Looking to switch careers but worried you don’t have enough time, energy or skills? Don’t let a fear of failure hold you back. Vincent Van Gogh was a school teacher and a student priest before he harnessed his talent as an artist – and Julia Child was an advertising copywriter before she turned her hand to cooking.
“Not everyone can make such a successful transition,” concedes Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., the founder of career development firm Quintessential Careers. “But if you feel the pull to switch careers, there are five first steps to making the switch a reality.”
Assess your likes and dislikes – One is as important as the other. What do you dislike about your current occupation? What do you like doing when you are at work, and what excites and energizes you? If you’re not sure, take an assessment test. Having a career goal is the first step to a successful switch.
Know your transferable skills – Try to leverage your current skills and experience to maximize success in your chosen field. Are you a good communicator? Are you good at planning? Organizing? Are you a “people person”?
Research your desired career area – Once you’ve identified where you want to go, do the necessary career exploration. Look online for details. Check the U.S. Department of Labor and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What are the job levels within your desired field, and the educational requirements for each?
Training and education – Take a course or two in your chosen field to be sure it is where you want to be. If certain new skills can be used in your current job, see if your employer will pay for all or part of your classes. If you need a new degree or certification, be sure you can commit the time and expense.
Networking – Talk to as many people in your chosen field as you can. Start with people you know. Try business associates, college clubs, and professional organizations to find contacts who can offer advice, information, and possibly job leads within an industry or a company.
Gain experience – Remember you are starting your new career from scratch. Start by volunteering if you need to. Move on to part-time work in the field. Work nights, weekends, whenever you can, both to be sure you are doing what you love and to gain the valuable experience you will need to help you find full-time employment.