A career change, whether by choice or by force, is always intimidating.
No matter how long you have spent in your current profession, if your education, training and experience are in that field, moving to another one feels like starting over.
But rather than seeing a career transition as starting over or losing everything you’ve worked for, it’s important to think of it instead as a fresh start.
It’s a chance to begin a new career and bring into it the wisdom you probably wish you had when you began your previous one.
Still, surviving a career transition will involve a great deal more than wishful thinking and a new resume. You’ll need a plan to make your way through the change and send yourself on an upward trajectory in your new field.
That plan should definitely include the following strategies, which can help you get your footing sooner rather than later.
1. Build Your Education and Experience
When you start a new career, you’ll most likely be lacking two things necessary to land a good job in your new field: Education and Experience.
One of your first focuses should be on building up those two things as quickly as possible.
For education, this doesn’t necessarily mean a trip to university. Depending on the field, a trade school or community college, both of which are more affordable and require fewer hours, may be more appropriate.
For experience, temping can be a powerful resource. Signing up with a temp agency in your field will let you get started and see the inner workings of the business, all the while building experience and earning a paycheck.
Likewise, apprenticeships may be a good way to build both, though many professions don’t have apprenticeship programs.
2. Network Constantly
Networking is absolutely crucial in any career change. Getting your resume and business card into the hands of as many relevant people as possible is great, but face time with prospective employers is even better.
The sooner you start networking the better, and that means going to industry events in your area, visiting companies and applying to every job you qualify for.
When choosing where to focus your efforts, you’ll likely want to focus on small to medium sized companies. Larger firms typically have very rigid hiring practices that value numbers over personality. Smaller companies provide more opportunities for an upstart to enter as they can more easily bend the rules to let in a promising candidate that doesn’t meet all the criteria.
Likewise, don’t hesitate to look to your friends and family. Those who already know you may be more likely to give you a shot.
3. Focus on Overlapping Skills
When choosing what skills and experiences to put forward in your resume and in your networking, focus on skills that have a natural overlap. For example, if you’re talented at marketing, writing, working with computers, etc., there’s a good chance at least some position in your new field can use those talents.
An overlapping skill that fills a need in a company can be your foot in the door to a new field. Being good at working with customers, for example, is useful in any job that is consumer-facing, from cashier to doctor.
Tout the useful skills you have now, and use them to help you build the skills you need to grow in your new field.
4. Persistence Pays Off
Standing apart from other candidates when you’re entering a new field is challenging so you will need to be persistent and determined. Keeping after desirable companies and pushing your name in front of recruiters is going to be key.
The problem is that many might mistake a genuine desire for a career change for desperation. When applying for a job that doesn’t fit your resume, it can seem like you’re applying to any job available in hopes of finding anything.
However, if you’re determined you can prove your sincerity, you can move past that and be seen as a more serious candidate.
No new field is going to immediately accept you unless you are fortunate enough to have friends or family willing to bring you on. Instead, treat this career change as a marathon, not a sprint, and focus on proving that you have the determination and drive to make it work.
Employers will be impressed by that and may be more willing to take a chance on you.
All in all, a career change is never easy. But if you have the right mindset and approach, you can make the transition go much more smoothly. By building up your experience in the field, looking for natural overlaps between your skills and the field you’re trying to enter, and networking relentlessly, you can break into almost any profession.
It will take time, and it will take dedication, but with the right plan and the right amount of effort, a career change is not just survivable, but an opportunity to thrive.