7 tips on making a career transition

Making a u-turn in your career is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do – but it is by no means impossible. If you are unhappy with your current job or career and feel that a complete change is what’s needed, then don’t be afraid to look further into what would be required. Use our guide to take the first steps towards a career transition and you’ll already be closer than you were yesterday to doing what you always wanted to do.

Do you need a qualification? Is experience a vital aspect of the role? Do you not have the skills which are required? These are all scary questions to consider, but consider them you must if you want to achieve your goals. Need help? That’s why we have some sound advice to put you on the right path and give you the job satisfaction and recognition you deserve.

Here are our 7 top tips on making a career transition.

1. Consider why you want to change careers

The first step to a career transition is making sure you are 100% certain it’s the right decision. Ask yourself why you want to change careers before you take the plunge. There are lots of reasons why you feel this would fulfil your career needs, and here are few examples to get you thinking:

  • You want more money
  • You want more job satisfaction
  • You want more or less hours
  • You want to work in a different environment
  • You want to pursue a dream
  • You want more responsibility
  • You want to learn new skills
  • You want to gain qualifications

Even if we haven’t covered your reasons above, it doesn’t matter. The feelings you are experiencing and the longing you have for something new will gnaw away at you and the frustration will continue to grow – no matter what the reason. And if you feel like this then a change of careers could be what’s needed.

Remember the saying, ‘the grass isn’t always greener on the other side’? This is what you need to be wary of before you make such a drastic change. The negative feelings you are having right now about your career could just be shifted over to something new. Your efforts in this transition, which could take many years, may all be for nothing if you haven’t directly addressed your issues.

But it isn’t just about finding out what makes you currently unhappy in your career. The second part of the equation is figuring out what would make you happy. This is the final piece of the puzzle and must be decided before you hand in your notice.

2. Figure out what you really want to do

Now that you’re sure a career change is inevitable, it’s time to decide what you actually want to do. Some of you reading this may already have a clear picture of your career goals, but for those of you that don’t – read on.

This is the part when things really start to get serious and you will certainly feel the pressure. But you need to relax, stay calm and focus on what makes you tick. What makes you happy? Who do you like to work with? What kind of environment suits your personality? What do you ultimately want to achieve – is it fortune, fame, recognition, job satisfaction?

“The four stages of a career plan are: identify your skills and interests; explore career ideas; make a decision and set achievable goals.” Prospects.ac.uk

At this stage it isn’t important to put too much pressure on yourself to figure out the exact job title you desire. But what you do need to do is make a list of the things you really want from your career. Start with a few generic points, and then work your way down from there. Has the world of sales always appealed to you, but you are not sure what product or service you’d like to sell? Then just write ‘Sales’ on a piece of paper. Do you want to work as a care giver but you’re not sure who you’d like to help? Then just write ‘Care giver’ – it’s as simple as that.

Once you’ve made a list of the important aspects of your career you want, you can then begin to research the types of roles which cover most or all of these points. You will eventually start to define the role and create a more specific career direction. But what will it take to get there?

3. Find out what it will take

Picking a new career is the easy part. The hardest part is yet to come, and finding out what it will take to transition into a new career is often what prevents most from actually doing it. But that shouldn’t stop you, and with a determined approach and a lot of research you could be on your way to making that transition happen.

First of all you need to find out if there are any mandatory requirements. This could be a qualification, experience or a set of skills. If you now have a specific job title you could start by searching for jobs in your area to see what the company’s are requesting.

Having to go back to college, university or study from home can feel like you’re going backwards and not forwards with your career. But don’t let that stop you from fulfilling your dreams. Find out how many years you would need to commit to this course and contact them to find out more information. Don’t worry or panic about how much you don’t know, and instead look to what you can learn. Be positive and confident about your own abilities and how quickly you are capable of learning something new – everyone has to start somewhere!

The main reason why most people don’t make a career transition is because they are worried about failing. Ask for some sample material from the course and take the time to do a little studying beforehand so you know what to expect. You could also consider having a few one to one sessions with a personal tutor if you need that extra support.

4. Start at the bottom

When it comes to experience and gaining new skills you may need to search for a role that initially puts you at a lower level. You will often only be able to achieve your goals if you start at the bottom and grind your way to the top – but that’s okay. This can often be the best way to learn a new career and ensure you don’t miss out on anything important. There is no substitution for experience, and your CV may need this relevant history to achieve the end goal.

The skills you need can again be learned through experience, even if that means starting again from scratch in a lower entry job. But you may also find that company training programs and support are offered for new employees to get them up to speed quickly, and not every role demands experience and a specific set of skills.

5. Make a plan

Once you are fully aware of what it will take for you to change careers, it’s now time to make a plan of action. Again, this can be another daunting step but it can be made much easier and less demotivating by planning smaller steps and mile stones.

Try not to focus immediately on the end goal, and use your research and knowledge of what it will take to make the first small step in the right direction. You have to create the right mindset which is both positive and realistic. You know it could take a few years to get where you want to be, so the sooner you get started and plan your next move the better!

Get a calendar or diary and plot each move, task, meeting or research for each day, week or month. This will help ensure you don’t backtrack and begin to have doubts about your crucial career transition. Without an action plan you are more likely to leave things as they are, and in time you will probably forget all about it and continue on the same path.

Another great way to make things happen is to get someone else to help you on this journey. Ask your partner, friend or family member to join forces with you on this new career path and let them in on what needs to happen. Someone who can guide, support, motivate and cheer you on to new horizons could be the only way you make it happen – you certainly don’t need to do this alone if you prefer a helping hand.

Read MIT’s guide to making a career plan here.

6. Track your progress

Along the way you need to ensure you are living up to your own expectations, and that your action plan is working. The first step is to make a plan, but that can only work if you track your efforts and see how you are doing.

You don’t have to make this complicated and a simple spreadsheet, word doc, or even a tick on your calendar or diary is more than enough. However, if you want to go further and write some notes or comments – then great! It isn’t up to us to tell you exactly how you should track your progression, but we do feel that this is a very important task that will help you achieve your goals.

7. Immerse yourself

Fully immersing yourself in this new career will have many benefits. First of all, you need to learn lots of new skills and have a good understanding of how things function in this new world. You can only really grasp this if you immerse yourself in the industry – read articles, watch YouTube videos, check social media, read reviews, watch the news, attend seminars, and so on. You could even consider contacting someone in the industry for an interview to find out more. Insider knowledge is invaluable, and you could even make a few contacts and pass out your CV.

A great way to begin your journey is to create a new LinkedIn profile. This will help you to create a new brand and connect to like minded individuals. It may take some time to build up a comprehensive profile, but the more time you dedicate to social media connecting and sharing with other professionals, the quicker you will make things happen.

Headhunting is a popular method that employers like to use when a new position becomes available. The first place they will go is LinkedIn which could mean you get contacted because of your efforts. If the employer can see that you are passionate about your new career, they may just want to take that passion onboard.

A career transition is not just about training and learning something new; it’s also about commercial awareness, sharing, connecting, contacts, discipline, and knowledge. The more people you know the more likely you are to spot an opportunity. You have to get your name out there and fully immerse yourself; otherwise you are going to make this journey more difficult than it already is.

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