make a career switch

Your 9 Step Guide to a Successful Career Switch

Feeling unmotivated and stuck in your current profession? Learn when to make a career switch and how to prepare for a smooth and fulfilling transition.

Stefana Zaric
Written by Stefana Zaric
April 28, 2023
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Key takeaways

  1. People change jobs to achieve better work-life balance, attain higher pay, follow a more meaningful career path, and more.
  2. Preparing for a career change makes the process easier and gives career changers more confidence.
  3. Regardless of age, it’s possible to change careers and boost job satisfaction.

Gone are the days of settling into a “career for life.” Instead, globalization, technology, and the rapidly changing market have allowed professionals of all ages to shift their career paths and transition from one field to another, and explore their multiple talents. 

Did you know that approximately one-third of your life is spent at work? With this in mind, it’s only natural that your ambitions will change during this time. Sometimes, a career change is motivated by the desire for personal fulfillment, financial stability, job security, or the aspiration for a new challenge.

There are a few key details to consider when making a smart career change. For example, frequent job hopping can send a negative message to recruiters. In other instances, opportunities and resources may be scarce. 

We’ve put together some tips, tricks, and practical advice on making a career switch like a pro and maximizing your potential.

3 reasons why people switch careers

Career changes have become increasingly common as people seek to find more fulfilling and satisfying careers that align with their values, interests, and passions. A recent survey suggests three common reasons for people changing their career path.

Better work-life balance

An overwhelming 56% of survey respondents choose to change careers (and industries) to improve their work-life balance. In today's fast-paced world, achieving a healthy work-life balance has become increasingly important. Many people find that their current career is taking a toll on their personal life, causing stress, burnout, and other negative effects. 

An unbalanced life has led to a growing trend of individuals switching careers to find a better work-life balance. By pursuing careers that offer flexible hours, remote work options, and a more relaxed pace, people are finding that they can prioritize their personal life without sacrificing their career goals.

Higher pay

Better salaries and improved benefits account for 50% of the respondents' desire to change careers. Money is a significant factor in many people's career decisions, and it's no secret that some careers are more lucrative than others, and professionals choose to switch careers to pursue higher-paying opportunities. 

Whether it's to pay off debt, save for retirement, or achieve financial stability, a career change can offer the chance for a significant increase in income. For some, this means pursuing a career in a high-demand industry or acquiring new skills that can increase their salary. Others may choose to switch to a career that offers commission-based pay, bonuses, or other financial incentives.

More meaningful and ambitious career

The desire to work in a fulfilling position is one of the top reasons for making a career move, with 49% of respondents admitting to changing careers for something more meaningful. Many people seek a sense of purpose and fulfillment in their careers beyond earning a paycheck. 

These professionals make a career change to work in a field that aligns with their values, passions, and personal goals, pushing their capabilities to the maximum. Whether pursuing a career in healthcare, education, or the nonprofit sector, a meaningful career can offer a sense of satisfaction and purpose that is difficult to find elsewhere.

Accenture North America CEO Julie Sweet echoes these sentiments, saying, "It's about not wanting to be complacent and wanting to continue to be challenged and learn. It's this idea that if you can see your future, then you probably are not challenging yourself enough."

Things to do before you quit your current job

Another top piece of advice comes from career coach and ex-Googler Jenny Blake, advising professionals to “pivot careers cautiously.” Make sure that you wrap up your current career on a positive note and take the necessary steps to upskill for future opportunities. 

Consider the following steps to take before you change careers. 

  • Make an informed decision by reflecting on why you want to leave
  • Evaluate your finances and have a clear understanding of how quitting your job will affect your budget and financial standing
  • Explore career options that align with your interests and skills
  • Network and build connections in the new industry or desired field
  • Update and prepare your resume and cover letter
  • Create a transition plan to ensure a smooth handover for your team
  • Identify your transferable skills (and your skills gap)
  • Hire a career coach or career counselor to offer personalized career advice and expertise on job search strategies, career planning, and professional development

Steps to make a successful career transition

Making a successful career transition can be a daunting task, but with the right mindset and approach, it can lead to a more fulfilling and rewarding career. The following steps make it easier to switch careers. 

Clarify your goals, values, and interests

Before you change careers, you must identify your motivations and what you want to achieve. Take the time for self-reflection and honest evaluation of your skills, interests, and values, and develop a clear direction for your career. By staying true to your values and interests, you can find greater satisfaction and success in your professional life and positively impact the world around you.

Update your resume and LinkedIn profile

Potential employers will undoubtedly see your resume (and LinkedIn profile) once you are on their radar. As a first impression, they need to highlight your relevant skills, experiences, and achievements in the field that you are pursuing. Tailor your resume and LinkedIn profile to showcase your transferable skills, relevant work experience, and education (or certificates) that support your new career path.

An updated LinkedIn profile grabs attention, as well as profile that post or repost content related to their area of expertise. Individuals who have recommendations from their co-workers or bosses also seem like interesting candidates because these recommendations provide an insight into how this person is perceived as a part of a team.

Camila Sanchez, Talent Acquisition Specialist, Deel

Prepare for interviews

Research the company and role you're applying for, understand the industry and market trends, and prepare thoughtful responses to common job interview questions. Make sure you can articulate how your skills and experience transfer to the new field you're pursuing.

Conduct extensive research in your desired field

Research involves understanding the industry trends, job market demand, and the skills and experience required for the roles you're pursuing. By conducting thorough research, you can better understand the expectations and requirements of your desired role and develop a plan to acquire the necessary skills and experience. The process will also help you identify potential employers and networking opportunities.

Network and connect with other professionals

By building relationships with individuals in your desired field, you can gain insights into the industry and the job market and learn about potential job opportunities. Networking can also help you build a strong professional reputation, develop new skills, and access valuable resources and mentorship opportunities. Consider attending industry events, reaching out to professional contacts, and participating in online communities,

Find opportunities to gain experience

Identify ways to gain hands-on experience in your desired field, such as internships, volunteer work, or part-time jobs. Engaging in freelance work is also a great way to get valuable experience, develop new skills, and build a strong professional network. Gaining experience can help you develop the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in your new career path and demonstrate your commitment and passion to potential employers. 

Prepare for challenges

It's important to understand that transitioning to a new career can be challenging, and it may take time and effort to achieve your goals. Be prepared to face rejection, setbacks, and uncertainty, and be resilient to overcome these challenges. It also means being open to learning new skills, seeking guidance and mentorship, and being adaptable to change.

Create a personal brand online

Establish a strong online presence that showcases your skills, experience, and unique qualities to potential employers and industry professionals. Consider platforms such as LinkedIn, personal websites, and social media channels. A personal online brand with your achievements, expertise, and career aspirations can help you stand out from other job seekers.

Work on building new skills

Whether you plan on making a vertical or lateral career transition, there may be gaps in your skill set that you need to fill. Identify the skills and knowledge required for your desired career path and develop a plan to acquire them. Consider taking online courses, attending workshops, volunteering, or seeking mentorship opportunities. Stay open to learning and constantly build new skills that keep you updated in your desired industry.

What switching careers looks like at different age

Switching careers can look different at different ages, as individuals face unique challenges and opportunities based on their life experiences, skills, and goals.

Individuals in their 20s may have the flexibility and energy to explore different career paths and take risks. They may be more open to pursuing education or training to acquire new skills and experience and may be more willing to work long hours or take on entry-level positions to gain experience.

By their 30s, individuals may have more responsibilities, such as starting a family or paying off student loans, which can affect their career decisions. They may have more experience in their current field and be looking to transition into a related career path that offers more growth opportunities. They may also be interested in pursuing education or training to acquire new skills to advance their career.

Individuals in their 40s may seek a career change for greater fulfillment or work-life balance. They may have more years of experience in their current field and be looking to transition into a leadership or management position. They may also consider entrepreneurship or consulting to leverage their skills and experience.

Consider Jo Tutchener-Sharp, the fashion brand founder of Scamp & Dude. Jo suffered a brain hemorrhage and vowed to live life fully. After recovering from surgery, Jo decided to launch a purpose-led fashion brand.

She shares, "I completely changed my career when I was 40. I had spent 19 years working in PR before starting Scamp & Dude. Facing death gave me a new fire in my belly and the confidence to try something new." Jo has found the transition incredibly rewarding and plans to grow her business further.

Individuals in their 50s may consider retirement and transition into a new career that aligns with their passions and interests. They may be considering a career that offers more flexibility and allows them to pursue hobbies or travel. They may also be interested in mentoring or coaching to share their expertise with others.

A calculated approach to changing careers

Ultimately, switching careers at any age requires careful consideration, planning, and a willingness to adapt and learn new skills. With the right mindset and approach, individuals of any age can successfully make a career transition and achieve greater fulfillment and success in their professional lives.

People switch careers for different reasons, and a new job has the power to reinvent your life. Whether you want to focus on career development, change fields entirely, or move from full-time to part-time, an action plan can help you get there!

Visit our Get Hired Hub to access the best resources, checklists, and templates to help you optimize your entire (remote) career path from job hunting to getting promoted.

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