5 Things to Know Before You Make a Career Change


A successful career transition takes planning. You’ll need to prove to an employer you have transferable skills that will help you be effective in a new role outside your previous career path. You’ll also need to communicate why a career transition makes sense for you.

If you’re planning to make a transition soon or are in the middle of one now, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Know Your Why

You’ve probably heard of Simon Sinek and his wildly popular book, Start With WhyThe book is based on the notion that people aren’t influenced by what you do; rather, they care about why you do it.

In any job interview, you must clearly articulate your why. When making a career transition, it’s even more important. If you can’t share a compelling reason why you want to change careers, a prospective employer won’t be convinced that your decision to make a change is a meaningful one.

If you’ve ever interviewed nannies for your children, you’ll understand the importance of a good why. Imagine you have two candidates. One tells you they are nannying because it is the best way to pay for their college education. The other candidate is also paying for school, but she tells you she loves kids. She believes childhood is the most impactful time in a person’s life, and she wants to make a difference for the kids in her care. Both candidates have the same needs, but their whys are very different. Which candidate would you want taking care of your child?

2. Know Your Strengths and Skills

If you’re making a career transition, certain skills may be transferable from your old career to your knew one. However, other skills required in your new role may need to be learned or developed through nontraditional avenues — for example, through volunteer work.

Knowing your strengths also ties back to your why. Let’s say that, through volunteer work, you found opportunities to uitilize skills you don’t get to utilize in your current job. Using these skills may bring you more joy than your job does, and this may lead to the realization that you’re not truly maximizing your personal strengths in your current position. As a result, you may choose to make a career transition that allows you to take advantage of these neglected strengths.

Whatever the case, be prepared to articulate your strengths and skills as clearly as your why to a prospective employer. The goal is to show that even though this career path is new to you, you are still positioned to deliver value to the employer through your current skill set.

3. Do Your Research

People who are frustrated in their current roles can make decisions in haste. The grass always looks greener elsewhere.

However, even people who hold the most glamorous of roles will tell you their jobs are not as perfect as they look. Before making a career decision based on the emotion of the moment, start networking. Talk to people in positions you want to learn more about. Dig deep to evaluate whether a career transition is really the right move for you.

4. Surround Yourself With Support

A successful career transition can be a long process, and you want to be sure you are surrounded by people who understand your situation and empathize with you. Because so much of our self-worth is tied up in our jobs — even though it shouldn’t be — it can be fiercely demoralizing to be stuck between a job you hate and a new career you haven’t established yet. Working with a career coach may be a great way to keep yourself motivated, and they can also serve as a sounding board for frustrations and a guide when you feel lost.

5. It’s Okay to Mourn Your Old Job

If you really can’t stand your current job, you may feel like you’ll never look back once you’ve left. However, even making a transition from a role you hate to a dream career can be challenging.

Leaving a familiar situation to walk into the unknown is unsettling. You likely feel a certain amount of comfort in your current role, and your new position may bring more pressure to perform and a new set of expectations to meet. Until you find your footing, you may second-guess your decision. Be kind to yourself, and take it one step at a time.

A version of this article originally appeared on the Atrium Staffing blog.

Michele Mavi is Atrium Staffing‘s resident career expert.

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