Whatever your reason for wanting to transition to a new career, be it the realization that your current career doesn’t offer any new challenges or that you desire a more flexible job, getting a new position isn’t easy.
Transitioning careers requires careful consideration and planning, and knowing where to start can be confusing. Here are seven tips I personally found to be useful to guide you through your career transition:
1. Identify your drive before taking the leap
When I was crafting cultural experiences for tourists at a boutique tourism agency in Tokyo, I thought I had finally found my calling. I thought I was ready to fly in this niche sector, only to be grounded by the pandemic taking off a year later. Just like thousands of other working professionals, I made the difficult decision to pivot away from my passion during a highly volatile period.
I was still confused about what I should pursue and often thought about the regrets I may have in the future if I left the tourism industry. Without knowing it at the time, I applied Jeff Bezos’ Regret Minimization Framework and steadily internalized the need for change.
Going through these steps one by one, I projected, reflected, internalized, and observed. Finally, I came to realize that working in such a niche section of tourism was incompatible with my desired lifestyle and the positive impact I wanted to make on others through my work.
Identifying what you don’t want will serve as the drive you need to support you throughout the difficult times of the transition process.
2. Pinpoint your transferable skills and assess your marketability
Analyzing your past responsibilities to identify your transferable skills is the first step to assessing your strengths and discovering areas where you need to improve.
I personally found it helpful to separate my transferable skills into hard skills and soft skills. This allowed me to better identify what I should advertise during my job search and which knowledge gaps I needed to fill in to become more marketable. Objectivity was key here.
Then, I narrowed down my search to certain sectors, and because I was interested in working abroad, I also narrowed down the countries I was interested in.
I performed a thorough market research to assess my rate of success to transition into another career given my work experience and skills. I looked at the obstacles I would be confronted with in certain countries, took into consideration work culture differences, and looked into opportunities for career progression with my level of industry inexperience.
By looking at my situation objectively, only then was I able to determine the best course of action to take to move forward from the planning phase.
3. Invest in yourself
In the beginning, I perused LinkedIn profiles and relevant example CVs written by professionals in industries I wanted to work in and narrowed down which roles resonated with me.
I looked at people’s career paths, their skills, and what their day-to-day responsibilities entailed before finally choosing a direction. When you’ve taken the time to identify what skills you need to get a job in the field you want, it becomes significantly easier to spot any skill gaps you need to fill.
To start, create a transition plan with small, actionable steps to improve your skills and get up to speed on what your desired career requires, whether it’s industry know-how or a particular certification.
Additionally, make note of any opportunities in the current market that could give you an advantage over other candidates with more traditional backgrounds.
For example, this could be applying knowledge and processes from one industry to another or localizing business trends or products in an emerging market – skills that more traditional applicants might not have.
Before you quit your current job, give yourself ample time to make preparations and gain relevant experience so that you’re able to kickstart your new career with confidence.
4. Set realistic goals
Creating a realistic timeline and setting achievable goals will make your career transition process a lot smoother. Think about how much time and energy you’ll need to commit to get where you need to be in terms of skill level and other requirements.
If your target career requires you to earn a time-consuming certification or complete a training program, you’ll need to carefully consider how to balance this with your current responsibilities.
Pursuing your transition part-time on weekends or after work may seem like a great way to get your foot in the door, but you’ll also need to consider how this impacts your life in the long run and whether your schedule will be sustainable.
Remember: it’s also important to put time aside for hobbies and family to achieve a balance between your personal life and your career goals so you’re not spreading yourself too thin.
Accepting the fact there will always be a learning curve helped me set realistic expectations, especially in the beginning, and allowed me to create actionable goals to work toward.
5. Refocus your personal branding
You may already be familiar with the concept of selling yourself during an interview, but what about selling your personal brand every day?
Avoid personal branding mistakes and create a trust-inspiring, solid brand identity to stand out from the competition and gain a competitive advantage. To do so, you’ll need to reposition yourself as the professional you aspire to become. You want people to be able to see you as you do– that is, a capable professional with a fresh perspective.
Identify what led you down your current path and what common denominators tie your past career choices to your new one. I found it helpful to ask myself the following questions:
- What can I offer, even without direct experience in this new industry?
- Which reasons have moved me to make this transition?
- What am I currently working on to make this shift happen?
By asking myself these questions, I was able to find meaning in occupations I wouldn’t have initially considered. With career changing becoming more common, your career path doesn’t have to be linear.
Meeting all kinds of professionals through workshops, Meetups, and networking events also helped me better craft my personal story.
They helped me see my strengths in a new light, allowing me to develop a new personal branding that I could market differently.
6. Update your job application materials
When I was applying to companies I was interested in, my best chance to explain my desire to break into the field and show what I could offer was in the cover letters I wrote. Coming from another industry, I got up to speed on how to write an up-to-date cover letter that was both appropriately formatted and consistent with hiring managers’ preferences.
I initially didn’t think I needed a refresher, but close friends in HR recommended I rework my resume and cover letter as if it was my first time doing so.
With the hiring trends changing faster than we realize, I know how valuable this piece of information could be to professionals who have been with the same company for a number of years. Not staying up to date on what to include and exclude for your resume and cover letter could penalize you during your application process.
When it comes to securing a job in a new field, how you portray yourself is half the battle.
You may not always see it, but you do have an important story to tell. However, it’s up to you to write it and find the best medium to showcase it, whether it’s on your LinkedIn profile, a personal website, or a YouTube video introducing yourself and your work.
7. Look for people, not jobs
Expanding your job search methodology is essential to finding more fulfilling roles better suited to your unique background. While conventional job seeking can penalize you for not having the right qualifications on paper, networking helps you land jobs by making direct connections with other professionals.
Networking has the advantage of helping you build rapport with the right people in companies. The people you network with can also give you insight into the new career path you’re pursuing so you’re better prepared once you start interviewing.
If you’re still feeling stuck, hiring the right career coach could be just what you need to get your career transition on track. A career coach can help you see your background from a different perspective and help you understand how to leverage your transferable skills and prepare you for your new career.
Finally, if you need to gain some experience in your new career, volunteer your services to companies you admire, try job shadowing, or go through informal informational interviews with people whose careers interest you. After all, informational interviews are essentially a means of career research and help you to establish valuable relationships.
Transitioning mid-career into a profession without experience isn’t easy, but it’s possible. Ultimately, it’s about how you feel your contributions matter to your audience and customers when you’re on the job. Sometimes, just being open to new opportunities and daring to take the first step is all you need to get started. It’s now or never to take the leap and change your career.
About contributing writer Dominique Vatin
I’m a multicultural and bilingual content writer with a diverse background in East Asian studies, International Relations, culinary arts, tourism, and editing. I’ve had to navigate different cultures with different ideas on what successful career paths look like, I’ve worked in different industries across 5 countries, and my journey is far from over. I understand the struggles of having one’s career path misunderstood once you decide to follow what interests you and not what makes sense on paper.