Jun 29, 2022
Five Tips for Making a Career Switch
If you’ve been considering a job change, now may be the time to do it
Chalk it up to pandemic-inspired soul-searching but since early 2021, millions of people have voluntarily quit their jobs. Nicknamed the Great Resignation, this ongoing American economic trend shows no signs of slowing down.
In March 2022, for example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that a record 4.5 million workers quit their jobs, a 25 percent spike from March 2021. What’s behind this stampede? A recent Pew Research Center survey found that low wages, feeling disrespected at work, and a lack of career advancement were the top reasons most cited by those who quit. Others wanted to make a career switch and felt this was the right time to do it.
But how do you go from one career to a completely different one? By taking it one step at a time. The Pew survey also found that 53 percent of those who quit a job in 2021 had changed their field of work or occupation—a good stat to keep in mind when the going gets tough. It takes reflection (“Am I making the right decision?”), determination (“I’ll do whatever it takes”), and planning (“I’ll take online college courses to get the degree I need”). Making a career shift won’t happen overnight, and you’ll invariably encounter setbacks, but being prepared for what’s ahead will help the journey go smoother. Below, five of the most important considerations while plotting out your next career move.
1. Your motive
Recognizing your reasons for making a major career change is the first step in actually doing it. “Knowing what you are missing [in your current job] and the reasons you are dissatisfied is key to identifying a new career that will gratify you,” says Julie Jansen, a Stamford, Connecticut-based career coach and author of “I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding Gratifying Work.” You may be bored with your job or want one that’s more meaningful, she says. Or you may crave a different office environment, such as working remotely. “Once you know what your reasons are, you can really focus on finding work that will give you what you need and want.” At 42, Yolanda Crous left the publishing industry in New York after 20 years as an editor to study medicine in San Antonio. “I wanted to do something where I could work one-on-one with people,” she says, “and make a difference in a tangible way.”
2. Do your research
If you need help figuring out a career path, research the possibilities. It’s a red-hot market for some fields right now, including healthcare, information technology, and supply chain management, according to Forbes. Read up on organizations you’re attracted to and people who work in industries that appeal to you. Look at listings on job apps like LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, and Indeed, to get insight into different types of work. Study the job descriptions, skills needed, education requirements, and salary ranges. “Talk to people who are doing those jobs,” says Jansen. “They can become champions and introduce you to key people in the industry.” When Leah Gomberg, of Maplewood, New Jersey, decided to leave her job as a social worker at 37, she considered using her untapped design skills to become a house flipper. To find out more about the industry, she met with a local realtor. It was 2006, the height of the last housing boom. “She told me it wasn’t a good time to flip houses,” remembers Gomberg, “and suggested I try home staging, which hadn’t taken off yet.” Gomberg took the pro’s advice and soon launched a staging business, Sweet Life By Design, which is still going strong today.
3. What does your new job require?
Once you’ve narrowed your list, figure out what’s needed to get the job you want. Do you have most of the required skills? Will you need extensive training? Are you willing to go back to school for a new degree or internship? Do you need certification or a license? Will you be able to support yourself financially if the typical starting salary is less than what you currently earn? Will you need child-care? Crous, the editor-turned-doctor now 47, spent years preparing for her new career. “I had to take classes for a year before I could apply to medical school. Now I’m in a four-year program with at least three years of residency after that.” Has it been worth all the effort? “Every time I walk into a hospital room and spend time with a patient,” she says, “I feel lit up in a way I never did as an editor. This was exactly the right choice for me.”
4. Create goals and a timetable
When you quit your job, you may not have given any thought to how best to organize your search. By creating a road map for your goals along with a timetable will help keep you on track and motivated. “Changing your career can be a very overwhelming process,” says Jansen. “Breaking your activity into smaller, tangible to-dos with deadlines is very important.” Tracking your progress on a spreadsheet is a good way to keep the info up-to-date and in one place.
5. Optimize your skills
If you’re worried you won’t look qualified, focus on the skills and contacts you already have that could be used in advantageous ways in a new position. During interviews, “identify your transferable skills with examples,” says Jansen. For Gomberg, listening empathetically is a skill she learned in her social worker training and now uses all the time as a home stager. “[Getting their house staged] can be very stressful for some people, especially if they’re only selling because they’re getting divorced or downsizing,” she says. “I tell them, ‘I understand—this sucks.’” Think about your last job and what marketable skills you picked up—problem solving, meeting deadlines, communicating, teamwork—and how they will help you on the path to a more fulfilling future.