A career switch is when a person moves into a completely different profession. This requires them to apply a set of skills and abilities that are dissimilar or different from their current role. A career switch is not the same as a traditional job change, where an individual will typically move jobs along the lines of the same occupation or “job family”. With the increasing number of emerging roles that are being fuelled by technological change and the rapidly evolving world of work, career switching will become more common. As an individual, you can take advantage of expeditious industry changes that allow you as a professional, to redefine yourself several times during a career lifespan.
In order to successfully make the transition and switch careers, there are some tips you can follow. The process is usually a little bit trickier than changing jobs, so you will need to be patient with yourself.
1. Determine your motivations. Be clear about why you want a career change so that when you identify your newly desired occupation, it meets the objectives that you are trying to achieve. Also, ensure that a new profession is really the answer to your desired outcome.
2. Be informed about your chosen industry. Have a comprehensive understanding of your desired occupation. How much do you actually know about this profession you want to move into? It is important to ensure that you gather as much insight as you can to avoid pursuing a field that you do not have a thorough understanding of and potentially be disappointed in your expectations.
3. Find a mentor (or a few) in the industry. The role of these mentors will be to direct you on how to build skills in that field and provide you with inside information, networks and leads that will hopefully position you well.
4. Informational interviews. Conduct numerous informational interviews with professionals working in that field to get first-hand insights.
5. Leverage your current employer. If you are employed at a company which hires professionals from your desired field, try and see if you can volunteer or shadow in that department. Ask for tasks, get them to explain projects, processes and systems to you. You may have to put in extra hours to avoid disrupting your current role commitments.
6. Have a plan. Develop an action plan and set specific goals with timelines and milestone activities that you want to achieve, in your efforts to successfully make a career switch. It should include the skills and knowledge you want to gain, how long it will take you, the activities/exposure that will help you to transition and which people you want to enrol on your journey in terms of mentors and professional relationships.
7. Do freelance or volunteer assignments. A great way to gain experience before plunging into a new career is to freelance, volunteer or take short gigs in that field. For example, if you work in finance but want to move into marketing, volunteer to do some marketing work for a non-profit or small business to build your portfolio. Gaining experience can be a sacrificial time as it is hard to get paid for a skill you do not yet have a track record for. The idea of volunteer work is to get easy access to activities that build your experience and ensure you build a portfolio that leads you to eventually get paid.
8. Engage with the industry. Attend conferences, seminars, and read articles and trade publications to start engaging with your new professional space and learn more about activities in that domain. Have a calendar of events that you can attend to get exposure to industry information and networks.
9. Consider remuneration issues. If you are going to switch careers, be prepared to take a pay cut as you may have to start in a more junior role. It may also be a less paying industry. To mitigate this, illustrate the value of your transferable skills from your previous role to at least try to retain your original pay.
10. Do a competency-based CV. When you are ready to apply for jobs. A good way to reposition yourself is by selling your transferable skills, these are skills from your current role that you can use and are of value to your new industry. For tips on how to write a competency-based CV, here is an article I did on this topic.
Switching careers is going to become more common as the world of work changes. Being able to position yourself to take on new emerging roles will be a great way to reinvent yourself career-wise.