How to Change Careers

Eight steps to get you on a professional path that’s right for you

Lynda Zugec
Lynda Zugec

Not everyone starts out with their dream job. Finding the right occupation or career path takes hard work and patience, especially if that means shifting gears after you’re already established. So how do you get from point A to point B? As the managing director of The Workforce Consultants, Lynda Zugec has coached and trained executives across North America, Europe, and the Middle East. Prominent in academe and practice, Zugec routinely advises on leadership and career development. Among other publications, she has been cited on FOX Business, MSN, CBS, and US News & World Report. Here, she’s put together eight Cs for career changers to abide by.

Conduct research and learn about the industry. Before making a career change, it would be a good idea to review all possibilities and get an understanding of your chosen field. Read industry journals, attend conferences, and learn whether your target industry has growth potential.

Connect with others. When evaluating a career change, one of the most fruitful approaches may be to connect with others who are currently in the desired career path. These individuals will be highly cognizant of the qualifications required and will be able to provide insights as to potential opportunities. They will have an understanding of how their career has changed and what the future has in store.

Consider the right time. The best time to consider a new career is when you feel that other aspects in your life are moving along well. Financial, family, and health status are key considerations when contemplating a career change.

Contact mentors. Career changers would benefit by developing a “mentor network” of diverse individuals. Typically we associate mentoring with a one-to-one relationship, but that need not be the case. In fact, different individuals can contribute to the mentoring process in various ways. Those with a business background can provide a general understanding of the way organizations work. More-seasoned professionals can give guidance regarding next steps and career progression. Individuals with international experience can spur insights that others may not have. And although we rarely seek out mentors who are younger than us, they can keep us updated on technology and help us form an accurate perspective on the upcoming generation.

Calculate transferable skills. For career changers, it would be advantageous to conduct an assessment of the transferable knowledge and skills that were developed in the previous career and how they may apply to the new career path. Interpersonal skills, problem-solving abilities, and project management are all examples of knowledge and skills that can be applied in differing contexts and careers.

Construct a clear plan. One of the smartest moves you can make is to carefully map out an effective career-change strategy. Without a plan, follow-through and maintenance of a concrete direction decreases. A successful career change can take several months or longer to accomplish, so patience is key.

Check all available platforms. It’s important to exhaust all the available ways to reach your goals. Consider social media, networks, associations, friends, and family.

Contemplate your training needs. Develop a personal plan for your training. Find out what is required to move your career to the next level. This may include courses you need to complete, online webinars you can attend, or more formal and specific training. Staying ahead of the game will advance your skills and, by extension, your career.