10 Step Guide to Switching Careers

change careersAre you tired of the career that you’ve made a living at so far? Many people would love to switch career paths but are terrified to do so in an economy where employment is tough to find even with a lot of experience in a particular field. These tough times shouldn’t stop you from chasing your dreams but you do need to go about doing so in a practical manner. This 10 step guide will help you switch careers successfully!

STEP 1: Determine exactly what you don’t like about your current career.

Simply being dissatisfied isn’t a good enough reason to switch career paths these days. Determine exactly why you want to leave in order to see if you really do need to switch careers or if finding a new job in the same field would be sufficient for you.

STEP 2: Make a prioritized list of requirements you desire from your new career.

Make sure that you figure out exactly what you’re looking for when you start off in a new career. This includes everything from a specific salary range that you’re seeking to the intrinsic rewards you value of doing a job that you care about. Rank these desires in order of priority and review them when considering new career paths to see if the careers you want can offer the perks you desire.

STEP 3: Create an extensive list of all of the career options that might meet your desires.

Don’t limit yourself to a single career option when switching careers. You have a broad array of options available to you. The more of those options you explore, the more likely it is that you will experience a successful career change. You may want to break this down even further by looking at specific job options within broader career fields.

STEP 4: Make a spreadsheet showing the education and experience required to get started in each of the careers on your list.

This will help you to narrow down the larger list into options that are really going to be realistic and do-able for you. If you aren’t willing to get a PhD then rule out any jobs that require that level of education to meet the salary goals you set forth in step two.

STEP 5: Get hands-on experience in each career option left on your list.

You aren’t going to know if a career is really right for you until you’ve done it. Find an internship, do volunteer work or shadow a working professional in each career option to figure out the choice that is going to work for your needs.

STEP 6: Review the career options that are left on your list and select the one that seems most appropriate.

At this time you’ll be ready to make a commitment to your new career path. You’ll have a well-researched and thought-through idea of what new career is going to suit all of your needs and provide you with what is lacking from your existing career.

STEP 7: Make a step-by-step plan for getting the education and experience you need for this new career.

This plan should involve exactly how you’re going to get the funding for school, when you’ll be taking classes and how long you must stay in school in order to get the education required for the new career. Figure out where you’ll take classes and get work experience. Determine whether it’s time to quit your current job and focus on your new career path or if you need to stick with the existing job until your new education is complete.

STEP 8: Put yourself ahead of the curve with extra research, classes and accreditation.

The biggest drawback to switching careers is that you’re starting over as a “newbie”┬áin a field even though you’ve got experience in the professional world. Do all that you can to make yourself stand out from a brand new worker by taking extra courses, learning about specialties and finding ways to apply your previous work experience to your new job and you’ll make yourself stand out in the job market.

STEP 9: Apply for and find a job.

Many people think that switching careers starts with finding a job as the first step. Notice that it’s actually the ninth step in the process. By taking the time to lay all that extra groundwork you’ll make this step a whole lot easier on yourself. That’s important since it’s the hardest step of all.

STEP TEN: Work hard to excel in your new career.

Once you do get that new career started, you should hit the ground running. You want to establish yourself in this new field as quickly as possible, making up for the lost time you’ve already spent in another career that wasn’t right for you.

Have you successfully switched careers? Share your story in the comments!

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3 Comments

  1. Posted February 24, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    That makes a lot of sense, Kathryn. I’m actually somewhere in the middle of all that–looking at starting a new master’s program! This is helpful, thanks!

  2. Chase Sagum
    Posted March 2, 2011 at 2:31 am | Permalink

    I think your list is fantastic! Step 10 cannot be overlooked! Good ol’ fashioned hard work always pays off.

  3. Kathryn Vercillo
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 4:45 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the awesome feedback Kathy and Chase! And Kathy, good look with the switch if you make it.

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