How to Leap: 5 Hurdles to a Successful Career Change
Whatever your reason for changing careers — pursuit of that proverbial dream job, escape from a toxic environment, or the lust for a new experience — you’ll have to apply yourself to make it a success.
With job search statistics suggesting that a bit more than half of the currently employed would consider changing jobs, wanting to ditch your current job is apparently the new norm. So what might be stopping all these people from actually pursuing their life goal? Simply put, it’s not easy, and switching between professions or industries is even more challenging than transitioning between similar positions. You’ll experience setbacks, question what you’re doing, and might even be tempted to abandon the effort.
Keeping your motivation up is important. Yet no amount of Einstein’s witticisms, Steve Jobs’ motivational speeches, or inspirational Oprah videos will ever translate into actual career change. In the end, change is all about what you do.
Your road to success will demand more of you than mere will. In more aspirational words: Get busy living or get busy dying.
How to Leap: 5 Hurdles to a Successful Career Change
Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.
– Joseph Campbell
Now, let’s jump in and see what obstacles you might face when changing careers and how you can combat each of them.
1. Inertia and fear
Let’s be honest — we’re pretty good at getting used to things. In all likelihood, you’ve already got a job. As long as it pays the bills and you’re not threatened by immediate redundancy, it’s rather difficult to build up momentum to jump ship.
So, stop putting things off. Brush up on your resume writing skills. You’ve got to get up to speed with modern-day best practice in resume writing, read up on common interview questions, and research how the recruitment process is organized.
Are you frightened to take the first step? Here’s how you can build up the courage to move on from your current job.
2. Bad pacing
Once you catch I-want-to-change-my-life fever, you’ll probably put this feeling at the center of your life. You’ll start reading up on career advice from millionaires, “from zero to hero” success stories, and personal improvement testimonials. You might even start googling around to find inspiration while at work.
Who cares, you’re not going to stick around for much longer, right?
Well, this is the problem. Rather than treating this as a marathon, you’ll go all-out as if it was the Olympic 100-meter dash. Trust me, as Usain Bolt says, it takes a lot of time to prepare for that single sprint.
Pace yourself or you’ll only crash and burn, making things worse by ruining your standing with your current employer. Instead, you’ve got to break the job hunt down into smaller, manageable tasks.
By setting a target and a limit on the number of resumes to send out, you’ll choose more wisely. Send out a resume every day or every other day, and research the position and company before applying. You might feel that being so thorough will slow you down, but this is kind of the point — it will help you focus on positions you really want.
3. Not knowing what you’d rather do
I think it’s safe to say that no one really grows up picturing themselves as a junior brand manager, SEO-oriented copywriter, or conversion specialist. Most modern office jobs are both pretty abstract and surprisingly specific.
So, perhaps you don’t know what job to do because you don’t know what’s out there.
Find out! Browse job boards to figure out what people actually do. Assuming you’re a “desk jockey,” you might underestimate how many transferable skills you possess.
Brainstorm what those abilities are, find out what traits are your strong suit, and see if there are jobs like that on the market. In all likelihood, a position like that does exist.
4. Treating changing careers like a regular job hunt
If transitioning between two similar positions is like climbing a mountain, then changing careers is like climbing Mount Everest.
The biggest problem, however, is that you probably don’t possess all the skills, experience, and insight required for the new job. Employers don’t want to waste time and resources on employees who need to learn everything on the job. You’ll have to show initiative and catch up with the competition.
Sure, you can’t really squeeze five years worth of experience into three months. Nonetheless, signaling your enthusiasm for the new job and an eagerness to develop the required skills in your spare time is a strong selling point. Figure out what online courses you could take to acquire crucial technical skills (technical implies required to do all the tasks inherent to the job: command of Excel, insight into marketing, even the ability to drive a car.)
You can also do volunteer work for an NGO, do some freelancing on the weekend, or get a respectable diploma such as an MBA.
5. Overlooking the obvious
It sometimes turns out that you ignore the obvious — that you might have had experience relevant to the all-new career, but failed to take note.
Brainstorm all the experience and skills you’ve acquired over the years, and what you’ve been complimented on. If you’re looking for a job in, say, media, your knack for photography does matter, even if it’s just a hobby. Create a nice portfolio and put it up online so that recruiters have easy access.
Now, it’s important not to overdo it. If you’re an amateur chef, it probably doesn’t make any sense to put that in your resume as an argument for your superior analytical thinking skills.
What’s probably most important, though, is how you write these skills up on your resume.
Look first, then jump
Here’s the bottom line. We reiterate this over and over again at Goalcast, but it really has to sink in: you need to break up the process into manageable tasks, pace yourself, and ignore fear.
What’s one crucial thing you have to do? In the words of coach Dan John, “Show up.” The first step is the most challenging. All the following steps are all about repetition, repetition, repetition.