Guide to Career Change

The vast majority of people experience at least 3 major career changes and 12 job changes during their working lives.

With the growing impact of technology, the pace of change may be picking up in the 21st century.

A transition could be involuntary, precipitated by an external change like a layoff, or it may develop as you move on to a new phase in your life and your career.

Some career changes are voluntary, when you feel that another career would be more satisfying.

Both work for you, if you take the right approach and have the right mind set. Start by knowing what you want next, so you can find it.

Both voluntary and involuntary career change will work out well for you, if you take the right approach and have the right mind set.

Career vs. Job

So, if you haven’t already been through a career change yet, you probably will be in the future.

The most successful career changes are usually the result of a thoughtful, methodical process, and we’ll help you step through that process here.

A “career” is your profession, and it hopefully has a “career path” of jobs with increasing responsibility and reward.

A career change is typically more significant than a job change. Hopefully, a career change leads to more meaningful and personally rewarding work for you.

Although it may not always bring a greater salary, at least initially, it should bring greater satisfaction — so that Monday, or whenever you head back to work, isn’t the worst day of the week as it is for so many (the day that people in the USA typically have a heart attack, too).

A “job” is what you do every day.

For many of us, a job is not a “career” – it is “just a job.”  It pays the bills but it doesn’t do much more for us.

For those of us who are incredibly lucky or who have paid attention to our own priorities and interests, a job is part of a career.  Typically, we don’t think of it as a job, when it is something we love to do.  It is “my work” or “what I do.”

  Career Change vs. Job Change  

Hopefully, whether we make a voluntary or an involuntary job change, we take the time to make sure the new job fits into our career path. If we don’t, chances are good that we’ll be in another job search sooner than we need to be because the job isn’t a good fit. Which means we won’t enjoy doing it, won’t do it as well as we could, and may not be good enough at it to keep it for very long.

The best solution is to take the time to think about what you “really want to do when you grow up…” If not now, when?

This section of Job-Hunt will hopefully help you with that transition from job to career, or from one career to another one, as times (and people) change.

Tips for Managing Your Career Transition

Transitions involve three distinct phases: They begin with (1) an ending, develop into (2) a neutral phase, and end with (3) a new beginning. In order to build anew, you need to dismantle and provide space in yourself and your life for the creative act of constructing a new career.

  1.   Patience and Fortitude  

    Allow yourself to explore your feelings about your current career. Perhaps you need a slight shift in focus, or you could be in the beginning stages of transitioning to a new career. Share these thoughts with family, friends, and trusted colleagues.

  2.   Network  

    Join networking groups, including online services that provide career development opportunities and job postings.

  3.   Cultivate Mentoring Relationships  

    Begin networking with professionals who are successful in the field you wish to enter. These individuals will become your cheering section and potential colleagues.

  4. Take Care of Yourself

    Make sure you build in time to exercise, see friends and family, and relax. This will help you maintain energy and focus during your career transition.

  5.   Training and Education  

    You might need to update your skills and/or broaden your knowledge to ease your transition. Take a course or two or engage in professional development to round out your skills.

  6.   Gain Experience  

    Try to gain as much experience as possible in the new field; consider part-time or volunteer work and build experience that you can include on your résumé and in your career marketing documents.

  7.   Accept Your Need for Time in the Neutral Zone  

    Understand why you are in this situation and why life seems to be stalled. Accept that the neutral zone unfolds in its own sweet time. You cannot hit the fast forward button. Nor, can you hit rewind and go back to where you were, and the old life has come undone in the ending.

  8.   Find Time Alone  

    When in the neutral zone, find a quiet time and place where you can be alone, usually outside of your normal day-to-day surroundings. This space is crucial so that you can begin to hear inner signals.

  9.   Journal Your Thoughts  

    During the entire transition, it is a good idea to keep a journal of how you are feeling, what your mood is like and any serendipitous opportunities that come your way. Go back and read your thoughts from time to time.

  10.   Get Clarity on Your “WANTS”  

    Think about what you REALLY WANT – not what you think you should do or what others think you should do. And, reflect on what is holding you back from moving forward on that want. You don’t have to do anything, but just get clarity on these points.

  11.   Seek Professional Help  

    Career counselors can offer assistance during any phase of your career transition. Think of this as an investment in your future.

Prepare Your Job Search Tools

In the 21st century, the toolset for a successful job search has changed substantially and new tools, as well as new obstacles, have been added.

These are the most important tools for your job search today:

  • Social media for job search
    Social media is the newest key player in this process. Having an effective LinkedIn Profile and being appropriately active and visible on LinkedIn is now a requirement and expected.
  • Personal SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
    Being found, appropriately, is critical now when employers search for qualified job candidates.
  • Reputation management
    In the past, we were all relatively anonymous. Now we are not — or we shouldn’t be — if we want to be hired into most jobs. Being “invisible” now is BAD, not good!.
  • Job interviews
    A job seeker who is not prepared will most likely fail because of all the resources and information available today. So, be prepared to demonstrate the quality of your work as well as the level of your interest in the job.
  • Contracting and freelancing jobs
    For many, this is the start of a great new career. For others, it’s a way to survive until they land that next job. Either way, it can be a valuable learning experience as well as an income. And temping can provide an excellent opportunity to evaluate a potential new career and new employers, as well as expanding your network.

When you have your 21st century job search toolbox prepared, you can launch a successful job search and career change.

The Bottom Line:

A career transition can be stressful, long, and often frightening. It is important during this time to have a great support team, lots of patience, and as much information as possible to help you get clarity on what might be around the corner for you. The articles in this guide should help you navigate successfully to your new career.

More About Successful Career Change

Susan P. JoyceAbout the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.
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