Master the Art of Switching Careers Gracefully
To our readers: Today GoodCall® examines switching careers and strategies for it. Below, writer Marisa Sanfilippo recounts how the experts advise creating strategies for a change. Later, contributor Maria Baranowska examines what part salary should play in picking a new career.
The art of gracefully switching careers is difficult to learn. One must first understand the intrinsic motivations behind the change, make adequate preparations, and then leverage his or her past experiences in the new field.
It’s difficult to gauge how important this is. Even the Bureau of Labor Statistics lacks a way to accurately track the frequency with which the average person changes careers in their lifetime. In part, this is due to the complex nature of determining what is defined as a career change.
There are some indicators which can be used to give a general idea of the frequency such as the employee tenure and the number of jobs held surveys. But these are also limited and do not paint a complete picture of the tenuous nature of modern careers. What has become increasingly clear is people are less concerned with maintaining one career and more interested in pursuing their interests or increasing their personal wealth.
Here’s how much the playing field has changed: Some experts now warn against staying in a particular job too long.
Understand motivations for switching careers
Switching careers shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. Many experts advise carefully considering one’s underlying urge to change as being the key to a successful and graceful transition.
Jessica Sweet of Wishingwell Coaching is a midlife career-change coach and therapist who works with multi-passionate professionals looking for more meaningful work. She stresses the importance of a person truly understanding his or her motivations for switching careers.
“Make sure you really want to change your career, not just your job,” Sweet says. “Many people feel unhappy in their current situation and think they need a complete overhaul. Sometimes a change of boss, duties, or company culture will do. Be clear about the problem you’re trying to solve because changing careers is much more difficult than just getting a new job.”
Dawn Boyer, PhD., CEO of D. Boyer Consulting, is an experienced branding expert who helps people make graceful midlife career changes. She agrees about the necessity of being clear on motivations. “Determine what type of work you are so passionate about you would be willing to potentially drop your salary in drastic measures,” she says.
Boyer explains this is an important point for people to consider because in many cases transitioning to a new career means starting over entirely. Entry level salaries are far lower than those positions available to individuals with experience, and without the underlying passion for the field, switching careers gracefully.
Prepare for the switch
Once the motivation for the change has been reviewed and found to be on solid ground, it is time to begin preparing for the career change.
Joseph Liu is a personal branding and career change consultant at Ilumity and the host of the Career Relaunch Podcast. He offers tips on how to best prepare for changing careers.
- Craft a clear career narrative, starting with knowing how to effectively communicate exactly what you are looking for. Specifically, Liu urges, “Be clear about the target industry, geography, role, and company type you’re seeking.” He additionally recommends, “Invest time clarifying how you’ll explain each of the chapters of your career, and why this target role really makes sense as the next chapter.”
- Invest time learning new relevant skills or gaining the requisite certifications for your target role. This not only ensures you have the skills necessary to perform well in the new career, it also signals your credibility to others.
Another area in which one must prepare is in leveraging and expanding his or her social network. Reaching out to a connection via email or LinkedIn is a common practice and is not seen as impersonal or unprofessional in most industries.
Liu advises, “As a career changer, consider tapping into your network to uncover leads and opportunities.” This isn’t the same as simply asking for favors. Instead, nurture your network and rekindle professional relationships. This may be especially fruitful for those connections that have ties with the new career.
Social profiles should also be updated to reflect current interest in career transition. This could include updating a portfolio with niche specific training, certifications, or licenses.
Donna Rosa began her career as a food scientist and transitioned into product and business management. She moved repeatedly, volunteered in developing countries, and served as a corporate global sustainability ambassador. She then leveraged all of these experiences and her expanded network to establish herself in a new career as an international development consultant who works with microenterprises overseas.
What Rosa’s journey suggests: Switching careers can be the start of a new adventure, if carefully planned and executed.