7 Ways to Successfully Change Careers

Lauren Pope
Lauren Pope  |  April 12, 2019

Burned out? Stressed out? Bummed out? Maybe it’s time for a change.

A career change can seem tricky to someone who hasn’t done it before. Believe me, I was skeptical the first time I tried to get a job outside of the nonprofit field. But my own experience with looking to change careers gave me skills that I’ve carried over into every job I’ve had since.

Speaking from experience, you probably already have the goods, you just need to know how to package them. Lucky for you, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on how you can successfully change your career.

How to successfully change careers

You’ll need more than leadership skills to successfully change careers. Executing the perfect career change strategy takes time, planning, and perseverance. This article will outline the steps you’ll need to take, along with helpful tips and tricks. Let’s jump right in.

1. Reflect on your current situation

The first step you should take when deciding to change careers to reflect on your current situation. What do you like about the job you have right now? What makes you good at that job? Take the time to think about the positives of your current situation and think about what you’d like to carry into your next career.

You should also take the time to think about what you’d like to change in your next career. What about your current job stresses you out and makes you unhappy? What about your current job is making you want to leave?

Take 15 minutes out of your day and create a career change checklist to help gather your thoughts. Include all of the things listed above, as well as anything else you think will be necessary for your career change. This list will act as your guide moving forward.

Prepare for your career change: Download FREE checklist

2. Pinpoint your strengths

Using your career change checklist as your guide, complete a self-appraisal and pinpoint your strengths as a professional. What are the things your coworkers would say make you great at your job?

Think in broad terms when creating this list. You can use your hard skills or your soft skills as selling points when you begin your job hunt.

These skills are important to list because many of them are transferable and are useful in any position or industry. You may not have the title you want, but the skills you have will help you do the job. Use them to your advantage when targeting a new position.

3. Gather your supplies

Once you’ve finished the planning phase, it’s time to start gathering your necessary materials.

Resume

You’ll want to start by updating your resume and tailoring it to the industry or new position you want to target. You should be creating several different resumes, each one tailored to the specific job type or industry you’re targeting. It takes more time but it’s worth the effort.

If you’re looking to change to a completely new career field, you may want to consider using a specialized functional resume instead of the traditional format.

Here’s an example of a functional resume:

functional resume example
 

A functional resume focuses more on your skills and less on your career experience. This resume is perfect for those who are looking to make a significant career change.

Tip: Want to learn more about the different resume formats? Check out our article on how to write a resume.

Cover letter

There’s a great debate raging on about whether you need a cover letter when applying for a job. Whether you think you do, you should still include one. A cover letter will give you the chance to explain anything that isn’t explicitly stated in your resume.

It’s especially important if you’re looking to change careers or industries entirely. Use your cover letter to explain why you’re looking to make a change. You can also use this space to explain what your previous experience will bring to the new position.

It’s free real estate that you’ll be missing out on by not including it, so be sure to take advantage!

Tip: Read our complete guide on how to write a cover letter.

Refresh your LinkedIn account

Before you ask, yes, you need to update your LinkedIn account before job hunting. More than 20,000 businesses use LinkedIn as a recruiting tool during the hiring process. That means you need to have your LinkedIn account updated to match the information you have on your resume.

How to update your LinkedIn account

  • Upload a current and professional headshot
  • Change your LinkedIn URL to something unique
  • Rewrite your LinkedIn summary
  • Include all of your necessary work experience
  • Upload your resume to LinkedIn
  • Add links to your portfolio, writing samples, project plans, etc.
  • Update your contact information
  • Ask your connections for an endorsement

LinkedIn also has an incredible new tool that allows you to silently tell recruiters you’re looking for a new position. You simply turn the feature on and recruiters are alerted when your LinkedIn profile matches a job description they’re looking to fill. You can also get weekly email alerts about positions you’re interested in.

Tip: Need a LinkedIn refresher? Check out 35 of our best LinkedIn profile tips.

4. Use the connections you’ve built

If you’re a more seasoned professional, chances are you’ve built a network of connections that are ready to help you out. Don’t be afraid to reach out to old coworkers and colleagues during your job search. These connections are the most valuable asset you have for your career change.

Start your search on LinkedIn

Start by looking through your connections on LinkedIn and finding anyone who currently works in the career field or industry you want to target. Reach out to them and offer to chat over lunch about your career change. You should always be upfront with them about why you want to connect. People appreciate honesty and it will help you more if your contacts know what they’re walking into beforehand.

Tip: Learn how to network on LinkedIn.

Use social media to your advantage

Another place you can take your search is to social media. LinkedIn isn’t the only online platform you can use during your search. Connect with family and friends on Facebook and see if they are aware of any positions that might be a good fit for you. Check to see if companies you admire or want to work at have posted any jobs. After all, it’s called social media for a reason!

Take your search to unlikely places

Have you ever considered a volunteer opportunity as a place to network? Maybe you should.

There are people you may not consider professional connections who can help you during your career change. Think about the friends you’ve made at church or your local volunteer organization. Those people have connections as well that may lead right to where you want to go.

You need to talk to people about your desire to change careers in order to open doors. Don’t be afraid to bring it up in regular conversation, you never know who might be able to help you out!

5. Consider brushing up on your skills

If you are willing to wait on your a career change, you could further stack the deck in our favor by brushing up on your skills. You’ve already identified what skills you’re missing for your desired career: taking time to invest in those skills can pay dividends.

4 ways to improve your skills

  • Go back to school for a secondary or Masters degree
  • Volunteer to be a speaker at a professional conference
  • Enroll in an online certification or skills program
  • Consider hiring a career coach

This step isn’t mandatory, but can work to your advantage if you’re willing to invest the necessary time and money. Remember to always explore free options first before choosing an option that will cost you a lot of money.

6. Don’t hold yourself back by overthinking it

The sad truth of changing careers is that oftentimes, you’re your own worst enemy.

Many people get in their own heads and worry that they aren’t skilled enough to change their career. That way of thinking will only defeat you in the long-run. Remind yourself daily about the things you’re good at doing, and think about why those skills and qualities are good for a future employer. You should lead with those qualities in every job interview you have moving forward.

Focus more on what you want to be doing, not where you want to do it. Do you want to work with kids? Focus on jobs that let you do that and the rest will fall into place. Be an advocate for yourself and others will listen.

7. Stick to your guns

Enacting a successful career change will take time. Oftentimes, it can take months of planning and research to prepare yourself for a career change. Don’t rush into things. You want to prepare yourself for success by making sure you follow the above steps in the right order.

It’s also important not to compromise in your search when things get tough. It can be tempting to throw in the towel and take a job that isn’t exactly what you want. Don’t fall for it. You may find yourself right back where you started – looking for another career change — if you do.

Always consult that list of non-negotiable needs you made in your career change checklist. Does the job you’re interviewing for have those things? If not, you might need to stay patient and keep looking.

How to execute a career change for a new industry

If you’re looking to change careers and break into a new industry, you’ll need a bit of extra help. The process for breaking into a new industry looks very similar to a simple career change.

Ultimately, you’ll need to be patient and more flexible with your search. Be creative and daring with jobs you apply for. You don’t have anything to lose by doing something unexpected when attempting to switch industries – so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.

6 tips for breaking into a new industry

  • Focus on your transferable skills
  • Use different resumes for different industries
  • Use volunteering as a way to break into a field
  • Be flexible about the salary expectations, within reason
  • Apply to every job you feel qualified for
  • Don’t be afraid to make a lateral career move

Your biggest strengths are what differentiate you. Focus on what skills you have that people in your desired industry don’t usually have. Those differences can help a team that isn’t used to having them.

Remember, anyone can learn how to use the software on the job. You have unique skills that only time and experience can grant. Own it.

Become a career chameleon

It can be difficult to wrap your head around how to change careers. Luckily, you already have all the tools you need to become a career chameleon and morph yourself into what companies are looking for. Be daring, be creative, and be confident – you’ve got this!

Looking for more? Check out these 10 professional development tips from real industry professionals.

Lauren Pope
Author

Lauren Pope

Lauren is an Employee Engagement Journalist at G2. Originally a St. Louis native, Lauren moved to Chicago after graduating from the University of Missouri - Columbia. In her free time, Lauren enjoys listening to podcasts, watching true crime shows, and spending time in the Chicago karaoke scene.