Starting over in a new career field is an exciting, overwhelming prospect. Usually, the consideration of a career change begins with daydreams, research, and consideration of the pros and cons. But when the time finally comes to act on your instinct and chase your dreams, all that thinking and planning doesn’t easily translate into action.
We created this career change checklist to help you begin, as well as to keep you on track during the process of training and finding a new job. By keeping this guidance in mind, you can navigate the uncertainty and achieve your goal.
Checklist to Prepare for a Career Change
- Unpack Your Motivations: As you consider launching a new career, it’s important to evaluate why you want to seek not only a new job, but a new industry. While the decision to change careers is usually rooted in emotion and personal desire, it’s important to make sure research and evaluation support the decision. Carrying out something as drastic as a career change due to impulse could result in less-than-ideal outcomes.
- Evaluate Your Current Job: While you know you want to leave your current position, it is important to take stock of what you do enjoy and any elements that have kept you satisfied. Maybe the learning opportunities, mission of your employer, or lifestyle the job empowers you to maintain are the things you like about it. This evaluation could lead you to reconsider the career change, or at least help you identify any standards you want to carry over to your new position.
- Perform Due Diligence and Research: Once you’re considering the career change, it’s time to do research and figure out the practical steps the change will require. Do you need additional education? Technical certification? Or to build your network? It’s important to keep the mindset that you aren’t starting over from scratch but rather you’re figuring out strategies to translate your existing skills into the career you desire.
- Save for the Investment: If moving into a new industry means you’ll need to take a salary reduction, seek more education, move, or invest in elements like a brick-and-mortar space, it means you’ll need to save money. Having a financial cushion will help you stay confident and secure while you carry out the other elements of your career change.
- Identify How to Present Yourself: You also need to be prepared for new employers, colleagues, and members of your network to want to hear the story behind this change. You can start thinking now about how to position yourself in a positive and professional manner. Think of ways to share your experience so that it connects to your new endeavor. These accounts shouldn’t cast negative reflection on you, your attitude about the past job, or your previous industry and employers.
Checklist During a Career Change
- Build Up Skills and Capabilities: Whatever new learning or connections you need to carry out, taking the steps to grow those is a good first move toward the practical stages of your career change. Taking free online courses, starting a degree or certification program, or setting up opportunities to job shadow are great ways to start.
- Manage Career Change Expectations: As you start applying for jobs, it’s important to keep evaluating and realigning your expectations, not just at an entry-level, but in terms of your career trajectory. As you learn more about the industry, the skills you are developing, and the opportunities available, you might decide the initial position that attracted you to the industry is just the beginning.
- Prepare for an Interview: Part of the career change is working on a new resume, cover letter, and even your interview outfit. You can establish a basic resume and cover letter template that highlight your experience and capabilities in the new career field. Then, it’s always a good idea to edit your resume and cover letter based on the specifics of each position.
- Use Your Network to Grow Experience: As you meet more people in your target career industry, see how they can help you grow your education and experience. Maybe they can connect you with internship opportunities, free education classes, or other professionals to help you advance your career.
- Jump in Part-Time: You can also consider a more gradual transition to your target career through part-time work. This will allow you to build your resume, gain experience, and make sure the career change is really what you want in the end.
Every career changer will feature these steps in a new way, depending on the industry you are leaving and the industry you are entering. By checking off every item on this list, you’ll know that you are on the way to a new and more fulfilling career. Best of luck, and don’t forget to call on your Alpha Kappa Psi network for support.