11 steps to nail your next career change

Last updated: June 17, 2024
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Janice Reed
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11 steps to nail your next career change
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Your job is a fundamentally important aspect of your life and overall well-being.

You likely spend 40 hours or more there per week — that’s nearly half of the time you’re awake — so you want the work you’re doing to be rewarding.

Unfortunately, as many as 50% of Americans are unhappy in the job they’re in. Sometimes this comes down to factors relating to the workplace or company they work for. But too often, the case is that we’re simply pursuing a career that doesn’t motivate or excite us anymore.

When that’s the case, a career change is often in order.

But what does this actually mean? And how does one go about changing their career path?

In this article, we’ll discuss just that, providing 11 steps that will help you move from your current situation into a new, exciting, and challenging career.

What is a career change?

Picture this:

You’ve been working at your current company for the last ten years, and maybe you’ve received a promotion or two during that time.

But your current job just isn’t fulfilling anymore, and you aren’t being challenged. You’re not particularly inspired by the possibility of promotion to the position above yours, so you’re not sure that you want to stay.

But when you consider a move within the same career field (but at a different company), you realize that you’re just not passionate about that field anymore.

So, you decide to make a jump into a different kind of job altogether, making a complete career shift.

That’s what a career change is.

Career changers are those who’ve decided to take a brave step and move into a different line of work altogether.

This is very different from simply moving to a different working environment, And in fact, it’s possible to execute a career transition within the same company (for example, moving from administration to sales).

Often, moving into a different career requires a degree of retraining and possibly undertaking formal education, depending on your career goals.

For example, if you’re working as a construction worker now, and you’ve decided you’d like to become an accountant (perhaps you’ve suffered a workplace injury and need to find a desk job), then you’ll likely need to retrain to pursue this career move.

This isn’t always the case, though, as there are many transferable skills that you’ll be able to take with you into different positions.

It’s worth noting that in some cases, job seekers moving into a new career field will experience a step down in terms of seniority or pay (as the experience they’ve developed in their current field is no longer as relevant).

However, this is generally offset by a number of other benefits, which we’ll discuss shortly.

Why do people change careers?

People change careers for a variety of reasons, and it’s often the case that the decision is driven by several factors at once.

Common reasons for changing careers include:

  • Pay: Many employees change careers to earn more money.

  • Fulfillment: Many feel that a career change can help improve their sense of purpose.

  • Dream job: Career changers often feel they’ve recently discovered their dream job.

  • Work-life balance: It’s fairly common for people to change careers to improve overall well-being.

  • Seeking a challenge: People often change careers because they want to experience the challenge of learning a new industry.

Career changes are quite common, with 50% of Americans intending to make a career change at any given point.

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What are the benefits of changing careers?

Switching out your current position for a new job in an entirely different career field can bring a number of benefits.

Shifting careers can increase job satisfaction if you find your new work is more meaningful.

This can be attributed to the importance of challenge and personal development. Human beings require a sense of struggle and adversity to create a sense of purpose, and this can fade away when we spend years or even decades in a single career or job.

Many career changers also say they feel a lot less stressed in their new career path, which can also contribute to increased happiness.

11 steps to change your career

So you’ve got that nagging feeling that it’s time to start the job search, and you think maybe a career change is in order.

What next?

Follow these 11 steps to execute a successful career change.

1. Determine whether the problem is your job or your career

First, establish whether you really need to change careers or whether you just need a new job.

Career changes can be stressful, and they often mean an initial step backward (in terms of pay and sometimes seniority) in order to take several steps forward.

If your career isn’t the problem, you could be putting yourself under unnecessary stress in making this change.

Make a list of all of the reasons that are driving your desire to move on. For each, ask yourself, “Is it likely that this problem would go away if I performed the same job at a different company?”

If the answer is yes, then you probably just need to find a new job. If you’re coming up with all no’s, then you’ll likely need to make a career change.

2. Study your interests, passions, skills, and values

One of the reasons we find ourselves in a career that is unfulfilling is because it no longer aligns with our values and passions.

Maybe those interests changed over time (as they often do), or maybe you never put that much thought into choosing your career path initially (fairly common also).

When weighing your potential options, spend some time analyzing what really sparks your interest:

  • What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

  • What parts of your current day job do you still enjoy?

  • What careers of your friends and family do you find most interesting?

  • What aspects of your life give you a sense of purpose and meaning?

Answering these questions can be a good starting point for establishing an ideal new career path.

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3. Meet with a career advisor

There are a bunch of career options out there, so it can be tough to know what the best one is going to be for you.

If you’re unsure where to go, it would be a wise idea to meet with a career coach.

This person can assess your personality type, discuss your interests with you, and provide some helpful career advice.

4. Make a list of potential career options

Now, make a list of potential career paths that interest you.

You don’t need to make a decision yet. In fact, it’s generally best not to until you’ve had a chance to check out a few careers and experience them for yourself.

List out five to ten of the top options for you, and perhaps write out some pros and cons or reasons why you’re interested in them.

Next to each option, write down a few questions: What would you like to learn about this industry before making the jump?

5. Get a feel for the job market

What does the job market look like for each of the careers you’ve noted down?

Check out job boards to help you assess whether many companies are actually hiring for that role.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics can provide some insights here. For example, we can see that medical assistants are in high demand right now, with a projected growth of 18% (much higher than average).

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Understanding what the job market looks like can help you narrow down your decision.

If certain industries aren’t really hiring, then it may be tough to make a transition into that career. And it may mean you’re searching for a job for too long, stuck in your current role that whole time.

6. Investigate a possible change within your company

If you’ve established that the problem is your career path and that you’re actually quite happy with the company you’re working for, then you might consider pursuing a career change within your organization.

Ask yourself: “What other careers and job opportunities exist at my business? Would I be interested in any of them?”

If you find any career paths of interest, speak with your manager about a potential change and about the possibility of shadowing someone in that role to get a feel for whether you’d enjoy it or not.

7. Arrange a few job shadowing opportunities

It can be quite tough to determine whether a new career path is truly suitable until you experience it first-hand.

Luckily, it may be possible to arrange a job shadow where you spend a day with someone in the job you’re considering moving to and experience what the career actually entails.

Plus, you can ask all of the questions you might have about the job.

Potential employers are likely to look highly upon you if you have this experience, as you’ve shown that you have a good understanding of the job and are passionate about making a meaningful career change.

8. Speak with some professionals in each industry

While you’re still weighing up all of your options, it might be a good idea to meet and speak with professionals in each of the career paths you’re considering.

You can ask them questions about their day-to-day tasks, what career development looks like in the industry, and how to best position yourself to land a job when you do get to the application stage.

9. Get some practice experience

Internships can be a great way to get a little experience under your belt in a given industry.

Not only will this give you a feel for actually performing the work itself (and whether you’ll enjoy performing that job on a daily basis), but you’ll be able to demonstrate to recruiters and hiring managers that you have at least some experience in that position.

10. Consider reskilling or retraining

One of the biggest things that stand in the way of making a career change is the possibility of going backward on the pay scale.

If you’re moving to a career where you have very little experience, then you might need to take an entry-level job, which can be challenging from a financial standpoint.

A great way to get around this is to consider how you might reskill or retrain in order to improve your ability to earn or to step over into a more senior role when you do make the change.

11. Start the job hunt process

Now that you’ve gone through the process of investigating potential career paths and choosing the one that is most suitable for you, it’s time to land yourself a job interview.

Here are a few things you can do to get yourself prepared:

  1. Update your social media profiles (e.g., LinkedIn)

  2. Learn how to write a change of career cover letter

  3. Prepare your resume for the career switch

At the top of your resume, make sure to include an executive summary or objective section that describes your desire to change careers.

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Time to make a change?

Now that you’ve got a good understanding of why people change careers, and you know the 11 crucial steps to take to move to a new, more fulfilling career, there’s one question left to answer:

What career is right for you?

If you’ve got a good idea of the career path you’d like to pursue next, then it’s time to get job hunting.

We’ve got plenty of great opportunities ready and waiting for you — check out the Jobcase job board today.



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