Tips for Making the Career Switch

Thanks to more relaxed societal expectations outlining what we should be doing at particular ages and life stages, many young professionals are staying in school longer, going back to school, leaving stable jobs for entrepreneurial endeavors and changing careers altogether. Entrepreneurship has become a more tempting option, thanks to mobile technology making it easier than ever to start a company. We know countless young professionals, ourselves included, who have switched careers multiple times. Our YP friends have switched from finance to performance arts, from sports to real estate, and marketing to law.

Is it that we grow restless once the novelty has worn off our once dream job? Or is it because we truly believe we would be happier doing something else completely? Maybe a surprisingly high number of young professionals are experiencing a quarter career-life crisis?

Regardless of the case, you can’t really blame us. It hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing in the workforce for the modern-day YP. We have braved a global recession and increased competition in an over-saturated workforce. Our parents’ days of employee pensions, generous raises, retirement packages and, in some cases, even company parties are becoming increasingly illusive. Most of us started our careers with minimal pay, obsolete benefits and limited job security. We are doing things a little differently than our parents did and, as a result, many of us won’t have the same career until we retire. There are a few things that must be considered before you jump on the career-change bandwagon…

Make sure it’s not you or your current job:
The reason you want to switch careers is because something is either less-than-ideal or something is lacking in your “fairytale” young professional life. It is essential to determine the root of this unhappiness or unrest; otherwise, new career or not, you could face the same issues, though in a different place. We’ve all seen YPs who have run from their problems, some so far as to other continents, only to discover that the same issues follow them but with a different backdrop. Try to change things in your life to see if it is in fact something like your work/life balance. Don’t base decisions on the success or pressure of others or pick a job solely for increased financial gains. Furthermore, don’t confuse hating your current job with hating your current career.

Don’t make any rash decisions:
Before you leave your current career make sure that you are leaving to pursue something you really want to do. Self-reflection and assessment of your skills, values, likes, dislikes and interests is critical to career-change success. Don’t jump career fields without first conducting thorough research on all the possibilities, including career fields you may never have considered and not just the first option that comes to mind. You will get a much better idea of the actual ins and outs of your dream job if you experience it first-hand, so its better to dabble in your desired field. Having a detailed action plan that includes strategies, finances, goals and necessary education or training is essential to your success (and your sanity).  

Recognize transferrable skills:
Even seemingly un-related professions have many of the same skills. Many attractive young professional jobs in most industries come down to basic across-the -board fundamental skills like sales, communication, marketing, time management and the ability to multi-task. If you have thrived previously in these areas, you’ll be able to apply them in just about any job or career.

Update your job-search skills/techniques. Times have changed since you were last looking for a job. Brush up on certain skills like navigation of job search sites and tools. Polish up your LinkedIn account. Review your resume-writing techniques and have a basic cover letter template ready to quickly alter and send at all times. Finally, practice your interviewing skills and network your YP butt off.

Network with people in the profession:
Strategically meet people in your desired profession and line up references so that they are more consistent with your new career. Your references should reveal that you have a connection with the career field that you’re trying to break into. People in your network can offer inside information about job openings and networking events and can usually set up informational interviews.  

Be patient and leave your ego at the door:
Don’t expect the same success, mobility and luck as you experienced in your first career. As hard as it was to adjust to your first 9-5 job after university, it’s just as much an adjustment to switch careers. It is sometimes beneficial to make a gradual transition; if you don’t want to let go of your stable day job just yet, start smaller by freelancing to gain experience and extra income. Freelancing and project work is an ideal way to get a feel for your new career while building experience for your resume in the process. Expect to have to prove yourself all over again in your new job.

Ignore the naysayers:
Everyone is going to have an opinion about your career change and, trust us, you’ll have people on both sides of the coin. Peers and family members may be quick to point out the financial risk you are taking. Significant others may worry that a new-found focus may take away from your relationship. Yes, you may be the oldest person in your class, the oldest in an entry-level position, or had less money than you had in years but it is all part of the climb. We have the utmost respect for our YP friends who have made the shift and have emerged more fulfilled than ever.