The average person has 10 jobs over the course of their career, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s also becoming more common to switch career fields entirely, which can be a nerve-wracking experience that represents a lot of change in what you have become accustomed to you in your professional life.
Changing careers requires careful thought for women, and that all begins with a process that dives into why you want to change career fields. Having a clear understanding of your own reasons will empower you with the information you need to make the right decision and will help you ask the right questions as you think about this pivot.
Define Your “Why”
Many times, the desire to switch career fields comes down to some source of dissatisfaction with your existing situation. While that’s a common foundation for thinking about making a shift, that in and of itself is not always a reason to take on an entirely new career where you might have to start like a beginner. Make sure that your motivations are driven not just by something you’re trying to escape, like an overbearing boss or work schedule, but instead by a real passion where those other issues might also happen to be solved.
Before you commit all the way to moving into a new field, determine what it would really take:
Would you have to go back to school?
Take some online courses?
Pass a certification?
Start this new career at entry level and work your way up?
Are there any skills from your current field and position that would transfer over?
Knowing what’s really ahead of you can help you start to put together a timeline and decide what action steps you can take today. You might discover, for example, that a career move would take you up to one year in order prepare for and move
Set Up Conversations with Experts
It’s easy to get confirmation bias when you can see the aspects of a new career field that drew you to it- but what about the downsides? Every career and job has aspects that might not bother some people, but could be a real struggle for you depending on your personality. The best way to determine the pros and cons of a particular field is to schedule three to five conversations with people already working in it.
Rather than steering the conversation by asking how you can dive into this industry, ask questions about their day to day life. What they like about their job and what can sometimes be frustrating. Go in with the goal of observing and listening, and look for opportunities to read between the lines.
These conversations alone can help you confirm what you suspected or decide that based on the real perspective of a person in this field, this isn’t the right industry for you. Having multiple conversations is important so that you don’t base all your decisions off of the opinion of someone on either end of the spectrum who loves their job because they are well suited for it or hates their job because of their current company. Breadth of perspective will help you find common patterns and decide what’s true for you.
Take Small Test Steps
Pivot author Jenny Blake advises that taking small action steps in the right direction is the best way to test your idea without any of the downsides of being too committed. Can you shadow someone for a day in the new career field? Attend a networking event with these new career professionals? Listen to a panel of experts from a recent conference in the field on YouTube? These small steps help to immerse you in the world of this new career field after you’ve had some preliminary conversations.
Set Your Goals
Now that you have a better grasp on what a career transition would look like, you can revisit the roadmap you created in the first step to see if you need to make any adjustments. This can also be your chance to set an intentional goal around how you’ll accomplish any of the things you need (such as more training, resume revising, etc.) along the way and an overall goal of when you’d like to move from your current position. This might not seem important, but it’s critical for holding yourself accountable and mapping out this move over time. As you accomplish these tasks, remember your “why” that you previously defined. When the going gets tough, reflect back on all the opportunities you’re aiming for with your career pivot.