Many people are working in careers that they sort of “fell” into. They didn’t plan to work in that industry, it just happened. They didn’t go to school for that job, but they were offered a job and decided to give it a try. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with discovering a career.
Still, there might be times you’d like to give another career a try. It could be a job you’ve always wanted to do. It might be an encore career. Changing jobs within the same profession or industry can be easy. Changing jobs to a new career or industry can be complex and take some time.
If you’re considering a career change, here are five steps to think about:
1. Start building a network. While you should be doing this all the time, the reality is most people don’t think about networking until they need their network for something. So, before you start asking for favors, spend some time early in the process reconnecting with your network, having conversations, and just listening.
2. Figure out what you want to do. Now that your networking plans are in motion, figure out where you want to be. This is easier said than done. Many people know that they don’t want to be in their current role, but where they want to be is a little fuzzy. You can waste a lot of time and resources if you don’t know what type of career you’d like to pursue.
3. Assess your current knowledge, skills and abilities. Once you’ve figured out what type of job you’d like to have, develop a list of the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs for short) needed to be successful in that role. Then assess your current skills against that list. Be honest. No one else has to see this list — but likely there are areas you need to develop and improve.
4. Create a development plan to close the gaps. Put a plan in place to close the gap between the KSAs you have and the ones you need in the new career. It might involve taking a class, reading a book or finding a mentor. And it’ll probably involve patience. Depending on the gap, it could take weeks, months or years to obtain the necessary KSAs. Don’t let that deter you from your goal.
5. Apply for opportunities in your new career. Don’t be apprehensive about applying for jobs in your chosen field while you’re brushing up on your skills. It can give you some sense of what employers are looking for and skills you might need to add to your development plan. Organizations might also be willing to provide some training, so you could enter the field with less than the required experience.
Starting a new career can be very educational and rewarding. You can learn a lot about yourself and discover new opportunities. It’s important, though, to be realistic about your wants and needs in a job along with an honest assessment of your abilities. Only then can you make a successful transition to the new career you crave.