Thinking about changing your career path? You’re not alone. Nearly half of all American workers have shifted their professional lives dramatically, sometimes more than once. Did you know that the average person has more than 12 jobs in their lifetime?
Many people make major career shifts because they lack job satisfaction. Others want more stability, a better salary, or increased flexibility in their working life.
Rapidly growing industries also inspire career changes. Today, the hot opportunities are in emerging technologies like data science, cybersecurity, AI, and data engineering. (Fun fact: 41% of surveyed tech workers say they joined the industry after a complete career switch.)
Whatever your motivations and goals are for your new career path, an action plan will get you there with less stress and more success. Let’s look at 5 simple steps on how to change careers.
Step 1: Begin by assessing your skills
There are dozens if not hundreds of career options available to you. So how do you narrow it down?
Start by considering:
- Your passions and interests, particularly what you see yourself doing all day, every day
- What kind of environment you want to work in
- Your existing skills and which of those might be transferable
You’ll have more leverage with employers if you can demonstrate relevant experience. Some necessary experience will come as you train for your new role. The rest you’ll carry over from your current position.
Take Springboard’s Career Assessment Test for some guidance. It’s a multiple-choice questionnaire that helps you define your career skills, interests, and goals. You’ll identify hard skills, including technical abilities and knowledge, as well as soft skills like communication, flexibility, and big-picture thinking.
Step 2: Identify your ‘ideal’ company and role
Now that you have an idea of what industries you’d like to explore, start looking at what’s out there. Dig through the job search engines, including general ones like Indeed and industry-specific ones like AI-jobs and Big Data Jobs.
Look for potential new jobs that match your career assessment results. Review the responsibilities and requirements for those positions. What do you need to qualify? Many jobs in emerging tech only require a certification or bootcamp to get your foot in the door.
As you consider potential positions, create a shortlist of hiring companies you might want to work for. Browse Glassdoor to learn more about them.
Focus on what employees say about:
- Salary and benefits
- Professional education options
- Opportunities for advancement
- Company culture
- Management styles
Finally, look at the company’s mission and values. Ask yourself if they align with your career goals.
Step 3: Build your network
Professional networking is paramount for career changers. Insiders in your new field can:
- Tell you more about what it’s like
- Advise you on the challenges you’ll face
- Get you on hiring companies’ radar
- Clue you into what’s new in the profession
Plus, networking in your new field is fun! It lets you experience being a part of that professional community. Here are some ways to get started:
- Tell people you’re changing careers and ask if they know anyone in that field
- Attend industry seminars and events
- Set up informational interviews with industry contacts
- Join LinkedIn groups and contribute to discussions
As you network, keep your eyes open for a potential mentor. This person will be enthusiastic about advising you and open to answering your questions.
Step 4: Apply for jobs
Next comes the scary part: actually applying. When a job post calls to you, write up a cover letter and resume that shows you’re a good match.
Highlight your transferable skills and any training you’ve completed. But don’t make it all about you—learn about the company, its goals, and its challenges. Say something in your cover letter about how you can help the organization succeed.
Step 5: Shine in the interviews
So, you’ve landed an interview for your dream career! To surmount this almost-final hurdle:
- Go back and research the company a bit more. Pick a few talking points that highlight why you’re a good fit.
- Practice answering common interview questions like “Why are you interested in working here?”
- Prepare a list of questions to ask the interviewer
When the big day comes, dress professionally from head to toe, even if it’s a video interview. The feeling of confidence alone will be worth the trouble.
Congratulations — You Got the Job!
If your final interview went beautifully, you could get a job offer within 24 to 48 hours. But if it’s still early in the interview process, you might wait weeks to hear back.
Be patient! You can follow up, but give it 10 to 14 days first.
When that offer letter finally does come, you can breathe a sigh of relief. It’s been a long road, but now you’re ready to begin your new career.
Keep in mind that you can negotiate a starting salary so long as the hiring manager hasn’t given you the company’s “final offer.” Frame the conversation around the value you’ll bring to the company.
Remember that they chose you over all of the other candidates. Don’t be afraid to highlight what sets you apart, such as:
- Unique perspectives from your current job
- A recent internship
- Volunteer work
- Training and certifications
Are you ready to take control of your future?
Browse Springboard’s many Career Tracks to find the right fit for you. Unsure of where your skillset is leading you? Take the Career Assessment Test to find the right career path for your experience, interests, and skills.