6 Steps to a Career Change

There comes a point in many people’s careers where they find themselves unchallenged, unappreciated, or just plain unhappy. Many people will trod through these discouraging emotions and remain in their career due to fear of the unknown, apprehension about starting over, or simple economic necessity. Some audacious idealists, however, will not accept the feelings of living a life less than that of their dreams, and will begin the trek down the meandering road to changing careers.

Imagining a career change may seem like a daunting task, with the threat of the unknown causing even the bravest of individuals to cower. However, with the assistance of this helpful guide, anyone with an idea, two working legs, and an Internet connection can make their way through the uncharted territory and hopefully find their own El Dorado.

1. Figure Out What You Want

Obviously, this is easier said than done, but if you are unsatisfied at your current position, you at least have an idea of what you do not want. Ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • What makes me unhappy in my current position?
  • What would have to change in order for me to enjoy my days at work?
  • How important are financial considerations?
  • When do I feel most at ease?
  • When do I feel most challenged?

Questions like these can help you target what you do like, what you don’t like, and can help you formulate a picture of the what the next step in your career looks like.

2. Research, Research, Research!

The age-old and somewhat cliché adage “knowledge is power” did not become age-old and somewhat cliché for no reason. Investigating your next possible career choice thoroughly will offer useful insight as to what is necessary to break in to the industry, as well as provide necessary information, shed light on the unknown, and allow you more confidence in each forward step you take. Some of the following are good places to start:

  • Industry journals and websites
  • Individuals you may know currently working in the field
  • Online forums

All of these options can give you a better sense of the current environment in the industry, what it looks for in potential candidates, as well as how to package yourself to meet those requirements.

3. Use Your Resources

In a world where everything is just a click away, there is no reason to feel in the dark about potential opportunities, connecting with people in the industry, or how to obtain any other information you seek. Utilize every avenue available to obtain information about how to take the next step.

  • LinkedIn
  • Elance.com (for you aspiring freelancers out there)
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Friends, family, peers

 4. Be Prepared

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success” – Alexander Graham Bell.

  • Be prepared to start small: You may not be able to jump into your new career full-time but be open to volunteering, working freelance, or even finding an internship if your situation allows
  • Be prepared to take the time: As much as we’d all like all our dreams to come true today, a career change is one of those things that will likely take time. Make goals for yourself and strive for forward movement but don’t rush it, you will end up creating unnecessary stress
  • Be prepared for challenges: A career change is something that can be very challenging, and you may feel discouraged at times. Prepare yourself for obstacles to arise and be ready to move beyond them gracefully

5. Recreate Yourself

Now that you have mentally prepared yourself, gather the tools necessary to fight the battle. Use your resume, cover letter, and all the information you have garnered to recreate yourself and do not underestimate the power of transferable skills. Look to various aspects of your life to show employers that you can do the job.

  • Skills gained in your current position
  • Natural talents
  • Hobbies
  • Education

Use what you already know and love to your advantage, and think outside of the box!

6. Stay Positive About Your Career Change

Making the step to change careers requires a leap of faith. Things will take time, and may not go as quickly or smoothly as desired, but keeping a positive outlook will provide perspective and assist you greatly. Taking the first step is always the hardest, and once that is behind you, anything is possible.

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Photo credit: Flickr

I'm Samantha, a law school graduate with a passion for writing and a 'go-getter' mentality. After graduating from the University of Southern California, I began my Master’s Degree in Sport Management at California State University, Long Beach. I worked at various entertainment agencies while in school but the two degrees just wasn't enough, I had to go back for more! I received my J.D. from Pepperdine University, School of Law, where I got the chance to spend several amazing months in London, England, traveling throughout Europe, feeding my love for travel and foreign culture. Now, I live with my snake Trubble and enjoy every day to the fullest!


  1. stephen q shannon on the 26th June

    First things first, Samantha, trade-mark your name. WOW! Samantha Springs. I could get typically corny and make a 3 word sentence. Saved by my spouse. I won’t. Your solid counsel counselor is great to have. My hunch is that pro career coaches and career trainers (I am the latter) squirm a little when someone casually avers, “I think I need a career change”. You, Samantha, brings those folks down to earth. Another great resource (buy used and in good condition or go to the old fashioned library and experience WORKING IDENTITY by Herminia Ibarra, who offers her email in the book that might still be active. Anyhow the exec summary of the many interesting career change stories is, “Try on a career, before you leap, much like trying on a new set of threads”. Herminia’s 2004 book still rocks, IMHO. Your advocate, Stephen “Steve” Q Shannon – Village By The Sea – aka Delray Beach FL LOL

  2. Angela J. Shirley on the 27th June

    Hi, with the “worldwide” recession still with us – we are sometimes forced in making a career change. The secret to surviving these days is being “flexible” and being willing to learn new skills. I have been able to survive in spite of being 55 and laid off since 2008. What helped me was Nicholas Lore’s book “The Pathfinder” – maybe you could feature him on your site. He also runs the Rockport Institute which has an AWESOME “Career Change” program. Love your article! Thanks, Angela J. Shirley

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