When, Why, and How to Change Your Career Path

You’re counting down the hours until 5 p.m., calling in sick, and living for the weekends. Before you take the drastic step of quitting your job or the even more drastic step of switching careers, take a step back. What needs to change: your job, your career—or something else?

How to Change Your Career Path

It's the Place

When you love what you do, just not the company or boss you work for, it’s time for a new job in the same field. Even a small change can make a big difference—a writer who hates working alone might find fulfillment writing in a collaborative team environment.

“Sometimes people say they want to change careers, but when they talk it out with someone, they just need something new on the outside,” says corporate, career and life coach Rebecca KiKi Weingarten of TradeCraft Coaching. “One of my clients realized she loved her business and didn’t want to give it up. She just needed something else in her life. She started training for a marathon and loved it.”

It's the Job

Other times, though, you really need to make a major shift. Your family may have pressured you to enter a certain field, and you’ve never enjoyed it. Maybe you liked your career 10 years ago, but have since changed your mind.

To be certain, talk with a mentor from outside your company, a counselor or career coach. This person can help you work through your dissatisfaction and consider your options.

We’ve compiled some steps that will help you determine what to do next:  

Create a vision

Determine where you want to go, including the job role and industry, says Sherri Thomas, CEO of Career Coaching 360 and author of "The Bounce Back" and "Career Smart." If you’re unsure, explore different career paths. Read descriptions of job openings and talk to people who are currently in—or have been in—jobs that interest you. “Ask questions such as, ‘What are your key responsibilities and challenges in your role?’ ‘What does a good day look like for you? ‘What does a bad day look like?’” Thomas says. “The key is to clearly define a vision of where you want your career to go and then align your job search strategy, resume and networking toward that vision.”

Identify any gaps

All jobs boil down to a set of requirements, which include experience, expertise and education. You can learn about job requirements by visiting sites like Glassdoor.com, Thomas says. You can also get great insight from informational interviews. You may need to take classes to brush up your skills, take tests to certify you have the needed expertise or even earn another degree. Or, you may just need to repackage skills you already have.

Invest in yourself

Once you’ve identified the gaps, if you’re missing some expertise or education, go get it! “I had a client who came to me after being laid off as a general manager of a golf course,” Thomas says. “He had several interviews but was turned down because he lacked a certification in golf turf management. He wanted his new company to pay for it. Not having the $2,000 certification ended up costing him $150,000 in an 18-month layoff.”

Work your network

Reach out to people you know for help. (link to story on staying in touch with former coworkers) Thomas did this herself during cutbacks at a Fortune 100 company where she worked. “Jobs were being eliminated, leaders were leaving, and I knew the only way I would be able to survive would be to reach out to my internal network,” Thomas says. “ It felt embarrassing to send out a note asking for help. But after I did, within 48 hours I received two job offers, three leads, and two letters of recommendation.”

Talk to people already working in the field and get their feedback, says Toby Haberkorn, co-author of "Best Job Search Tips For Age Sixty Plus." Determine if you have skills that will transfer to the new career. See if you can try out your proposed career role in a volunteer organization, Haberkorn says.

Cultivate confidence

If you know you can perform in your proposed career, don’t be humble. Know your strengths. “If you want the job offer, you’ll need to sell yourself to the hiring manager by showing you have confidence in yourself to be successful in the job,” Thomas says. “Twice I’ve landed major jobs without meeting a key requirement. When it comes to reinventing your career, it’s not just your skills and talent but your attitude that counts.”

Celebrate success

When you make the transition, take time to savor reaching your goal. Acknowledge the hard work you did, and take time to thank the people who helped.

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