When it comes to your career, you’re ready for a change. Perhaps you’ve determined your current field really isn’t for you. Or maybe you’re just feeling the itch to try something new.
Regardless of your specific circumstances, the point remains the same: You’re looking at making a pretty major pivot in your professional life.
The thought of starting over is exciting—but it’s also incredibly scary and overwhelming. So what do you need to know to make this change with some careful thought and strategy? Here are five key steps to take when you’re considering heading back to square one in your career.
1. Face Reality
First things first, you need to swallow that brutal pill called reality. Making a career change is always possible—but that doesn’t mean it’s going to come without any hard work or compromise.
You might need to take a pay cut just to gain entry into your new field. Or you may have to start out with an internship to get some experience—rather than jumping right into a full-time job.
Those can be disheartening sacrifices to make in the heat of the moment. However, keep your eyes on the big picture and remind yourself that starting over involves your fair share of elbow grease. You’ll get to where you want to go eventually, but it’s going to require some commitment.
2. Get Informed
Next up, it’s time to gather as much information as you can about the new path you’re considering exploring. While you likely have a rough idea of what that sort of position entails, knowledge is power—so, make it your goal to become as informed as possible.
The internet will be your best friend: Read relevant articles, listen to podcasts, and pick up some books about your desired industry or position. Look for professionals who already work in that role on LinkedIn and see how they got there. Reach out to people to sit down and chat about their careers (more on that later).
It’s easy to think that you know this next career choice is the right one for you. However, you don’t want to base your next move on assumptions—meaning it’s important that you take the time to get your hands on as much information as possible before actually taking the leap.
3. Make a Plan
Once you’ve done your research and confirmed that this is the right move for you, it’s time to use that information to determine what your next steps should be.
Do you need to go back to school? Do you need to take some one-off classes to refine a few skills or create some sort of project you can showcase? Do you need to get certified? Do you need to save some money? Should you start building up a side hustle now while you’re still employed at your current job?
The process of making a switch can feel overwhelming—but you can help yourself if you break it down into smaller, more manageable action steps. Create a roadmap of sorts for the different things you’ll need to do to land the new career you want, and you’ll be able to make progress with a detailed plan in place.
4. Refine Your Presence
Now comes the tough part: How can you properly position yourself for a gig in this new field when you feel like you have almost zero related experience?
The first thing you should do is focus on any of your skills that are transferrable. What competencies do you already have that could also apply to a role in this new industry?
Next, you should also focus on what sets you apart. Because you likely have a different background than a lot of the other applicants, decide what skills you bring to the table that other candidates might not possess. Believe it or not, your untraditional background can actually be an asset to you!
After you have a good handle on what value you have to offer, it’s time to weave those elements into your personal brand. Revamp your resume to emphasize those skills and target this new position or industry, and then do the same thing with your LinkedIn profile. In doing so, remember that you want your focus to be on where you’re headed in your career—rather than only on where you’ve already been.
5. Put Yourself Out There
You’ve heard that age-old “It’s not always what you know, but who you know” advice more times than you can count. But, here’s the truth: This advice really holds some water.
Building a solid network will be one of the best things you can do when you’re looking to make a big switch in your career—now you need to get out there and start some relationships. Follow industry groups and associations on social media and sign up to receive their newsletters so you’ll be in the know about any events you can attend to shake some hands with some new people.
Reach out to the people you find on LinkedIn to set up an informational interview or even ask if you could job shadow for a day. Put yourself out there and make some connections in your new industry—they’ll pay dividends throughout your transition and your job search.
Deciding to start over in your career is exciting, but it can also be a little terrifying. You’re eager to make the change, but you also don’t want to scrap all of the hard work you’ve already done in your career.
Fortunately, career pivots are totally possible (and even somewhat common today!). Just follow these five key steps, and you’ll be able to make a change without too much stress and panic.