No matter what reasons you may have for changing careers—whether you’re making a career change to broaden your horizons and challenge yourself as a professional or you need a new career because you’re frustrated with a lack of opportunities in your current role—this is not a decision to take lightly. A career change can be a difficult endeavor and requires extensive research, preparation, and planning.
But it could be the best move you’ve ever made.
There’s plenty of advice out there about how to prepare for a career change, from identifying transferable skills to networking and setting up informational interviews. All of those suggestions are spot-on; however, executing a career change is a bit more complicated.
When you first begin contemplating changing careers, you must ask yourself why you need a new career. Have you discovered a new passion? Are you unhappy with your current occupation? Do you have an issue with your employer? There’s no reason to jump into a career change if a new job in your industry will solve your problems. Before you can figure out what you want to do as a professional, you have to identify why you’re making a career move.
Once you pinpoint your why and have decided to find a different profession, the first thing to do is research the types of positions you might be qualified for and pinpoint where your skills and interests would be most valuable. After you’ve done that, you’ll know what you want to do with your new career.
After you’ve figured out the why and the what of your career change, you need to come up with how you’re going to make your dream a reality. If you need to complete additional training, find out how long it will take and how much it will cost. Calculate how much money you will need to support yourself during (what could be) a lengthy job search. Research top employers in your new industry and begin networking immediately to make contacts that can assist you in your transition.
For many professionals, the most difficult part of making a career change is putting together a resume that highlights their past experience and achievements in a way that will market them appropriately for their new industry and position. There are three resume writing strategies to choose from, and pick the one that will work best for your situation:
If you’re changing careers to a drastically different field, consider using a functional resume. Although this strategy is primarily used by job seekers who have gaps in employment or a large number of positions with similar duties, the functional format also works well for career changers. By putting the emphasis entirely on your skills and capabilities, you can tell potential employers exactly what you will bring to your new role without wasting any space on unrelated details.
A hybrid resume may work for those individuals who are making a career change into a related industry or specialization. Similar to the functional strategy, a hybrid resume allows you to emphasize your strengths and achievements while also including details regarding your former responsibilities, which will give recruiters and hiring managers a more complete picture of your transferable skills.
The traditional chronological resume format can seem confining to many career changers, but it still may be the most effective strategy. By leveraging the title and summary paragraph to bring attention to your career change ambitions and using the professional experience section to tout accomplishments that will translate to your new occupation, you can use the format preferred by most HR reps while marketing yourself for an entirely different role.
For those professionals who really need a new career, looking for work in an unfamiliar industry can be scary, but you must resist the urge to give up at the first sign of difficulty. Stay committed to changing careers and have faith in the plan that you devised.
Making a career change often involves a longer-than-average job search, so be sure to overestimate when it comes to finances and have a secondary strategy to ensure you’ll be able to support yourself (and your family) while you transition to your new role. The best way to do this is by keeping your current job while you prepare for your career change.
No matter what happens, try your best to stay positive in the face of adversity. There’s a reason you decided to change careers. Use that “why” to motivate yourself when/if the going gets tough, and take advantage of resources like iHire to find your next great career opportunity.