Changing careers is a major decision and can be stressful to even consider it. According to stress.org, it’s number 18 on the list of highest stressful life events. It’s up there with buying or losing a home, having a child, or getting a divorce. The key to easing that stress when making the decision comes down to preparation and honest self-assessment.
Preparing, reskilling, and upskilling for a new career is more accessible than ever. Of course, with more accessibility comes more competition. The world is in the midst of the Great Resignation and more people are leaving places where they are unhappy to find what fulfills them.
This post will show you how to decide it’s time to make a change, what you should do to prepare, and how to make it happen. And while the process is the same no matter the age, there are factors to consider depending on when you choose to change careers. We’re including the key factors to consider when changing careers at 30, 40, or 50 years old.
How to Know It’s Time
Start with Your Current Level of “Happy”
The first thing to do when considering a change in careers is to review how happy you are at your current job. If you’re already considering a change, your level of happiness is already low. But just how bad is the situation?
- You dread the morning routine: You may not be a morning person but if you like where you have to go, you’ll make the effort. If you wake up with negative thoughts, you are telling yourself you will not be happy all day.
- You feel unfulfilled: You show up to work and do what you must but no longer gain joy from it. It gets done because you know it’s your job.
- You lack drive: You used to express ideas for new products or internal processes. Now, you either don’t get new ideas or keep them to yourself. This can be a result of ignored ideas or feeling under-appreciated.
If these points hit home, you are unhappy and should look for a change. These feelings are natural and can happen to anybody. If the change is recent and you have a good relationship at work, you may consider having a chat with your supervisor about your current path and standing within the company. After the conversation, they may be willing to invest in upskilling or shifting your position in a new direction that aligns with your interests.
Do You Want a New Career Path or Only a Job Change?
The next step in understanding your situation is finding what makes you unhappy. If your level of happiness dropped when a new manager came to the job or when you took on more clients, a career change may not be necessary.
You may love what you do but wish to do it elsewhere. If this sounds more like you, the steps in this post will still guide you in finding a new employer. Focus your training on soft skills and the technology changing your field. You’ll make yourself more desirable to potential employers this way.
You don’t want to interview if you only do things the “old school” way. What you may view as a point of pride, potential employers may see as old fashioned. Evolve with your position and impress employers with your combination of skills and experience.
If your lack of enthusiasm is about the responsibilities, it may be time to look for a new path. Don’t worry, this is more common than you might think. The average person will hold 12 jobs in their lifetime. A poll of 25-44 year old college graduates found that 29% of people have changed fields since getting their first job after college.
Assess Your Interests and Strengths
Grab a notebook or your favorite app for taking notes or brainstorming. Look inside yourself and write down your interests. Do you enjoy writing, animals, or business travel? Write it all down to get a better idea of your new direction.
Make a Personal SWOT
If you’re in business, you’re familiar with a SWOT – the 4-square grid made up of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. You’ve done it for your annual strategy or for a specific campaign. Have you ever thought of creating one for yourself?
Here is a sample of a personal SWOT:
Be honest with yourself and fill out your SWOT. This is how you will know the skills you will rely on and the areas you should improve before making your moves.
Make a List of Career Options
Now that you’ve completed the hard task of looking inside yourself, it’s time for the fun part. Write down jobs and career paths using what you’ve learned about yourself. Your initial list should be a brainstorming session where anything that sounds good to you is valid.
When you’re finished brainstorming, give your list a second and even third pass. This time, highlight options that use some of the skills you’ve already acquired through your life and work experience. This smaller list is the best place to start. This way you can focus on learning only the skills you are missing.
Preparation is Key
The great UCLA basketball coach John Wooden said, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” Now that you have some areas to pursue, it’s time to prepare. This includes learning, experimenting, and training on your own. You will have people behind you who support you in this transition but it comes down to your drive and dedication.
Keep Your Day Job
If at all possible, keep your day job. Finding a new job means networking, submitting resumes, and interviewing. Once the right offer comes around, you can leave the old job and start the new one. Changing your career demands more time, patience, and training.
Develop a Network
Once you narrow down your list, start to build and lean on your network. Your network consists of friends, professional contacts, and the communities you’ve built online.
Meet with your key contacts and see if you can shadow any of them for a few days to get a better feel for their day-to-day job. You’ll gain a lot from seeing it first hand and you may even develop a long mentor relationship.
Continue to grow your network. The more time you spend out there, the more people you will meet who can help you as you go down this road.
Today’s work environment is different than in the past. If you’re pursuing a career and not a job, you’re expected to put in the work beforehand. For example, it’s difficult to find a writing job if you don’t have any digital proof that you’ve written something in the past. If you want a new career, start by moving in that direction as an experiment without any compensation in return.
Experimenting with your career options will narrow down your list. If you’re not willing to gain some knowledge in this new field by trying it out for free, it’s probably not meant for you.
Turn to the network you’ve been cultivating and see who could use your services and offer them help. If you’re looking to teach, offer tutoring services to parents in your network. If you’re looking to get into web development, ask your friend who recently opened a bakery if they need help with their website.
As you gain experience, consider starting a blog, podcast, or YouTube channel. Lean on your interests and see how you can write or speak about them. You will learn, gain confidence, and build a community of like-minded people.
You are cultivating a network of people who know you’re entering this new area. You gained experience by not charging your friends to do small jobs. Now that you have testimonials and digital proof, get a few freelance jobs. Even if you prefer to work for an employer, this is a great way to get experience and bulk up a portfolio. These days, even entry-level jobs expect more from you.
Through an honest self-assessment and experimentation, you now have a clear path to your new career and a little bit of experience in it. Now, it’s time to begin training to position yourself for the official transition.
By this point, you have already identified the areas in which to train. Be sure to not overlook your soft skills, as 89% of recruiters say soft skills are usually the top reason a new hire doesn’t work out.
Even if you believe your soft skills are already strong, it does not hurt to get some refresher courses. Edstutia offers several modules focused on soft skills. These include:
- Diversity & inclusion
- Problem solving
- Critical thinking/reasoning
Next, look at the areas of your chosen career path that need reskilling. This refers to new training for skills you didn’t develop in your previous field. Here are some examples.
If transitioning to…
- Marketing: Integrated marketing and creative training like graphic design and video production
- Cybersecurity: Cloud computing and network automation
Preparation is Ongoing
The preparation phase will be unique to you. Both the sequence and length of this phase are fluid. You may not believe you’re ready to help others in your new field until you get some introductory training. Likewise, you may fly through this phase if you move into a career with a lot of skill crossover.
The preparation phase also doesn’t have to stop when you get a job. We highly encourage you to continue learning. Ongoing training will make you more competitive in your new field and allow you to grow within it.
Best Practices for Your Career Transition
Regardless of your age or professional experience, there are some keys to getting the job you desire. The graphic below covers Edstutia’s best practices to get the job. Keep reading for a breakdown of the sections not already mentioned in the preparation phase.
Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile
Today, most hiring managers will check your LinkedIn profile before they look at a resume. They may even look for your other social media profiles as well. Take the time to clean up any questionable content in your personal profiles. As for your LinkedIn, it should present what you can do for any potential employer.
Make Yourself Shine
The top section of your profile containing your picture, banner image, name, and short description, is known as the above the fold section. This is the information visible without the need to scroll down. Get the most out of it by doing the following:
- Your profile image should be professional
- Use the banner image to say something about who you are or the field you wish to enter
- The description should say something about how you want potential employers to think of you as they consider you for the open role
Once you optimize the top section, work your way down the page and optimize with the work you’ve been putting in to prepare for this career change. Here are a few things to add:
- Work experience (even if unpaid)
- Links to articles and blog posts in this new field
- Recommendations from your network
- Work samples and certifications
Create Your Own Job
Take a moment to consider the change you are making. Could there be a way for you to take the new path and combine it with your existing experience?
The combination of the two career paths could become a new position at a company or even a new business. Take some time to consider these possibilities. Highlighting your unique combination of skills can be what sets you apart from other applicants in this new space.
Build a Project Portfolio
Portfolios go a long way in showing potential employers you can do the job despite being new to the industry. Look for hands-on courses rather than static ones that only explain the job. This will allow you to build a portfolio throughout your training.
This practice is at the center of Edstutia’s mission. Learners will receive hands-on training in a VR environment and walk away with the confidence of a digital portfolio showcasing their skills.
Before enrolling in any online courses, it’s a good idea to review what certifications come with their programs. Looking to pursue an analytical path, look at certifications in Google Analytics. Microsoft’s Certified Solutions Developer certification can also be valuable.
Complete an Internship or (Better Yet) Apprenticeship
The value of getting on-the-job experience at the same time you are training is immeasurable. No matter where you train, take advantage of internships while enrolled. It will allow you to fill in a work experience section – just be sure the internship is more than coffee runs.
Things to Consider Based on Age
Changing careers can occur at any point and for various reasons. Your age alone should not deter you from making a change that will bring you happiness in life. There are a few things you should consider depending on your age. We outline some of them below.
Changing Careers in Your 30s
If you’re in your 30s, you’re already part of a generation that sees changing jobs as the best way to get ahead. About half of the working population today changes jobs every one to five years.
Because you’ve spent less time in the workforce, your professional network could be smaller than others with more experience. Spend time growing and cultivating your network. You may also be in the best position to get work experience for a career change through side hustles.
Changing Careers in Your 40s
If you’ve managed your money well, you may be able to take some risk. If you truly believe your current career is unfulfilling and you want to explore other options, you’ll have to bet on yourself. Accept that you’ll need to reskill to some extent and get back into a learning mindset.
Don’t be afraid to consider yourself a beginner at something. Remember your experience in another field will also count and help you stand out.
And remember you’re considering a change to find fulfillment, not money. The transition may mean taking a pay cut to start out but if you do things right, it will work out.
Changing Careers in Your 50s
You may feel a bit more intimidated if you’re considering a career change in your 50s or 60s but that doesn’t mean it’s not the right path for you to take. You may want something new and exciting or look to reduce stress and follow a passion.
If you always considered starting a business, it may finally be the right time. According to retiredbrains.com, people over 55 who start new businesses are far more likely to succeed than those who do so in their 20s. This could be a result of experience, better planning, or how long the idea has been floating around getting perfected in your head.
If you are not setting out on your own and wish to find a job, consider reviewing the AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50 awards. You don’t have to limit yourself to those but it’s a good reference to use as a starting point.
Finally, it’s extremely important that you remain energetic when meeting with potential employers. If you’re worn out from your current job, take some time away to recharge. You don’t want to give the impression that you are exhausted.
Changing Careers Wrap-Up
Changing careers will always be a stressful decision but planning and preparation will ease the stress. This post should also help you make an educated decision and develop an organized path.
Edstutia offers several modules designed to help you upskill and reskill for your new path including soft skills, general business skills, and specialized skills for in-demand careers. Contact us to learn more about upcoming modules offered on the Edstutia virtual campus.