If you’re one of the millions longing for something different, start with some basic research. Look on job sites for the industry you want to get into, and pay attention to the job descriptions. Are there software programs you need to learn? Certifications you need to have? Skills you’ve yet to develop? Gather information so you can make a game plan.
Once you’ve gathered information, follow these six career change tips to put together a road map to your new career.
1. Talk with people in the industry
“Networking” doesn’t have to be a dirty word. That’s particularly true in the early stages of a career switch. You’re not necessarily trying to get hired now, but you want to find out what it would realistically take to be hired later on. If you know anyone in the industry you want to get into, ask to take them for a cup of coffee or to borrow half an hour of their time on Zoom to ask questions. If you don’t know anyone in your desired field, you can still ask for an informational interview. Reaching out to a stranger might feel awkward, but many professionals are happy to share their knowledge. Either way, comeprepared with specific questions to make the most of the time you have together. (Bonus: When it’s time to actually job hunt, you’ll already have a connection!)
2. Identify your transferable skills
Transferable skills are attributes that apply laterally across different fields, even if the specifics look different on their face. Soft skills are a prime example.
Are you known as a good collaborator? Do you have a knack for troubleshooting? Do you find yourself “translating” between departments at your current job? You can feature collaboration, problem-solving and communication skills on your resume. If you’re struggling to identify transferable skills, think of what you’re good at in general, such as adapting to change, picking up new software quickly and attention to detail. The goal is to show hiring managers your potential, particularly in areas where your qualifications are lacking.
3. Find opportunities at your current job
Depending on the type of change you’re seeking, you might be able to take preliminary steps to segue into a new industry while in your current one.
For example, if you’re currently in a customer service position but are hoping to work in social media, ask your manager if there are ways you can contribute content to your organization’s social media feeds from a customer service perspective. If you’re hesitant about signaling that you’re trying to leave your job, keep in mind that many managers value people who are eager to go deeper on behalf of the organization.
4. Look for volunteer opportunities
Whether you volunteer in a community service capacity or offer your time and labor to a for-profit organization, volunteering can be a great way to test the waters of a career pivot. You might be paired with an experienced pro you can shadow or, depending on the organization, you might be thrust into the waters headfirst, giving you a chance to learn on the job. Just make sure you’re committed. If you enter a volunteer position halfheartedly, you won’t get what you’re seeking, and you won’t make as much of an impression on decision-makers who might be positioned to eventually hire you.
5. Upgrade your skills with training and certification programs
Transferable skills help, but you might need to learn a new skill to have your resume taken seriously. Certifications aren’t a replacement for a degree, but they can be immensely valuable when attempting a career pivot.
When ASU Online surveyed more than 2,000 hiring managers, recruiters and team members in partnership with Walr, a lack of certification among candidates came up repeatedly as a hiring challenge.
6. Earn the relevant degree
Whether you need a different degree than the one you already have or need to start from scratch, there’s no replacement for higher education. Not only does it demonstrate you’ve made an investment in the field and aren’t playing dilettante, it also ups your earning potential: Respondents to the ASU Online survey, The Value of Higher Education Today, reported that candidates with a degree could get a salary offer between 5% and 10% higher than what was originally designated for the position.
If you’re concerned it’s too late to get started, think again: survey respondents revealed that they actually had a better perception of candidates who earned a degree between ages 25 and 44 than they did of younger candidates (People 45 and older also got an image boost from getting a degree, just not as much.).