If your current career isn’t fueling your ambitions and you’re considering taking a leap of faith to pursue a different career path, you’re not alone. One last Pew Research Center survey About 53% of employed adults who said goodbye to their jobs in 2021 found that they had changed jobs.
If you’re feeling uninspired, it might be time to follow in their footsteps and reinvent your career. Whether you’re a young, mid-career, or senior professional, here are the steps you can take to make a career change.
For Young Professionals
Embarking on a new career path can be both exhilarating and confusing, especially as a young professional eager to make her mark on the world. Here are three steps you can take for a smooth transition.
1. Find a job to start earning and gaining experience. Feeling restless in your current career and itching to make a change? The best way to start that transition as a young professional is to dive in and find a job in your desired field. After all, you won’t get the necessary experience by sitting on the sidelines. Apply for jobs that pique your interest and serve as stepping stones to your perfect career.
2. Find a position or company that will give you opportunities to grow. When making a career change, be on the lookout for positions or companies that prioritize professional growth. One way to identify growth-oriented organizations is to look for those that offer training sessions, skill development, and mentoring programs. When interviewing for your desired role, be sure to ask the interviewer about the company’s growth opportunities. For example:
- What formal or informal mentoring opportunities does the company offer?
- Does the company reimburse tuition for taking classes outside of work?
- What are the measurable goals that employees need to achieve in order to be promoted?
3. Start networking with people who work at your dream company. As a young professional, it’s perfectly normal not to start at your dream company right away. As you gain experience in your field, transition to your desired organization by networking with those who already work there.
With these connections, you can gain insight into the company’s culture and day-to-day operations, as well as get referrals for a future job offer. To build these relationships, use platforms like LinkedIn to network or attend events where employees of your dream company will be present.
For mid-career professionals
As a mid-career professional, you may have grown in your career and may no longer be excited about your current career path. This is where you step out of your comfort zone and reinvent your professional life.
1. Leverage your existing network. The hidden job market is in your network. Many jobs are not posted on job search sites and are filled online. As a mid-career professional, you’ve likely made many connections within or outside of your industry, and now is the time to tap into your network.
Leadership expert and executive coach Kim Carpenter suggests starting with LinkedIn. He says, “Improve your lift and tell as many people as possible that you’re looking for your next move.” For example, if you have relationships with recruiters or professionals in the industry you want to break up with, reach out to them over coffee and ask them about options.
2. Fill in the knowledge gaps. If you’re transitioning into an entirely new industry mid-career, you may need to acquire new skills and fill some knowledge gaps. To do this, start by looking at the job requirements for the position you want and compare it to your existing skills.
For example, if you’re a UX designer at Spotify and want to become a backend developer, go to your company’s website to see the job requirements for the role. To be a candidate for the job, you’ll likely need to learn backend programming languages and have a deep understanding of data structures and algorithms. Once you’ve identified your knowledge gaps, brush up on your skills by taking advantage of free online resources or investing in a paid course, such as joining a coding boot camp.
3. Transition to your desired role. If you like working at your current company, but want to change careers mid-career, you don’t have to start over at a new workplace. Instead, consider switching roles within your company.
Using the example above, let’s say you’re a UX designer at Spotify and want to become a backend developer. Start by having a conversation with your manager about whether internal transfers are an option. If possible, explore ways to immerse yourself in your new role, such as shadowing backend developers and learning the ins and outs of day-to-day tasks and responsibilities. Doing so will give you a competitive advantage when it’s time to interview for your dream role within the company.
For Senior Professionals
As the saying goes, “age is just a number,” and it’s never too late to consider a career change. The wealth of experience and valuable skills you’ve gained throughout your career can open doors and offer unique opportunities as you venture into new territory. Here are three steps to achieving your career aspirations later in life.
1. Assess your values, goals and priorities. As a senior professional with years of experience, you’ve likely developed a strong sense of what you value in your professional life and your long-term career goals. Before making a career change, assess your core values and determine whether they align with your desired new career. Think about what really matters to you, what brings you reality and what you would like to achieve before you retire.
2. Identify your transferable skills and unique selling proposition. To make yourself a more focused and attractive candidate for your next role, Joseph Liu, career change coach and host of the Career Relaunch podcast, urges you to “take the broad range of skills you’ve developed over the years and highlight only those specific skills that directly apply to your target position.” Then update your resume and professional online presence to reflect your ability to excel in your new industry.
If you’re switching to a career field completely unrelated to your current one, don’t worry. Rather than worry that your past professional experiences are irrelevant to your dream role, Liu says, “you should build on your past experiences and articulate exactly how your unconventional background positions you to add unique value compared to other traditional candidates.”
3. Establish yourself as an expert and thought leader. Making a career change as a senior professional can be overwhelming, but it’s also an opportunity to establish yourself as an expert and thought leader in your new field. It will take time to gain the knowledge and experience you need to become an authority on the subject, but by investing in learning and networking with industry professionals, you will ultimately build your credibility.
Carpenter says you can start by “identifying key leaders in your industry on LinkedIn and reposting their posts with your perspective and commentary.” Being active on the platform will “promote you organically to your network’s LinkedIn feed, bringing it to people’s minds” when they need advice on your expertise.
You can change your career path at any age
Remember, it’s never too late or too early to change your course; nothing is set in stone. Vera Wang was a figure skater before entering the fashion industry at the age of 40 and becoming the world’s leading wedding dress designer. And long before Ronald Reagan became President of the United States in the late 1960s, he was an up-and-coming Hollywood actor on television.
So don’t let your age or current situation hold you back. Embrace the ever-changing nature of life and challenge yourself to grow and excel in new domains.