I Want to Make a Career Change But I Don’t Know How!

5 Steps to Changing Your Career

In a past Pivot HR911 post, we talked about changing jobs. But what if you want to change your entire career? How do you it and not fall on your face? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this month’s HR911 post, we’ll address how to make a major career change – and do it successfully!

Employers, take note! You may have employees looking to make such a move. Check out our tips at the bottom of this article for ways to engage staff looking to grow in new directions.


Dear HR911: I Want to Make a Career Change – But I Don’t Know How!

This month we were contacted by Mary*, a realtor who has been feeling unhappy in her work for several years. She’s finally decided that it’s time to take a leap and pursue an entirely new profession. Mary tells us that she’s eager to get going but she’s not quite sure where to begin, especially because she hasn’t yet narrowed down what she’d like to do. She’s spent years growing her current career and has amassed skills and experience that she’d like to transfer, and she doesn’t want to take too big a hit to her income. She’s come to us to ask what she should do to start her new career adventure.

*name changed to preserve confidentiality


Our answer: Take These 5 Steps to a Successful Career Transition

Mary’s desire to start a new career is actually quite common. Available figures suggest that the average working person makes a full career change from three to seven times in their lifetime. But pursuing such a transition is a big undertaking, especially if you’re not quite sure what you’d like to do.

We advise doing some research so that you are armed with information to make good choices that will lead to success. If you’re a career-changer like Mary, read on for valuable tips on how you can prepare for the best outcomes.


1. Take a Career Test

Chances are the last time you did any career testing was in high school. Your interests and skills have changed since then, and so have assessment tools. There are many different online options available to help you find a good fit for your personality, preferences, and work habits. You can try the Meyers-Briggs personality test, the StrengthsFinder Test, or O*net Online, to name a few.

If you are looking for extra support, a career counsellor may be able to provide additional testing and they may have access to other resources that can help you in your search. Some organizations offer career guidance programs, such as the YWCA Metro Vancouver’s Focus at Work program. Check listings in your area.


2. Make a List of Your Transferable Skills

You’ve spent years building up your skills. They’ve got to be worth something in a new career, right? Indeed they are! Many skills are transferable, and we encourage you to identify which of yours are the most marketable.

Start by writing down your top skills. Then, go over your list and brainstorm occupations where they might be in demand. You may need to search online for more ideas.

In Mary’s case, after years of success in real estate, she has developed excellent relationship-building skills with her clients, in fact she’s always loved this aspect of her work. A quick search shows this skill is needed by fundraisers, family doctors, and estheticians. That’s enough variety to offer her several interesting career paths to pursue!


3. Check Online Job Boards for Postings and Reviews

Once you have decided on a profession, we recommend searching online job boards for related postings. Can you see yourself doing the tasks outlined in the job description? What are the education requirements – are you far off the mark and need to retrain, or is a combination of education and experience generally accepted?

We also recommend reading employee reviews for different companies in the field. For example, if you’re considering a career in occupational therapy, look at clinic reviews on websites like Glassdoor and Indeed. How do employees feel about their work? Check if complaints are employer-specific, or if there are trends that span across the profession, such as burnout or low pay.

Finally, have a look at salary information. Glassdoor offers salary guides that will give you a good indication of what you can expect for different positions in many industries.


4. Conduct Informational Interviews

Nothing is more valuable than talking to people who are already working in the field. You’ll get first-hand info (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and the chance to start making contacts. The best news is informational interviews are fairly easy to come by; most people love to talk about themselves and help others while doing so.

Begin by making a list of anyone you know who is working in your desired career, or ask people in your network if they can introduce you to their contacts. When you reach out to the people on your list, make your invitations friendly and brief. Explain that you’d like to learn about their career path and get any tips they may have. Offer to meet at a time and location that’s convenient for them, and try to keep it under a half hour so that you’re not taking up too much of their time.

Find more tips about informational interviews in this article.

Here are some questions you may want to ask:

  • What does a typical day in your job look like?
  • How long did it take you to move up the ladder to your current role?
  • What education, skills, and experience are most helpful to be successful
  • What do you love about your career and what is frustrating?
  • What advice do you have for someone changing to this career?

You can also ask your interviewee to review your resume and give their honest opinion on how you stack up.

Don’t forget to send them a thank you note after the interview, and make sure to connect with them on LinkedIn.


5. Volunteer with Professional Associations

You can continue making connections by volunteering with relevant professional associations. You’ll expand your network and you may learn about potential job openings through the grapevine. You’ll also immerse yourself in your new profession’s culture, giving you exposure to any industry-specific knowledge that will help accelerate your learning.

Volunteering also shows employers that you are committed to your new career path and doing what it takes to earn your stripes. A willing attitude coupled with the information you gathered along the way will set you up for career-change success!



Jump into a new career

How do you keep a star employee wants to jump into a new career?


Employers, What Can You Do to Keep Employees Who Want to Change Careers?

When possible, work with your employees to create new career paths within your organization. Wouldn’t you rather help your top performers develop their talents in-house than watch them walk out the door?

Here are some some ways you can support career transition inside your company:

  • Hire internally when you can, and make the effort to train and develop staff with potential
  • Include career-focused questions in your employee satisfaction surveys and stay interviews
  • Discuss your employees’ career goals during their performance appraisal meetings
  • Host onsite career exploration sessions

If an employee comes forward with a desire to change their career, commit to helping them transition into a role that will allow them to explore their interest and add value in new ways. You may need to support them with professional development and training.

This may seem like a lot of investment to keep employees that are looking for change, but we know it will pay off. Not only will your efforts assist retention, you will also encourage innovation and a positive culture as employees tap into their creativity and passion.

We hope you enjoyed this month’s Pivot HR911 post. If you would like to have your employment question answered, drop us a line at info@pivothrservices.ca. Don’t worry, we’ll keep your name and personal details confidential.

Check out these related articles:

Pivot HR911: Should I apply for a new job happily if I’m happily employed?
Stay Interviews: How to Stop Your Employees From Leaving

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