I'm changing careers: How do I do it?

Ruth Ng

Ruth Ng

8 min read

Working a job you don’t feel passionate about is among one of the worst feelings in life. But so is changing careers without a clue of what your next job experience will bring you.

Considering that you’ll spend an average of one third of your life at work, it pays to make an informed decision rather than just diving into the next available opportunity.

People change careers for a myriad of reasons, which don’t necessarily involve a higher pay. Maybe they’d prefer a different work environment, would love to experience a different company culture, or simply want to apply their skills somewhere else.

Regardless of the reason for your job change, you’re entitled to it--and you’ve already made the first move towards what you want to do.

Now, it’s time to visit the “how.” Next, you’ll go through all the steps leading to a promising career change, including:

  • Assessing your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Developing and honing your skills.
  • Networking and learning.
  • Looking for advice.

Ready? Take note.

1) Decide on Your New Career

While it may sound sort of obvious, you’d be surprised at how many people blindly apply for new jobs just so they can get rid of their current position.

Hate to break it to you, but doing that could set you up for disappointment. Imagine leaving your current job, only to catch yourself thinking “things weren’t nice, but they were much better that way.”

Before anything else, you should decide which career applies to both your vocation and skill set.

And no, that doesn’t mean you should take one of those cheap “what career is right for me” online quizzes, or that you should take professional aptitude tests for that matter.

If you feel like you need a little nudge, go ahead. But one thing’s for sure: you know yourself better than anyone. That said, it’s time to turn inwards and start answering a few questions to make sure your decision will be spot-on.

That makes your second and next step an assessment of what you’re good at, as well as what you could do better.

(If you have a final career decision in mind, feel free to skip to the third step!)

2) Analyse Your Strengths and Weaknesses

This exercise works better if you put modesty and self-doubt aside for a moment.

The goal is to shed a light on both sides with an impartial approach. Although there are questions you must answer yourself, it can be tricky to make a few unbiased decisions on your own. In this case, using the help of an honest co-worker or family member is interesting.

Start with these questions:

  • Do I feel like I have a vocation for something? If yes, what is it, and why?
  • What are my areas of expertise? Which careers match these areas?
  • Regarding my areas of expertise, what could I improve?
  • Which professional skills do I have? In which industries are they essential?
  • Which professional skills would I like to have?
  • Do I prefer working alone or as part of a team?

Answering these questions (or similar questions) objectively will add to your self-knowledge, which is essential if you’d like to ace the upcoming steps.

Once you’ve compiled a few careers you think you might be suited for, reading and researching in-depth about each of them can help you pinpoint the ones where you’ll fit better. After all, superficial knowledge won’t give you the nitty-gritty of an industry.

Read stories about people who currently work or have worked in the industry. If you can, get in touch with them and ask the questions you need to solve your doubts. Prime yourself by learning the good and the bad about your dream career, as your research will set the scene for what’s to come.

By the way, keep in mind that theoretical research is only half of the work. You’ll need to get your hands dirty, even prior to being hired.

3) Develop New Skills, or Hone the Ones You Already Have

You might have noticed a lot of resume skill descriptions include one or more of the following:

  • Great communication skills
  • Conflict management/resolution skills
  • Empathy
  • Great listening skills
  • Patience
  • Tolerance and respect

These are interpersonal skills any hiring manager would be happy to come across. Even though a lot of these skills are earned throughout life, that doesn’t mean they can’t be re-learned and sharpened.

That said, remember to make those skills align with who you are and what you can do. Say, if your listening skills leave a lot to be desired, work on them instead of lying about them. Honesty is another must-have interpersonal skill!

Of course, we can’t forget your practical skills. The key to succeeding at any job is to continuously seek knowledge despite your title or level of expertise.

For instance, if you’re looking for a position in the tech industry as a back-end developer when all you know is the fundamentals, you might want to upskill by exploring high-quality tech courses in marketplaces such as Knoma. If that’s your choice, you can even use the "Pay with Knoma" button to spread the cost of all courses interest and fee free.

Now, if your desired career requires a skill set you currently don’t have, you’re still suitable for reskilling if you show an ability to learn a new occupation from scratch. Being reskilled will require proper training from an employee and, certainly, an aptitude for learning new things.

4) Find Great Contacts in the Right Places

This is just another way to say “networking.” Simply put, finding great contacts is essential for a successful career switch.

“But why would I start networking before getting experience in a new career?”, you might ask.

The answer is: for the same reason you send your resume listing your skills before you get the job. You want to build rapport with potential bosses and co-workers and let them know you’re both a hard worker and a fast learner. Networking is valuable despite the voice in your head that tells you “I’m not ready yet.”

Not only is networking a great way to meet new faces and exchange contact information, it’s also an opportunity to get that hands-on experience in the career you’re aiming at. When attending conferences and webinars, it’s interesting to engage in conversations with people who are willing to mentor you and give you a job shadowing experience. This way, you can see what an unvarnished day at work looks like.

What’s more, taking part in such events will bring you educational value and provide more information about different areas of interest. In short, they provide a thousand opportunities in small encounters.

5) Feeling Overwhelmed? Don’t Hesitate to Look for Support

You’re not the only person going through a career change. Not by a long shot.

Like so many before you, feeling scared about making that leap is natural. But as you know, fear hinders progress, so it’s better to address every objection about your career switch ASAP.

Luckily, you have the internet in your favour.

Take this opportunity to request advice from people who have changed careers and didn’t look back. Read through forums like Reddit and their career change communities, and you’ll find real-time stories from people who have a lot of valuable tips to offer.

In addition, listen to success stories from people who took a risk, and are happy they did. Speaking of, there are several podcasts out there willing to help you make a smooth career transition, including:

Closing Thoughts

From decision to action, a career change is not an easy feat. But you can leave this page knowing that choosing to go after a better work life is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.

It’s true that work will take up a huge part of your life, so why spend all of those hours feeling unsatisfied with your role? In a well-known quote about doing great work, a smart guy named Steve Jobs says “If you haven't found it yet, keep looking.”

While the above tips certainly aren’t shortcuts, they sure will make both your transition and adaptation to the new job simpler and a lot less overwhelming.

Will your next job have drawbacks? Sure. But will it help you lead a more fulfilling work life? Absolutely.

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