What Next? How to Switch Careers

There comes a point in our lives when we decide to reinvent ourselves. In fact, for years we have been hearing that the average person switches careers five to nine times in their professional life. When it comes to switching careers, there are two options: You know which career you are switching to, or all you know is that you need a change and have no idea where you’ll land next. For both options some of the steps are the same, but when you are unsure of what’s next for you, you have to take a few additional steps.


Today, we’ll explore the process for switching careers when you are unsure of where you’d like to go. Instead of stressing out because you do not have answers, view your situation as an opportunity to explore uncharted territories. Switching careers take focus and commitment and to be successful requires a career plan.


Developing Career Options


Now that you have decided to switch careers, the first thing to do is to invest some time reflecting on why you’d like to change careers in the first place. What factors are driving the need for a change? Are you moving away from something or toward something? Is your industry contracting? Or have the jobs in your local area disappeared? After you have clarified why you want to switch careers you are now in a position to create options for yourself.


This is the perfect time to look at your values and what’s important to you. If you created a personal mission statement, what would it say? Imagine your ideal life, what would it look like, and what would you be doing?


Perform a Personal SWOT Analysis  to help to direct your path. This provides you with an inventory of your strengths and abilities which is critical to prioritizing your career options. Other assessment tests such as Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Campbell Interest and Skill Survey (CISS), Structure of Intellect (SOI), and System for Interactive Guidance and Information (SIGI) will assist you in discovering which jobs you have an affinity for. These processes will also enable you to discover your transferable skills.


Refining Career Options


Search the Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. Updated every two years, the Handbook provides job descriptions for close to 270 major jobs, covering 85 percent of the workforce. The Occupational Outlook Handbook provides career information from the occupational perspective, and allows job seekers, or those wishing to make a switch in their career, identify jobs and industries where they can earn better salaries than they are now earning. Additionally, the Department of Labor also provides career information, and a skills-matching service at O*NET Online. The Handbook is a goldmine for the job seeker.


Refine career options by answering the following questions:


  1. What jobs are you qualified for right now?
  2. What jobs align with your values and personal mission statement?
  3. What jobs require special education and training?
  4. What advancement opportunities do these jobs offer in the long-term?
  5. Which jobs are a good fit for your personality?
  6. What skills and talents do you want to utilize?
  7. What business outcomes do you want to support?


Now it’s time to conduct informational interviews with people who are in the jobs that you are considering, to understand the realities about companies and industries, to seek advice on how to position yourself for the new job function or industry, and most importantly to build relationships with people who are already established in the industry. Use all the information you have gathered so far to decide on your new career.


Presenting Yourself


Having gone through the steps above enables you to clearly articulate what you have to offer to prospective employers. The way you present yourself is enhanced if you are able to align your background, skills and abilities with what the organization requires.


Switching careers takes focus and commitment, and to be successful requires a well thought out career plan. For those who made a career switch, what made your transition successful?


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