Looking to Make a Major Career Change? 6 Things You Need to Do First10 November 2021 / By Diane Fanucchi Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on November 10, 2021
So, you’re ready for a career change, a new start. Perhaps you’ve always had a dream job in mind, but were just waiting for the right time to try it, and now feels like that time. Or, maybe your current career isn’t an option anymore, due to changes in the industry or because your health or circumstances have changed. Maybe you don’t know exactly what you want to do next. You just know it’s time for something different.
Are you feeling excited, terrified, a little lost?
Whatever the case, before making the big leap, there are some things you’ll probably want to do first to help make your career change a success.
1. Find your career change ‘why’
Most of the time “find your why” is used in the context of keeping yourself motivated to do what you’re already doing. But if you’re planning a career change, that probably means something isn’t working, or it isn’t what you want anymore.
So why do you want a career change?
Are you overtaxed, underchallenged, just ready to try something different? Do you want to do something that feels more meaningful, or have more flexibility in your work week? Do you want to make more money, or have more free time, or just more satisfaction?
Chances are, if you want to make a major career change, rather than just get another job of the same kind, you have good reasons. You just need to define them, so you know where to look for your new direction.
Which leads to the next thing you might want to do.
2. Make a list of what you like and don’t like about your current career
Some days it may be hard to remember anything you like about what you’re doing now. But surely there’s something, along with some things you don’t love anymore.
Try making a like/don’t like list, to help point you in your new direction.
For example, maybe you like your current industry, but you’d prefer a different role within it, or would like more freedom and flexibility in how and when you work.
Or, you like the interaction with people, but want to try a different kind of work. Maybe you handled some tasks for the bookkeeper or HR person while she was on leave, and decided you enjoyed them.
If you work with your hands now, maybe you feel motivated to use your brain potential more fully. Or, you’re tired of 60 hour weeks and an overly competitive culture.
Once you figure out what is working, and what isn’t, as well as the desires or aptitudes that your current career doesn’t fulfill, you can get a better idea of what you might do instead.
3. Take a personality test
What does knowing your personality type have to do with making a successful career change? Plenty. Tests will show your aptitudes, strengths, weaknesses, communication style, and the settings you do best in.
They may even show you some of the jobs and industries you’re well suited for, as well as some you’d be happier staying away from. And knowing your communication and work style may help you in navigating your next steps once you know what you want to do.
Whether you take the Typefinder, the career personality profiler, the Big 5, The Holland Code, or something else, knowing more about yourself will help you prepare for a satisfying career change.
Even if you’ve taken a personality test before, you might want to take it again, for two reasons:
Sometimes we change over time.
You might take, or evaluate, the test differently with your career change objective in mind.
Knowledge may be power, but self-knowledge can be a powerful tool for defining and attaining your new goal. You can take several free tests right here at Truity.
4. Try it on for size
If you have an idea of the kind of job you’d like to try, you may want to see what the work is really like before you invest the time, energy and money that making a change might involve.
You can do this in several ways:
- Do some volunteer work in your desired field.
- Do an internship, for real work experience, and to gain connections.
- Try doing the work you’d like to be doing on a freelance basis to start.
- Begin with a side hustle, so you can see what the work would be like, test the income potential, and gain experience, before going full time -- whether you want to get hired in the industry, or transition into starting your own business.
Some of these options can even help you make some extra money to tide you over in your career change transition. And all will likely give you networking opportunities and contacts that can help you when it’s time to find a new position.
5. Do some research
Once you have a pretty good idea of what you want your next chapter to contain, you’ll want to look into the details of how to get there. Do you need a degree, some new certifications, or just some additions to your skill set?
Will you likely have to work your way up to the position you want, or can you leap right in, after a little preparation?
You probably also want to know about income potential, demand and opportunities, and what “a day in the life” will be like.
Use your preferred method for gathering information -- google it, of course, then maybe read books, look on social media or career websites, and, whatever your personality, you’ll likely want to get a real life perspective by following suggestion 6.
6. Talk with people who are doing what you’d like to do
Whether it’s someone you know, someone you’re referred to by a friend, or a connection on social media, try to find someone who’s doing the work you want to do, and ask them what it's really like.
Depending on the nature of the connection, you can meet in person for coffee, visit their workplace, do a Zoom chat or phone call, or even just ask questions by email or on LinkedIn.
Ask them to be as honest as they can, so you’ll get a true picture of what they do, how they feel about it, and what advice they can give you.
Some questions you might want to ask:
- How did they get to where they are now?
- What kind of education and credentials are involved?
- What does their typical work day look like?
- What do they like most, and least, about their job?
- What are the hours, the work style, the pay, and the culture like?
- What would they do differently if they were starting now?
There are probably more things you can think of to do before making your career change, but these should get you started in better knowing yourself, what you want, and how to get there.