Professional Reinvention: How to Make a Career Change

Changing careers - Woman with folded arms in blue shirt standing in front of a menu at a hair salonIf you have come to a point where you are just plain bored with your current industry or are burnt out, it might be time for a career transition. But as you know, such a transition is not an easy thing, especially in today?s employment climate. So before you jump ship, take a look at the reasons you want to switch careers then plan, plan, plan.

What Do You Want To Do?
You may know what you no longer want to do, but the key to a successful transition is being able to narrow down what field you want to enter. ?You need to identify what the new field is. Too many people know that they want and need a change, but they don’t know what that change should be,? says career coach Cheryl Palmer, owner of Call to Career. ?You should also find out more about the new field so that you know what is necessary to enter that field. The online Occupational Outlook Handbook is a great resource for researching fields that you are not already familiar with.?

Do You Need Training?

Once you have decided what industry you want to enter, do some research to find out if you need to go back to school. ?Find out exactly what training is required by researching the career through the above-named resource as well as talking to people who are actually in that field. Some fields have a higher bar for entry than others,? explains Palmer. ?If you have no contacts in that industry, start building your contacts as soon as possible. You can attend industry trade events. You can also ask around, starting with people who are already in your network, to find out if they know people in that new industry who they are willing to introduce to you.?

What About The Investment You?ve Already Made In Your Current Career?
Are you ready to give up all the advancements you?ve made in your current industry? This is the phase to really examine to determine if it will be worth moving into a new industry. Sure, it’s great to follow your passion, but look at the pros and cons before handing in your resignation letter. And says Palmer, there is also an opportunity to use your current experience to jumpstart your new career.? In some cases, you may be able to build on your knowledge and experience in your current career and parlay that into something new. This is especially true if you are going into a field that is closely related to your current field. In that case, you won’t be losing your investment at all,? she points out. ?You are merely re-packaging what you already have for a field that will value what you bring to the table. A good example of this is a pharmaceutical sales rep who decides to sell medical devices. The knowledge of the medical field, with its complex terminology, will prove useful in selling medical devices.?

Be prepared, however, to let go of the investment you have made in your current career. ?If you do a total career change and move into an area that is completely different from what you have done before, it’s possible that you could lose your investment in your current career,? says Palmer. ?You may be looking at a situation where you are starting over from the bottom floor in terms of salary and in terms of status. Now for some people, this is something that they are willing to do because they want to get into something that they are very passionate about. But for others, it is not viable because they are unwilling to revamp their lifestyle and take that pay cut.?
Transition Step-By-Step
If you aren?t ready financially, education-wise or even mentally prepared to go cold turkey on your current industry, enter your desired field step by step. ?I wouldn’t say that people should give up on the idea of a career transition, but they may not be able to make that transition in one leap,? notes Palmer. ?If you are trying to transition to a completely new field, unless you have significant financial resources to tide you over while you are retraining and trying to break into this new field, you may need to do the transition in stages. I often recommend to clients that they at least try to get into an industry that is related to the new field even if they can’t transition into a new profession just yet.?

Take baby steps, so to speak. ?For example, if your ideal job target is to go into graphic arts, but you are an accountant, you might want to get an accounting job in a graphic arts company so that you are at least in the environment,? says Palmer. ?Then you can work on getting the training and experience that you need to transition into the new profession as a graphic artist.?

Prepare Financially For A Transition
You may be without income for a while if you have to go back to school, or you may have to take a salary cut since you are entering a new arena. ?If you know that you will need to take a pay cut, you can start to pay off whatever you can so that your bills are down to a bare minimum,? says Palmer. So pay down your debts, such as your credit cards or your car note, for example. ?That way, your monthly expenses will be lower, and it will be easier financially to manage the lower salary level,? she says.

Plan For The Transition Challenges
Since you are new to the industry, you will most likely have some new challenges, so be mentally ready for them ?There can be financial obstacles, educational obstacles, and even family obstacles,? says Palmer.

Pay off your debts and have a savings to overcome the financial obstacles. For education, look into what type of training or certification you will need. ?Family obstacles are a little trickier. Your spouse may not think a career transition is a good idea, especially if your current field is lucrative and making a transition involves a pay cut. In this case, you will need to spend time convincing your spouse of the upside of making the transition (i.e., more time with the family, reduced stress for you that tends to spill over into the family life),? suggests Palmer.