1. Get the Job
  2. Get Ahead
  3. Office Life
  4. Work-Life Balance
  5. Home Office
We are here for your business - COVID-19 resources >
Product and service reviews are conducted independently by our editorial team, but we sometimes make money when you click on links. Learn more.
Build Your Career Get Ahead

5 Tips for Making a Big Career Change

5 Tips for Making a Big Career Change
Credit: Romolo Tavani/Shutterstock

If you aren't feeling fulfilled in your job, and you dread the time you spend in the office, a career shift may be in your future.

While the idea of starting over is exciting, it can also be daunting and challenging. You might have years of experience in your industry, but with no related experience in your new field, just getting an interview can be tough. Here are five important tips from career coaches and experts to help you make a successful career change.

If you are thinking about making a career change, ask yourself why. You know you aren't happy at your current position, but think about exactly why you aren't happy.

"Clarifying exactly what dissatisfies you about your current situation helps you understand what sort of change to make," said Joseph Liu, career consultant and host of the Career Relaunch Podcast. "Sometimes, making a small tweak to your function, role, industry or location can be enough to drive up satisfaction."

However, if your dissatisfaction involves multiple parts of your current profession, then a radical change might be the fix, Liu added.

"You also need to pinpoint precisely what's important to you in the next chapter of your career," he told Business News Daily. "Sometimes, people try to have everything, but being clear on what tradeoffs you're willing to make can help you make practical moves that have the biggest positive impact on your career

Before you quit your job and risk starting another career that may also leave you unsatisfied, do your research and try it out.

"Do some reality testing by conducting informational interviews with people in the field that you are considering," said Cheryl Palmer, certified career coach and president of Call to Career. "You can take this a step further by volunteering in the field that you are interested in or shadowing someone for a day to find out what the profession is like on a day-to-day basis. You will have a much better idea of whether or not this is a good fit [by] trying a field out first."

Aurora Meneghello, founder of Repurpose Your Purpose, recommends talking to 10 people who are in the career and industry you are considering.

"Ten is a big enough number to spot trends – is everyone unhappy because of the work-life balance? Does everyone seem upbeat and fulfilled?" she said. "If you do your research and talk to people, you will make an informed decision, greatly minimizing the risk of choosing something that won't work for you." 

Changing careers can be stressful for many reasons, but financial uncertainty is often at the top of the list. Before you make a career switch, consider your finances and decide if you can afford to start over, likely at an entry-level salary.

Liu suggested thinking about what you'll gain from a career switch, even if you will make less money.

"What will you gain by earning less money?" said Liu. "Time with loved ones? Better work-life balance? Being aware of what you're getting yourself into is half the battle. On a practical level though, building up a financial safety buffer never hurts as you're trying to find your [footing]."

Take the skills you have developed and honed for years, and figure out how you can use them in your new field.

"Many skills you might already obtain – communication, leadership, operations, etc. – are transferable and could be applicable to your new career," said Mike Abramson, who spent most of his career as a lawyer and is now president of D1 Training. "Keep this in mind when mapping out your next venture."

Erica B. McCurdy, managing member of McCurdy Solutions, explained that while you may clearly see how your experiences will relate to your new career, you may have to explain it to potential employers.

"A career change is simply an opportunity to repackage existing skills and abilities for use in a new and exciting way," she said. "You may have to lead others through a conversation to help them understand why you are making the change."

Scoring an interview can be hard when you have zero relevant experience. However, tapping into your existing professional network is key during a career transition.

"You must get to know the passionate, successful people working in the inner circle of your new field of interest," Abramson told Business News Daily. "Gather as much knowledge and advice as you can to prepare yourself for the career pivot – this may also include finding a mentor."

Liu suggests looking in less obvious places to find relevant contacts, such as alumni networks, LinkedIn connections and conferences.

"Approaching these conversations with humility and a learner's attitude can often open up doors," he said.  

Finally, remember that the key to creating successful relationships is showing others how you can be an asset to them, said Abramson.

"Nothing beats actually caring about people," he added. "If the underlying premise is about caring for those around you, the relationships should work themselves out."

Additional reporting by Brittney Morgan. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Saige Driver

Saige received her bachelor's degree in journalism and telecommunications from Ball State University. She is the social media coordinator for Aptera and also writes for business.com and Business News Daily. She loves reading and her beagle mix, Millie.