People decide to change careers for many reasons. Sometimes, it’s a lack of fulfillment or prospects; other times, it’s because a different occupation is more interesting and exciting. Whatever your motivation, if you decide to switch careers, there’s too much at stake to not get it right. So instead of browsing job postings and trying to shoehorn your skills and experience into a position you know little about, you’re best advised to create a comprehensive strategy that will set you up for success. This strategy should include the following six steps:
1. Do your research. Search online for articles, blogs, how-to videos, and webinars by working professionals to gain insights into the various job responsibilities, work environments, and types of projects related to the career that interests you. In addition, read job postings, and make a list of the skills required for a position in this given field.
2. Inventory your current technical and soft skills, and assess whether they’re transferable or not. For example, if you’re an administrative assistant and you want to become a data analyst, then your knowledge of Excel and your critical thinking abilities are likely transferable.
3. Seek additional training. There are many ways to get affordable training. The U.S. Department of Labor offers a number of funded training programs, and there are also numerous low-cost courses and certification programs at online schools and community colleges. Keep in mind, however, that certain jobs require a degree and/or license. If you need to earn a degree, certification, or license, make sure that the educational institution you choose to attend is properly accredited.
4. Establish relationships with professionals in the field. If you already have contacts in the field, reach out to them about your plans to switch careers. Many will be happy to provide you with tips and advice. If you don’t know anyone, ask your contacts on LinkedIn to see if they can introduce you to working professionals.
5. Attend professional events. Go to conferences, trade shows, and similar events where you can learn about the most recent developments in the field, meet company representatives and business leaders, and network with other professionals.
6. Get started. You don’t have to wait until you’ve finished a course or earned a certificate to gain some basic experience. Look for opportunities to do some work in the field, for example by volunteering, freelancing, or applying for an internship.
While this might sound like a lengthy process, it’s necessary in order to ensure you have the insights, skills, and connections you need to successfully change careers. Because the better prepared you are, the better positioned you’ll be to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way in your new career.
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