Transitioning to a new career can be challenging if you don't know what steps to take before you make an irreversible decision. As technologies advance and companies adjust their strategy, more than ever it is important for you to grow your skills, build on what you have, and take calculated risks to propel your career forward. To remain relevant in the coming years, you must be strategic about the direction you are heading and the skills you are acquiring. Contrary to what some might believe, completing a degree or certification is not the end but actually the beginning of next steps. The goal is to stay ahead of the curve to give yourself choices, and when it comes to a new career, being proactive and thoughtful can make for a seamless transition.
If you have decided that a career transition is definitely what you need, then don't make these 4 mistakes:
Mistake #1 - Not evaluating your current role to identify your transferable skills. Talk with a mentor or career coach and outline your current skills that will transfer into the new role, possibly giving you competitive advantage. People often mistake the tasks they perform as their skills and miss the opportunity to showcase all that they can bring to their new career.
Mistake #2 - Not taking the necessary time to research and plan for the change. In addition to the role and salary, you should list other considerations before making provisions to changeover. The barrier to entry can be a huge factor for not making a successful transition. From qualifications, licenses, continuing education, and other requirements to sustain should be understood before you invest your time and energy.
Mistake #3 - Not understanding if your new career will actually give you the lifestyle you desire. This point is integral to a successful transition and requires answering the hard questions to uncover any conflicts. Depending on the job requirements, the level of effort to maintain satisfactory performance may not be feasible as you grow older. You may not mind the late phone calls and overtime hours when you are at the beginning stages of your career. As you start to build a personal life with a spouse, kids, etc., having flexibility or an adequate salary for a quality life becomes the real problem later most don't plan for.
Mistake #4 - Not reviewing the impact the decision could have on other aspects of your life. Don't assume those close to you can support you in your mission. Be clear and forthcoming about how any modification can alter what everyone is used to. Schedule changes, travel requirements, salary adjustments, benefit options (or the lack of), etc. can impact your personal life if you have not planned to accommodate these differences. Your line of questioning should uncover any potential surprises as you explore your new career.
Key Questions To A Successful Career Transition
If you are planning for a career change, here are suggestions to help you take the best approach possible.
- What will it take to accomplish your goal?
Assess where you are and where you want to be. Be realistic about what you can take on while you work towards your new career. Answer the hard questions now so you can make the right decisions for your career path.
- How long will it take to make the transition? Plot a timeline and forecast how long it will take to move into your new career. Understanding whether the time frame is months or years will put in perspective what you may be faced with. If your career survival is dependent upon this change, knowing the risks and incremental steps to move forward may help in closing the gap.
- Who can give you a real job preview to help you determine if this is what you really want? Find a job description that fits the role of interest. Review the responsibilities and qualifications with those who can help you understand the pros and cons of the role. This is where your network can provide valuable insight and access to those who can help.
- How can you acquire the necessary skills to be a viable candidate? In addition to traditional institutions, assess low cost options for developing your skills such as online courses or volunteering with a non-profit organization. If your job does not allow you to utilize the skills you need to develop, find opportunities for practical application. If possible, start now adding relevant experiences. You don't get what you don't ask for, so talk with your manager about stretch assignments that can aid in your development. If this is not an option, then create your opportunity by taking on side projects to demonstrate your talents and capabilities.
- What support will you need to stay engaged and encouraged? Find or create a collaboration group to share and learn ways to build your knowledge base. Join professional organizations and attend industry conferences to add connections in the field you are targeting. Enhance your brand online and engage with others who have like interests.
These tips will get you started on your way to your new career. Depending on the industry you are in and the one you are targeting, the barrier to entry can be easy or difficult. The most important aspect of transitioning into a new career is "learning what you don't know" and you can avoid this pitfall by talking often with those in the industry and in the role.
Have you made a career change? If so, what tips or suggestions do you have to add? Please share what you have learned through your process, I would love to hear your thoughts.
Stacey Rivers is a professional, mom, wife, and the author of the book "50 Essential Tips to Getting & Keeping The 'Right' Job". For more on career management, check out the Career Mom Bluprint Magazine or StaceyRivers.com.