Whether you’re in your first job out of school or have pursued the same career for 30 years, it’s never too late to change direction.
Maybe you took a job because you needed financial stability, and what you really love to do became just a hobby. Or you’re ready to give back and make a difference in the world. Perhaps you lost your job during the pandemic and need new skills to enter a less vulnerable field.
These 3 steps will help you navigate a major career change safely and successfully.
1. Educate Yourself
What is it really like to work in your desired field? You may love creating new recipes at home, photographing nature on the weekends or writing stories at night. But will you still love it when you’re doing it full-time, and probably overtime?
Pick the brains of people who are successfully working in the field, either in person or through social media, professional forums and other online communities. Some questions to ask:
- What are the positives and negatives of this career?
- What skills and training are required?
- How did you get started in the field?
If you are planning to start your own business, you will also need knowledge of business management, such as developing a business plan, accounting, marketing, sourcing supplies, and so on. The biggest reason small businesses fail is because, although the owners are expert in their own field, they haven’t a clue about how to stay profitable. It’s possible to outsource many of these functions, but it may not be affordable until you’re established.
Acquire this information by reading books and blogs on your own or signing up for a formal degree or certificate program at your local college or university. Most of them now offer short-term programs for those who don’t have the time or money for a full degree.
Research the market for your new product or service. What employers would be interested in hiring you, and who is hiring at the moment? How should you rework your resume to highlight your skills in the new field?
If you will be self-employed, how many competitors will you have? What do they offer that you don’t — and vice versa? Who is your customer, and how will you reach them? Your research could include:
- Search online marketplaces, including their prices
- Check online platforms where independent contractors connect with clients
- Look in local directories for businesses that you would be competing with
- Start a blog, vlog or other social media page about your products and see how much response you get
2. Organize Your Finances
When you enter a new career, you’ll be starting at the bottom with a much lower salary. If you’re starting a business, you’ll need capital plus a reserve to last through the time when you’ll be earning little or nothing. Either way, you’ll have at least a year’s worth of living expenses in savings.
Additional sources of start-up money could include:
- Business loan from a bank or the Small Business Administration
- Crowd funding websites
- Nonprofit grant
- Investment partners
3. Test the Waters
Before you take the plunge on a career switch, get your feet wet with a volunteer or unpaid internship position. You’ll gain valuable experience on the job, as well as insight into whether this career path really will fulfill your dreams. Who knows, it may even lead to an offer of full-time employment.
If you can’t afford to be without an income, look for a part-time side gig that can work around your regular job hours. Many an entrepreneur got their start by running an e-commerce shop from their kitchen table or videoing friends’ weddings on the weekends.
Bonus Tip: Evolution, Not Revolution
As you implement your career change, keep in mind that it’s a process, not one leap and done. Expect your goals and products to evolve. The demand for a particular product might become weaker, or you may not enjoy one aspect of your work as much as you thought you would. Be prepared to tweak where necessary — and keep on moving toward your dream.