling freedom and carries less stress

Of course, these career changes happen for less positive reasons, too, such as if you’re laid off or facing poor job prospects in your current career path. But whether it’s your choice or the choice has been thrust upon you, moving into a new career can be a positive change.

Prepare for a new career while still employed

If you’re still employed but know that a sudden career change will take place soon, there are many steps you can take to prepare so that the transition is as smooth as possible. If you know that you’ll need to acquire new skills or knowledge to move into your new career, this is the time to go back to school. While balancing classes with your full-time job takes some scheduling talent, many schools offer night and weekend classes designed specifically for working adults. Online classes are also gaining in popularity and you may be able to earn an entire degree online. 

You should also prepare yourself for the job search when it comes time to apply to positions in your new career field. Work on updating and polishing your resume and touch base with some professionals in your network to ask if they would be willing to act as references. If you’re transitioning into a career field where you’ll need a portfolio of work, focus on gathering together the best samples of your past work so your portfolio will already be prepared if a potential employer should request it. 

Finally, work on networking, both online and offline. Develop your LinkedIn profile and see if you already have connections with anyone in the industry that you’d like to transition to. If so, see if they would be willing to meet up for coffee to give you some insider advice on any other tasks you should be doing to prepare. In addition to LinkedIn, take some time to clean up any other online profiles so that you present a professional image to anyone who happens to Google your name.

Handle an unexpected career change

Unfortunately, undergoing a career change isn’t always a choice that we get to make. If you’re laid off, fired, or otherwise suddenly discover that your current career is no longer working, it’s hard not to panic. So, give yourself some time to panic, be mad at the situation, and feel sorry for the loss of your career. Then, it’s time to come up with a plan. 

Start by envisioning the new career that you want. Think about the aspects of your old career that you want to escape, what your ideal daily life would look like, and how your current talents and traits would suit your new career. You may need to do some research to determine the path that can get you to your career. Will you need additional education? Are entry-level positions available or can you apply your experience to qualify for an upper-level position? 

You might feel pressured to jump into your next career, but it’s important that this career is a good fit for you long-term. If you need to take a part-time or full-time job for financial reasons, try to find something that you enjoy, but that will give you the scheduling flexibility you need to attend classes, finesse your resume, and go on interviews to land that ideal position in your new career. 

When you’re left without a job you might feel like you’re starting over, but a change in career is an opportunity for advancement. Think about the skills and experience you’ve already acquired and how they can apply to your new career, and be sure to highlight that in your resume. Chances are your education, existing references, and current professional network can all contribute to helping you find that new job.

Remember to embrace new opportunities

New career opportunities are emerging in exciting fields like artificial intelligence, data science, and even video game development. These are careers that weren’t available just a few decades ago, and changing your career path can let you take advantage of in-demand, well-paying, secure jobs. 

Our lives often center around our careers, so when you shift your professional focus, your whole world can feel off-kilter. Finding the courage to embrace a new career will certainly be stressful, but you may be rewarded with a secure job that you enjoy much more than your previous position.

About the Author:
Jori Hamilton is a writer from the Pacific Northwest who has a particular interest in social justice, politics, education, healthcare, technology, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @ HamiltonJori.

About the author

Guest Contributor