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The Ultimate Guide to Successfully Changing Careers

Are you feeling unfulfilled in your current career? Do you find yourself daydreaming about a job that aligns with your passions and interests? If so, it sounds like it’s time for a career change. 

In fact, according to the American Institute for Economic Research, 82% of survey respondents who were over 45 said they successfully switched to a new career. Whether you’re older or young, you can switch careers at any age. 

Yes, switching careers can be daunting, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. With the right approach, you can find a career that brings you fulfillment.

Assessing your values and interests is the first step in the career change process: 

  • Think about what thrills you and awakens your passion. 
  • Think about your strengths, skills, and experience. 
  • Reflect on what you want out of a career. E.g.: personal fulfillment and financial stability. 

Understanding yourself and your goals will help you identify potential career paths that align with your values and interests.

Once you have a sense of what you want out of a career, it's time to start exploring your options. 

  • Research alternative career paths that pique your interest. 
  • Learn about the skills and knowledge required for each path. 
  • Take courses or earn certifications to develop new skills that will make you a competitive candidate in your desired field. 

Key Takeaways

  • Assess your values and interests to identify potential career paths.
  • Research alternative career paths and develop new skills to make yourself a competitive candidate.
  • Approach the career change process with a clear plan and the right mindset.

Here are more steps to consider:


Reflect on what’s important to you. This can include your beliefs, principles, and what motivates you. 

Can create a list of your values and rank them from important to unimportant. This will help you identify what you are looking for in a career and what you want to avoid.

Identifying Passions and Goals

Identifying your passions and goals is crucial to finding a fulfilling career. Here’s some ideas to consider: 

  • Think about what you enjoy doing and what you are good at. 
  • Consider your hobbies, interests, and any skills you’ve developed over the years. 
  • Make a list of potential careers that align with your passions and goals. 
  • Consider industries that are growing and have a high demand for workers.

Reach out to professionals in your desired field for informational interviews. This will give you a better understanding of what the job entails and what skills are required.

Understanding the Career Change Process

This section will guide you through the process of researching career options and evaluating the need for education.

Researching Career Options

Researching career options is important for changing careers. You’ll want to start by identifying your skills, interests, and values. 

Then, research careers that align with these factors. Use online resources such as BestColleges and Coursera to learn more about different career paths.

Once you’ve identified potential careers, research job descriptions to get a better understanding of the daily responsibilities and required skills. 

You can also reach out to people in the field to gain insight into the industry. Informational interviews and job shadowing are great ways to learn more about a career before making a decision.

Evaluating the Need for Education

Once you’ve researched career options, evaluate if you need additional education. 

Ask yourself: are your current skills and education transferable to the new career? 

Research education options such as online courses, certifications, trade schools, and traditional universities.

Consider the cost and time commitment of education:

  • Will you need to take out a loan? 
  • Can you balance work to attend school? 
  • Will you need to relocate to attend school?

Gaining experience through internships or entry-level positions may be better than pursuing additional education. 

Evaluate your options and determine the best path for your career change.

Pursuing Certifications and Degrees

Pursuing certifications and degrees is a great way to develop new skills and knowledge. Certifications are quicker and more affordable than degrees, but they still provide valuable knowledge and skills. 

A degree takes longer and is more expensive, but it opens up more job opportunities.

Before pursuing a certification or degree, research the requirements and job prospects for the field you're interested in. Consider the cost, time commitment, and whether the certification or degree is recognized in your desired industry.

Volunteering and Internships

Volunteering and internships are another way to develop new skills and knowledge. They provide hands-on experience and help you build your network. 

Volunteering can also be a way to give back to your community while gaining valuable skills.

When looking for volunteering or internship opportunities, consider your interests and the skills you want to develop. Look for opportunities that align with your career goals and offer the chance to work with experienced professionals.

Creating a Career Transition Plan

When you’re making a career change, having a career transition plan helps you stay focused and on track. Here are some tips on creating a plan that works for you.

Setting Actionable Goals

The first step in creating a career transition plan is to set actionable goals. This means setting specific, measurable goals that you can work towards. 

For example, instead of saying "I want to be a writer," set a goal of "I want to write and publish three articles in the next six months." This gives you a clear target to work towards and helps you stay motivated.

To set actionable goals, start by thinking about what you want to achieve in your new career. 

Make a list of your skills, interests, and values, and think about how you can apply them in a new career. Then, set specific goals that will help you achieve your career change.

Building a Timeline for Transition

Once you've set your goals, it's important to build a timeline for your career transition. 

This means setting deadlines for each step of the process, from researching new careers to applying for jobs.

To build a timeline, start by breaking down your goals into smaller, manageable tasks. For example, if your goal is to write and publish three articles in the next six months to attract the attention of an employer in a different industry, you might break that down into tasks like "research article topics," "write a first draft," and "submit the article for publication."

Next, assign deadlines to each task. This will help you stay on track and ensure that you're making progress towards your goals. 

Be realistic about the time it will take to complete each task, and be flexible if you need to adjust your timeline along the way.

Revamping Professional Documents

It’s always important to revamp your professional documents, especially when changing careers. You’ll want to showcase your skills and experience in a new light. This includes crafting a targeted resume, writing an effective cover letter, and shaping up your LinkedIn profile. 

Crafting a Targeted Resume

Your resume is usually the first thing a potential employer sees, so it's important to make a good first impression. 

When revamping your resume for a career change, focus on highlighting your transferable skills and relevant experience.

Consider creating a skills-based resume, which emphasizes your skills and accomplishments instead of your work history. This can be especially helpful if you're switching to a new field where you don't have much experience. 

Use bullet points to clearly and concisely describe your skills and accomplishments, and use keywords from the job posting to show you understand the requirements of the position.

Make sure to tailor your resume to the specific job you're applying for. Highlight the skills and experience that are most relevant to the position, and omit anything that's not directly related. 

Use a clear and easy-to-read format, and proofread carefully for typos and errors.

Need a resume? Check out our lineup of ATS-Friendly resume templates

Writing an Effective Cover Letter

Your cover letter helps showcase your skills and experience. Tailor it to the specific job you're applying for, and should highlight your qualifications and enthusiasm for the position.

Start by researching the company and the position you're applying for. Use this information to personalize your cover letter and show that you understand the company's values and goals. Address the letter to a specific person if possible, and use a professional tone throughout.

In the body of your letter, highlight your relevant skills and experience, and explain why you're excited about the position. Use specific examples to illustrate your qualifications, and show that you've done your research on the company and the industry.

Finally, close your letter with a strong call to action, and thank the employer for considering your application. 

Proofread carefully for errors, and make sure your letter is clear, concise, and professional.

Spruce Up Your LinkedIn Profile

If you haven’t been regularly updating your LinkedIn profile, it’s probably become stale. Plus, when you’re transitioning to a new career, you’ll want to update your LinkedIn profile to help you stand out among your peers. 

Some things you’ll want to update on your LI profile include:

  • Your banner (it should demonstrate something similar to your industry. 
  • The headline should have a strong value proposition. It should describe what you do, who it’s for, and why work with you. 
  • Work your About Page to set you up to attract recruiters. 

The key takeaway here is not to copy and paste your resume into your LinkedIn profile. 

Your LI profile allows for a more personalized feel. People want to see your personality when they’re checking out your LinkedIn profile. 

So when you just paste your resume on there, it ruins the chance at showing potential employers who you are. 

Exploring Alternative Career Paths

If you're unable to make a complete career change now, there are other options. 

In this section, we’ll explore two alternative career paths that you can consider: Freelance Work and Surveying Different Industries.

Considering Freelance Work

Freelance work is increasingly popular, and it’s a great option for those who want to have more control over their work-life balance. 

Freelancers work on a project-by-project basis, so you have the flexibility to choose the projects you want and when you want to work on them. 

Freelancing also allows you to work from anywhere, which means you can work from home or a coffee shop.

To get started as a freelancer, identify your skills and market yourself to potential clients. You can create a portfolio of your work and use online platforms such as Upwork, Fiverr, or Freelancer to find clients. 

But to have more control over who you market to, you’ll want to set up a professional website. 

Freelancing can be a great way to explore different industries and work on projects that interest you.

Surveying Different Industries

If you're not sure which industry you want to work in, you can survey different industries to get a better understanding of what they entail. You can do this by:

  • Attending industry events.
  • Reading industry publications. 
  • Setting up informational interviews with people who work in different industries.

You can identify the skills required for each industry by surveying different industries. 

This helps you decide which industry you want to pursue.

Preparing for Job Applications

When you're ready to start applying for jobs, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of success. 

In this section, we'll cover some tips for mastering interview techniques and understanding company culture.

Mastering Interview Techniques

One of the most important parts of the job search process is the interview. It's your chance to show the employer what you can bring to the table and why you're the best fit for the job. Here are a few tips to help you master your interview techniques:

  • Research the company: Before your interview, make sure you research the company thoroughly. This will help you understand their values, mission, and goals, which can help you tailor your answers to their needs.
  • Practice your answers: It's a good idea to practice your answers to common interview questions. This can help you feel more confident and prepared on the day of the interview.
  • Dress appropriately: Make sure you dress appropriately for the interview. This will show the employer that you take the opportunity seriously and are professional.
  • Be confident: Finally, be confident in yourself and your abilities. This will help you come across as more competent during the interview.

Understanding Company Culture

This refers to the shared values, beliefs, and practices of the organization. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Research the company culture: Just like researching the company itself, it's important to research the company culture. This helps you determine if you'll be a good fit.
  • Ask questions: During the interview process, don't be afraid to ask questions about the company culture. This will help you get a better sense of what it's like to work there.
  • Be honest: Finally, be honest with yourself about whether the company culture is a good fit for you. If it's not, it’s better to look for other opportunities that align better with your values and beliefs.

Finding a place where you fit in matters just as much as the job itself. After all, the right culture can make all the difference in your work life.

Managing Finances During Career Change

While changing careers is exciting, it can also be a stressful time financially. Here are some tips to help you manage your finances during a career change.

Budgeting for Salary Changes

It’s important to have a realistic understanding of your new salary and how it will affect your finances. 

Start by creating a budget that includes your new income and expenses. This will help you determine if you need to make any adjustments to your spending habits.

If your new salary is lower than your previous one, you’ll need to cut back on certain expenses or find ways to increase your income. Consider taking on a part-time job or starting a side business to supplement your income.

Considering the Long-Term Financial Impact

Here are some questions to ask yourself before deciding on a career change: 

  • Will you be able to save for retirement? 
  • Will you be able to pay off your debts?
  • Can you manage monthly bills until the transition is finalized? 

Try consulting with a financial planner to help you make a plan for your future. 

A financial planner can help you create a budget, set financial goals, and develop a plan for saving and investing.

Coping with Stress and Uncertainty

If you're considering a career change, it's normal to feel stressed and uncertain about the future. 

However, there are ways to cope with these feelings and make the transition smoother for you. 

Below are a few strategies to help you manage stress and uncertainty during a career change.

Embracing Flexibility

This means being open to new opportunities and adapting to changing circumstances. 

Instead of seeing change as a threat, view it as an opportunity for growth and development. This can help you feel more in control of the situation and reduce your stress levels.

Maintaining Work-Life Balance

This means making time for self-care activities, such as exercise, meditation, or spending time with friends and family. 

It also means setting boundaries and prioritizing your time so you can focus on your career change without neglecting other aspects of your life.

Here are some tips to help you maintain a work-life balance during a career change:

  • Set realistic goals and deadlines for yourself
  • Prioritize your time and focus on the most important tasks first
  • Take breaks throughout the day to recharge and refocus
  • Make time for self-care activities, such as exercise or meditation
  • Set boundaries and communicate your needs to others

By embracing flexibility and maintaining a work-life balance, you can reduce your stress levels and make the transition to a new career smoother and more successful. 

Remember that change can be challenging, but it can also be an opportunity for growth and development.