It happens to the best of us. We start out our careers with the best intentions; go to school, get a job and work hard. But, what happens when a few years – or decades – down the road, you find yourself wanting more from your professional life? What exactly do you do when your resume screams “banker” but your passion is for teaching?
Just the thought of changing careers can strike fear in the boldest of souls, but I’m here to tell you it can be done. With some strategic planning, dedication and a lot of patience, you can change careers – whether you’ve got two years or 20 under your belt. Check out these tips to get you started on the path to trading in just a career, for your dream career.
I know it may sound a little fluffy, but keeping track of your thoughts can be super helpful when you’re considering a career change. Find a notebook and pen you can keep with you most of the time, so you can whip them out whenever inspiration hits.
And by inspiration, I mean anything. If you’re standing in line at the airport and find yourself coming up with ways to better streamline the check-in process, write it down. When you feel satisfied figuring out a complicated Excel macro, jot it down. And, at the end of the day (or in the morning), write a quick passage about what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling.
Once you’ve written something down, try not to re-read it for at least a week. Then, after several days have passed, read through your old entries and comments, and see if any patterns start to emerge. This may take some time, so be patient. The inspiration will be in there. After a few months of careful journaling, you’ll start to see what really motivates you – and be reminded of why you’re making the switch.
It’s What You Know
Even if you think you’ve got the skills for your dream job – it’s totally OK if you don’t – chances are, you’re going to need to beef up your knowledge base before you can get land a gig. That means it’s back to the books for you. The good news is, education has changed drastically over the past decade, and your options for education are nearly limitless. From physically attending traditional classes, to self-paced courses online, I guarantee there’s something out there that will fit your budget, and your schedule.
Once you’ve nailed down the direction you’re headed in, it’s time to start getting smart on the topic, and beefing up your education. Start researching job postings for your dream job, and see what qualifications are required, then start boning up on whatever skills you’re missing.
Work For Free
One of the biggest challenges people face when changing careers is their lack of experience in their new field or position. It may seem like gaining experience is an impossible task, but college students do it all the time; it’s called interning. Yes, experienced professionals can get internships too.
The good news is, by the time you have a few years under your belt, you do have experience – and a network. That puts you two giant steps ahead of the competition, so make sure you use that to your advantage.
Hunt down your favorite companies, and use your best elevator pitch to convince people in your network that you can make their lives easier. You’ll have one foot in the door of your new future before you know it.
Swallow Your Pride
Well, a little bit anyway. Switching careers means you’ll likely find yourself at the bottom of the proverbial ladder, no matter how many years of experience you have in another field. That can be more of a challenge than many people expect. Seniority, management responsibilities and autonomy are subtle – but important – perks years of experience will grant you. But, when you’re starting out from scratch, you’ll have to be ready for the possibility of having to earn them all over again.
And guess what? This isn’t a bad thing at all. Remember, you’re chasing your dream, which means you probably feel like you’d be willing to do anything to achieve it, right? By allowing yourself to embrace your newness to the industry or role, you’ll tap into a whole new level of curiosity and motivation that might not have been accessible from the comfy vantage point of a corner office.
Prepare yourself to be the new kid on the block, and allow yourself to be curious, ask questions, and be hungry. I guarantee, you’ll soon have the pride of knowing you fought for – and won – your dream career.
Changing careers can be a tantalizing idea, but putting a plan into action can be intimidating. But with a fresh perspective, a lot of hard work, and commitment to your dreams, it’s not impossible. You owe it to yourself to find the work you love.
Disclosure: This post was written as part of the University of Phoenix Versus Program. I’m a compensated contributor, but the thoughts and ideas are my own.