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The Five Things Successful Career Changers Do

Stuck in a rut? Need a professional change of scenery? You aren’t alone.

The clients that make their way to us want change for many different reasons. This year, though, we were delivered a pretty rough wake-up call. Whether the pandemic forced your “maybe someday” plans forward a few years, caused you to reprioritize, or left you without the job you thought could depend on, I’ve got good news…

There is still time.

After more than a decade working in career services and writing for leaders across all industries, I’ve heard story after story of people who change careers successfully.

There was the new philosophy graduate who went from creating his own line of caffeinated chocolate into medical sales where he learned to operate on cadaver feet. Yuck…but wow!

There was the teacher who believed she could make a deeper impact by transitioning into educational policy. She ended up giving away billions of dollars in grant money to non-profits that have improved the lives of children around the globe.

There was the woman who worked as a concierge at a large hotel chain who opened her own laundromat café before transitioning again to a rather glamorous life as a celebrity photographer. (You know many of her clients).

There was the lawyer who decided to carve a path for himself as a cybersecurity expert.

So why not you?

If you’re ready to make a major career change here are five things you can do to help you on your way.

1. Listen.

What do other professionals in that space talk about? What is important to them? What are they trying to learn and what are they trying to do? Where do THEY go when they need to learn something or get a great certification? Plug yourself into the industry by joining a professional organization, groups on LinkedIn, or by following leaders in your chosen profession across social media platforms.

2. Reflect.

How did the dots connect to get you here? I’m often humbled by listening to my clients reflect on the stories of their lives. They come from all faith backgrounds and all walks of life. Their stories are unique to them the way yours is for you. How do the pieces of your life fit? Once you know that, you begin to craft the kind of powerful personal narrative that not only gives you purpose, but causes others to want to open doors for you too. Who are you in this story called your life and why does this make you a uniquely perfect fit for this career?

3. Serve Others.

Now that you know what the industry wants and who you are, how can you add value? How can you contribute? Volunteer at a professional conference. Share your thoughts on a listserv. Share some interesting article that relates to your next career with a group that cares about latest trends and practices. Read, like, and share articles on LinkedIn! Not only are you helping the author, but you are also starting to make your name more familiar to people in that circle.

4. Educate Yourself.

You need to understand enough about yourself and the industry to seek out the training, education, or certifications you need. There are lots of free courses online. There are also plenty of online options across nearly every discipline that won’t interfere with your current job (assuming you’ve kept the old while you’re planning for the new). Go do a “bootcamp” or an immersive short-term intensive. You’ll meet people throughout the process while gaining the new skills you need – they may be helpful later for networking so connect with them meaningfully!

5. Start.

Often you don’t have to be offered a job to start doing that thing you want to do. Start doing it NOW. Volunteer, start a passion project, do it for free to start generating experience and/or a client base. Take or make a part-time side gig if it’s appropriate. Just start practicing. Whatever you want to do is going to take time and practice. In most cases, there is no one stopping you but you.

There is also no shame in asking for help. If you are ready to make a career transition there are a number of highly qualified guides, coaches, advisors, and consultants that can help you make your way. Find someone who listens well and knows what questions to ask. Whatever your next-step career goals are and however you plan to get there, taking a step back, reflecting on your path to-date, planning out a transition, and just getting started really will move the needle forward – and we are here cheering you on!


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