5 Tips on Making a Career Change

By CSU Global - January 13th, 2020

making a decision

Have you been considering a career change? If you’re unfulfilled at your job, burnt out by your industry, or interested in exploring a new field, you’re not alone — Americans change careers an average of five to seven times over the course of their working life (and that number may be low, according to many estimates). 

If you’ve spent time looking at opportunities or considering your options, you may feel overwhelmed by all of the possibilities. Being aware of too many choices can be inhibiting on a psychological level. To help you navigate the seemingly endless options while evaluating a career change, keep in mind these tips to help clarify your path. 

Tip #1: Think It Through

First up: Determine if you’re truly looking for a career change or if you’re simply looking for a different job under the umbrella of your existing industry. Take a look at what (if anything) makes you happy about your job. The people? Certain tasks or outcomes? The subject matter? Write those things down, and compare them to a list of items you may not enjoy so much. 

If you determine you’d rather change jobs than careers entirely, then explore some other job titles or positions available to you either at your company or at another one. 

If you are ready for a transition, though, then write down some industries or fields you’re interested in. What about those fields intrigues you? A specific work environment? Flexibility? Travel? More creativity? Higher pay? Goal and value alignment? Nobody is judging your answers — this exercise is intended to help you think through your reasons for switching careers and validate your sense that it’s time for a change. 

Tip #2: Talk to a Professional 

Many universities (including CSU Global) offer career coaching for little to no cost to students and alumni. If you’re restless in your industry and ready for a change but not sure where to start, a professional career coach can provide helpful objectivity and career advice. 

Career coaches can help you look at your education, experience, employment history, translatable skills, and more so that you can identify which skills, abilities, or passions of yours may be good fits for other industries. Input from outside sources can help you see possibilities you hadn’t previously imagined

Tip #3: Be Deliberate and Strategic

Once you’ve fleshed out some possibilities, either on your own or with the help of a career coach, make a rough plan for how to proceed. Does your career change involve going back to school? Try taking one class at a time on nights or weekends to ease into it. Are you hoping to transition into a new career by a certain date? Figure out the steps you need to take month-by-month to make that happen. 

A career change may also impact your finances. Whether by furthering your education, taking some time away from work to explore possibilities, or entering a position that involves a pay cut, a career change can have an impact on your fiscal health. 

So, as you plan out your transition period, make sure to save up enough to keep your bills paid and yourself (and your family) on good financial footing. 

Tip #4: Try It Out

It’s easy to have a narrow view of the working world when you’ve been in the same job or industry for several years. To break away from that potential limitation, try volunteering in the field or industry you’re interested in (if applicable). Volunteering can help expand your network by connecting you with like-minded individuals. It can also reduce stress, promote connection, and help you uncover passions or interests.

If exploring a new career by volunteering doesn’t make sense for your specific plan, consider job shadowing or getting coffee with a connection in your potential new field. Ask questions about their career thus far, growth opportunities, what drew them to the field, and what advice they may have for someone trying to break into the new industry. 

Tip #5: Keep an Open Mind (and go easy on yourself)

Acknowledging you’re ready for a career change is a brave step. Just because you know you’re ready doesn’t mean you have to have everything figured out immediately, though. Give yourself the opportunity to talk to career coaches or people already in the industry. Try out a few  volunteer opportunities. Explore several roles and job types within the industry. You may be surprised by the direction you ultimately take your career! And try to be flexible about things like salary — if salary is your main determinant, you may find it difficult to see past that and keep an open mind about positions. 

Above all, be patient with yourself. A career change is a big step, but with the tips above and the help of career coaches, friends, mentors, research, and new opportunities, you’ll identify the new career that best fits you. 

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