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10 Steps For Switching Careers

Posted on 20/04/2017 by Jessica Holsapple

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How to Switch Careers in 10 steps

Whether you’re leaving a job you’ve held for years or you’ve decided to switch industries altogether, the decision to take on a new career challenge can be daunting. There are so many uncertainties to consider. Having done this in my career, I’ve reflected back on the steps I took and what I would do again. Here, I’ve outlined 10 steps to help you make a career transition.

1. Make a list of skills- What have you learned over the course of your career?

Take an inventory of all of the skills you’ve accumulated throughout the positions you’ve held (this can include formal education and volunteer work). Include ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills.

Examples: MS Office, organizing schedules, training new employees, public speaking, etc.

2. Make a list of qualifications- What are you GREAT at?

What do you know, without a doubt, that you’re great at? What qualities do you have that few others have? Example: Clear concise communicator with the ability to listen, take other opinions/suggestions into account and formulate actionable plans to serve the greater good of the organization.

3. Make a list of no’s- What are you NOT great at?

Was there something in your last job that you hated doing, because you weren’t good at it, or couldn’t get yourself motivated to do it?  Example: Relying primarily on others to determine your success in the position. In sales, you can sell an item/good/service, but it can be very frustrating if the good or service isn’t readily available to produce for the customer. You’ve done your part, but you have to rely on a team of others to fulfill the sale/request in order to get your commission.If this was a hindrance in your last position, considering taking out this roadblock in your next venture.

4. Determine your absolutes- What do you ABSOLUTELY NOT want to be doing? Is there something you’ve had to do in the past that you absolutely do not want to be forced to do in your next job? Example: I don’t want to work in a place where communication to the upper management is limited or nonexistent. I do not want to be held accountable for decision making when there’s not enough training or policies in place to know how the company would like me to handle difficult situations as they arise.

5. Listen to your gut- What do you NEED from your next job?

Ask yourself what you need to be the best version of yourself in the workplace. If you’re happier at work, your life will be overall better. Ask yourself in what environments do you thrive in? Example: Do you need to be lead, coached or motivated regularly? Do you enjoy a bit of friendly competition? Do you thrive in an environment that promotes collaboration? Do you work best when you can work alone on projects? Do you need to have recognition for a job well done?

6. Determine your income baseline needs- What’s your monthly nut?

Generally, when we switch jobs or careers we tend to look at comparable salaries to what we were making in our last role. Sometimes, we can be so enthusiastic about a new opportunity in the field we are eager to work in that we’d even consider taking a pay cut. It’s important, however, to determine your true cost of living right now. Starting a new job without feeling financially secure can make the process even more stressful. Calculate your total cost of living, including monthly bills, food/entertainment (realistic, bottom line needs here, no champagne on a beer budget!) etc.This total cost needs to represent the MINIMUM you’re able to accept as a monthly income.

7. Determine what the best work schedule is for you.

If you are NOT a morning person, look for jobs with flexible hours or avoid positions that require you to be in the office before 9am. Prefer not to work on weekends? Narrow down your search.

8. Determine any long term career or financial goals that you have.

When considering your next role, ask if accepting a role will get you closer or farther away from your long term goals. Will the salary (or total compensation) on offer help you get to your ultimate goals? Will the job itself help advance your career in the right direction? How? Visualize this or write it down.

9. List 3 top priorities.  Examples: 1. A company must have a strong social media plan and visibility 2. The company must offer an excellent work/life balance 3. I must be able to help drive new business and be client facing.

10. Ask people you know and trust - Use your network! Are any of your friends in your desired industry? Contact them and ask them what you need to know in order to be successful in their field. Reach out to any career-minded friends/former colleagues that can tell you what they think is great about you. They may mention things you haven’t recognized about yourself. They can also help brainstorm ideas for jobs that you may not be aware existed!

Once you’ve made your lists, there are a few housekeeping things you should take care of before applying to jobs.

First! - define/refine your personal brand!

  • Think of an “elevator pitch”. Every person you meet or speak to could be a potential referral source. What job have you decided on? What do you bring to the table? You should be able to sum this up concisely in 20-30 seconds.

  • Update your social media.- Make sure you look professional on all accounts (not just Linkedin).

  • Create your own job title- use that for your Linkedin account (if you can).Write a good headline. A prospective employer will read this, and then will likely only scan over your work experience.

  • Highlight any skills that can be easily transferred to your new career goal. Are you looking to be a recruiter? If you haven’t had the title of recruiter before, have you ever been a hiring manager? Posted (job) ads? Interviewed volunteers?Add this and/or make it more visible on your page.

  • Update your resume. Use a free template online and rework your resume to showcase skills that are applicable to your desired role. Get someone to proofread it and give suggestions.

Start your search!

  • Tap into your network.Only ask those in your network who you admire/respect and that mutually feel the same about you.

  • Build your referrals. If those people can’t recommend jobs, can they recommend you? Have they worked with you in any capacity (directly/ volunteering/classmate)? Would they write you a 1 paragraph recommendation on Linkedin or in a word doc?

  • Tap into your Linkedin network. Message those who fit the above criteria and give them notice that you’re on the search. Make sure they know your elevator pitch!


It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the thought of exploring unknown territory in a new job, let alone a new industry. Sit back, take inventory (10 steps) and then narrow down your search to avoid wasting time. Once you have a better understanding of what your needs, wants and potential contributions are, you can enjoy the process of starting something new!