4 tips for navigating a career transition
It’s not uncommon for many people to reach a point in their careers where they discover that perhaps they are better suited to another profession entirely. While this can be quite a daunting prospect, there’s no time like the present to make a change - it may end up being the best professional decision you ever make.
The best way to avoid getting too overwhelmed is to have a clear idea of to expect with a career change, and how you can go about tacking it. The important thing is to take a ‘gently gently’ approach and ease your way into any new profession. While sometimes the right opportunity might land in your lap, most times it will take time and patience.
Here are some key transition tips to keep in mind.
Identify your transferable skills
Depending on how extreme a career change you are considering, you won’ necessarily need to earn an entirely new degree or qualification. Often you will be able to leverage many of your current skills and experiences. The important thing is to be able to package these transferable skills properly.
First, take stock of all the work experience you have so far and pull out the projects and achievements that you feel could be applied wider than your current role. Skills such as communications, leadership, planning etc. are applicable and important to most any role in any industry.
Consider writing a functional style of resume, where you can highlight these skills and their transferability. When looking for a new job, look at the position description and think about what you are able to bring to it. Whilst it’s important to be completely honest with potential employers about being new to a profession, your previous experience will still be attractive to them if you can make it relevant.
Create stepping stones
Remember that, in a sense, you are starting your career again from square one. This kind of transition won’t happen overnight and will usually involve a phased approach.
The biggest step is to know what the ultimate goal is – What kind of job do you want? What company do you want to work for? What role title are you aspiring to? Once you can define this, map out in small and achievable steps, how you are going to get there.
You may need to get certain credentials or qualifications so seek any relevant training you need to bridge the gap. Even if it isn’t a mandatory requirement, it will still be extremely useful in getting you up to speed and giving you an understanding of the industry you will be working in.
If prior experience is a prerequisite – and it often is – you may want to go down the path of obtaining a part-time job, temping or even volunteering/interning in your new career field. It will all help.
If you’re lucky, you may be able to change careers without changing employers. Keep an eye out for any internal vacancies at your workplace that might align with the kind of change you are looking for. Talk to your Manager or Human Resources department about why you are better suited to a different role and what you can bring to it. Develop sound reasoning for why you want to transition into a new role, and how your experience and relationships within the company will help you succeed.
Of course don’t start asking about a job switch until you are completely ready to do so – otherwise you might be risking your current job.
Leverage your networks
The most helpful thing is simply talking to people, whether it be to your personal support network ie. your friends and family, or your colleagues and industry contacts. You never know who might be able to help. Be proactive in identifying connections in your current network that work in your targeted industry, and take them out for a cup of coffee to pick their brain for advice, counsel, tips, and potentially even introductions.
It’s also a good idea to subscribe to industry-specific online newsletters and blogs, join professional groups online and attend networking events or trade shows where you’ll learn more about the industry and meet new people.
Above all, take your time and be kind to yourself. Set positive goals for yourself, but expect setbacks and change - and don't let these things get you down. Whilst a lateral move in your career won’t always be an easy road, it could serve as a springboard for even bigger career opportunities.